Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Air in There

How much is air worth? I ran a church in downtown Auckland, New Zealand, that discovered an answer to this question. Local law allowed one building to sell its air space to another building that wanted to grow upwards. (Transferable Development Rights) This was curious enough, but it got even curiouser when we started to value the air. Air became low hanging fruit for over eager city terrace owners and churches with heritage restrictions. The more people who tried to sell their air, the less it was worth. As soon as air became a commodity, its value decreased. By the time we sold some of our last parcels of air, it was worth virtually nothing.

The truth is that air is priceless. How do you put a price on the source of life? The average person inhales 3,000 gallons of air each day. The air you breathe is a major factor in your wellbeing. The second leading cause of death for children under the age of four is air pollution. According to recent studies, breathing issues such as asthma increase the risk of suicide and the suicide rate in the general population increases when air pollution worsens.

On the positive side, air and breath have healing qualities. Studies of people suffering from painful conditions such as Fibromyalgia show that slow breathing reduces pain as well as lessening anxiety and nervous tension. Slow and deep breathing increases the capacity to feel emotions other than pain; it reduces the fight/flight response, and allows us to move from powerlessness to proactive choices.

Air is life force and breathing is a deeply spiritual act. Your breath is your source of life, and it also connects you to the Source of all life. Most ancient cultures use the same word for air, breath, life and spirit. The creation story in Genesis says that the world was created with words, and the essence of words is breath. Genesis says that "God took the dust of the earth and formed the human body, and breathed into human nostrils the Breath of Life, and humans became living souls."

The Hebrew word for air is “ruach.” It a breathy word, and sounds like what it is. The word ruach means breath, as in what we inhale and exhale, but it is also the atmosphere. It's the source or breath of life, and it's the quality of life. The ancient Greek word for spirit or breath is “pneuma”, as in pneumatic, and it expresses spirit, the breath of God. The German word “Atman” describes the life giving Source within breath. The energy of life within breath is also called chi or prana.

People who have spent time in meditation and other breathing exercises (from all traditions and no particular tradition) report that breathing is both ordinary and also miraculous. As the Sufi Master Hazrat Inayat Kahn writes: "The healing power of Christ, the miraculous power of Moses, the charm of Krishna, and the inspiration of the Buddha--all these were attained by breath."

With your breath, you connect to an energy that is infinite and inspirational. When you pay attention and notice that breath continues without your help, you learn to surrender to the grace of life. When you add mindfulness to this miracle, you participate in your own healing with the Source of life. I began a daily breathing practice a year ago, and now it doesn’t feel like my day has even begun without some breathing routines. The regular practice of conscious breathing reduces stress, and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It aides in the healing of emotional blocks, and any number of unconscious fears and anxieties. When every one of your body’s 75 trillion cells breathes slowly and harmoniously, you live with incredible wellbeing.

The original life force that sustained your body in the womb is still available to you. It wants to restore your body right now. All you need to do is give it permission to heal and begin breathing consciously.

Breath is a unifying force, both within and around you. The breath that is in you today was in another yesterday. You are breathing the same atoms and molecules that your ancestors breathed many centuries ago. Feel the flow of inspiration. Breath reminds you that you don’t have to seek peace, you just have to surrender to it. Your life has the ease and freedom of breath itself. Your breath is the gateway to your essence as a spiritual being who co-creates reality.

Breathe in and say, “The power of life is within me.” Breathe out and say, “The grace of life surrounds me.”

Repeat often, “I am filled with healing power.”

Soulseeds has created an amazing breathing resource. Our Mindful Breathing e-Packet is a series of inspirational affirmations that include breathing practices put together by a yoga instructor. They are practical and can be used by people with no experience and people with great experience. Check it out. Go down to E-Packets and select Mindful Breathing from the drop down menu.


Anonymous said...

The German word for 'to breathe' is 'atmen' not atman.


the meditator said...

I love resting with the breath in meditation. I love this saying (I believe a Sufi saying in meditation) .. "This breath is the one that counts". Lovely blog. Thank you.

Ian said...

Sorry Paul for mistake on atmen, and thanks for the Sufi quote Meditator. I really like that.