On The Matter of the Breath

Life begins on an inhale and ends with a final exhale. Most of us will take innumerable breaths in between, and while it could be said that breathing is arguably the most important thing we will ever do, it is something we think very little about.

Breathing is a function of the autonomic nervous system, but unlike the majority of the body’s involuntary functions, we can exercise some control over it – if we give our attention to it. Unless you meditate, practice yoga, or have a serious chronic lung condition, you probably never think about breathing, but you may want to start. According to Dr. Artour Rakhimov,

Over 90% of modern people suffer from breathing problems … [including] chest breathing, mouth breathing, and hyperventilation, all of which reduce oxygen levels in body cells and promote chronic diseases.

http://www.normalbreathing.com (emphasis mine)

Over 90%.

Consider that number for a moment. I am willing to bet that you and I are in there. My own journey with the breath began many years ago while reading an article on running. Most runners breathe in rhythm with their feet. For example, the inhale and exhale happen when either the left or right foot strikes the ground. Apparently some scientists discovered that breathing in and out with the same foot strike can lead to heart problems. Even today when I run, I count steps between breaths – in for 3 (through the nose), out for 4 (through the mouth). In this way, I ensure that each time I inhale, I alternate feet.

I began meditating and practicing yoga in 2015. Yoga encourages a slight resistance in the throat to help regulate the breath. Yogic breathing makes a comforting sound in my head like ocean waves crashing on the beach. I have worked with that some, and Kundalini as well. Wim Hof‘s method of breathing has been scientifically tested many times. I especially encourage you to look into his work if you strive for peak athletic performance.

Fast forward to the summer of 2019. I will not rehash the experience since you can read about it here, but Dr. Tom’s initial perception of my inability to take a deep breath stuck with me. That and the respiratory distress that had sent me to Georgia in the first place got me thinking about breathing again.

In November I scrolled right into a Facebook post about a breath technique called SOMA. A few short weeks into the practice I noticed an increase in my stamina, heightened focus during meditation, and a deeper sense of relaxation overall. Then, in January, 2020 I blundered into Michelle D’Avella’s method of breathwork. Her brother Matt’s YouTube video convinced me that there was something there for me to explore. Turns out, he was right.

Modern metaphysics has a name for belief systems that cause us to behave in ways we would rather not: subconscious preprogramming. Some of these programs we inherit from our ancestors (through our DNA), but most we acquire from our families and peers.

Children spend their first 6-7 years in a Theta dream state, incapable of analytical thought, yet everything seen, heard, and felt is imprinted onto the subconscious mind and these imprints – or rather our unconscious interpretations of them – form the belief systems by which we interpret the world and our place in it. To complicate matters, children lack the capacity to understand or manage their own negative experiences (aka traumas). Societal norms and family expectations often teach us to reject or stuff the more volatile emotions of anger, fear, jealousy, even grief. Through conditioning, we learn to automatically pull away from these feelings in ourselves and others, contracting not only mind and spirit, but the body as well. These repressed emotions become what Carl Jung termed the shadow, and our shadows become triggers.

trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.

https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-a-trigger/

To hide from our shadows, we develop stories around our past that form the basis of our unconscious belief systems. Each story carries with it a negative emotional charge. These negative emotions then form ‘blocks’ in our psyche which hinder our ability to move through life with ease. Left to fester long enough, blocks manifest as overwhelm in the mind (anxiety, depression, addictive behaviors) and/or pain/disease in the body.

On some level, we all fear looking at our shadows. After all, they are built of painful memories that often evoke feelings of shame. But 95% of human behavior is borne out of subconscious preprogramming. That means that whatever traumas and emotions you are unwilling to face are probably controlling your life.

I never would have believed that breathing could heal if it had not happened to me

There is something about consciously breathing deep into the belly that opens the door for emotions to arise and be cleared. Breathing with intention can rescue us from the pain and shame of the past if we learn to give our bodies permission to feel through all of those rejected emotions. By allowing our blocks to come into conscious awareness, we can release them with love and acceptance.

Daily, moment to moment, the body is breathing itself. We need not do anything, but with conscious use, we are capable of many things. In an alchemical way, we can turn our dark matter into breath, to flow with breath, to release with breath.

On the conscious exhale, the willingness to sit with the rising up, we become capable of the letting go of weights. We held them so strongly that we had no idea just how heavy we were, until we’re floating.

https://upliftconnect.com/breathwork-for-clearing-trauma/

I began pouring paint in December of 2018. After a few months, I noticed new levels of creativity and experienced a peace and joy that I had not known before. My love for fluid acrylics crystalized into a desire to pass this freedom of expression on to others, so I offered paint classes that included meditation focused on connecting with the creativity found inside each of us.

The effects of COVID-19 have provided me with a lot more time and energy to explore my inner world than I would normally allow myself. During the second week of a 21-Day SOMA Journey, I realized that breathwork was the direction I want to go in terms of meditation – both personally and in the art classes I will one day teach again.

Ironically, I have not been able to put paint to canvas since my self-imposed quarantine began on March 15 (50+ days ago). But I sure have been breathing! And healing … and dreaming. I plan to develop my own style of breathwork, something that I hope will inspire deeper depths of creativity in myself and others. In the meantime, I would love to hear about any and all aspects of your journey in the comments below!

If you are interested in learning more about breathwork, please visit the links I provided in this post. For information about classes that combine meditation with fluid art, connect with me at ripplesofinsight@gmail.com.

Namaste, and thank you so much for reading.

~Cindy

Paint pouring with Cindy, with a focus on exploration and creativity in the moment, what could be better? Cindy gives lots of options for self discovery and helps you to design a lasting memory, as well as sparking a desire for experiences yet to come.

Gee Lawrence, Pickleball aficionado extraordinaire

Tonight Cindy Welch taught me a way to use meditation with pouring art. And it was amazing! I went back to attempting to paint from the things I learned from my meditation … and I felt like I accomplished my goal!! Working with Cindy was such an insightful and spiritual experience. I know that it helped me unblock what was interfering with what I was trying to create!

Rebecca Webeck

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