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On Breathing

It seems to me that the most powerful revelations I’ve had have been when looking at the ordinary in a new way.

Breath is simultaneously one of the most and least accessible of these.


Breath is the most accessible because it occurs in every moment and is always available as a felt thing. It is the least accessible of these because of my misapprehension and ignorance, and in my habituation around breathing.


I could point to the beliefs and language around breath throughout time, but it’s been done elsewhere and you can do your own research on that. Google is but a click away. More importantly, doing so points away from what is really critical to breathing. And that is your own experience of breath.


One of the assumptions endemic to our society is that there are experts out there who are better informed on our own experience than ourselves. We read the opinions, beliefs or narratives and treat them as our own, without taking the time to look at our own experience and determine if they are valid. Checking our own experience against others and determining from a experiential and as unbiased foundation as we can is critical to any pursuit that is worth pursuing.


I’m not going to tell you how to breathe, or tell you what your breathing means. That would lead you away from the point of breath. I think it to be more useful to guide you back to the act of breathing itself.


Whenever I explore something in experience to determine what it is, I find it useful to first remove what it isn’t. When done ruthlessly this tends to remove a lot of confusion and beliefs about things which have no validity.


In the example of breath, experientially it can be paired down to the cycle of expanding and relaxing of the muscle called the diaphragm in a cadence.


This appears rather obvious on first reading. You might be wondering why you’ve wasted your time reading this much of the article and itching to hit next to find the next bit of distraction. However. It might benefit to compare your own experience to the sentence above and notice what is missing.


In your own inhale, if you place enough awareness on it, you might notice that you expand your stomach, pull with your nose or throat during inhalation or push during exhalation. None of that is mentioned in that sentence. Why?


Because none of that is required for the experience of breath. The only thing required for breathing is locating the feeling-sense of what we call “diaphragm”, tense by moving it down and then relaxing it. It is possible to remove everything else. It is possible, but not easy.


By experientially removing everything non-essential to the breath you can find what breath is, and then remove everything that is not breathing. This sounds mostly pointless and not worth the effort. However, doing so over time will alter your experience dramatically. How can it not? After all, you are changing one of the intrinsic underlying structures that defines your experience.

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