Thursday, May 28, 2015
Here is a poem I wrote several years ago and it seemed relevant to Sally Kempton's article which follows.
More Songs from Lalla
"Dance, Lalla, with nothing on but air."
Let the breath come in,
and if a god, too,
make this her subtle path,
do not deny her
He wishes to build transparent monuments
in your heart,
chambers whose quiet bells will resonate
into your farthest reaches,
your soles, your lids,
your elbows, even.
For the god does not disdain
even the humblest part,
the clumsiest joining.
This is his sly jest,
his coy affirmation
of you as oneness.
Do not fear the god.
As the wind wafts through light,
she wafts through you--
Ruach, Prana, Chi --
lifting bone, cell, and tissue
into that other world.
Even in this one,
trees bend to her
in their slow spirals.
Dolphins breathe her.
Herons glide to her fluid rhythms.
Do not fear the god.
She is yourself, returning.
(from Marrow of Flame)
Here is Sally Kempton's article:
If you're a meditator or a yogi, you know that breath practice is basic to just about every spiritual process. And you probably know why. Neuro-science as well as yogic science can give us a slew of reasons why a counted breath, or a full yogic inhalation is so good for us.
Conscious breathing not only calms us. It not only nourishes our lungs and massages our organs. Breathing also connects us--naturally and almost automatically--to that subtle force we call spirit, soul, or inner Self.
Which is no doubt why, in nearly every one of the old languages, the word for breath is the same as the word for soul. The Sanskrit word for the inner Self--atman--originally meant breath. The Hebrew word ruach and the Greek pneuma mean both breath and spirit. In fact, the first line of the Hebrew Bible says, that God begins to create with a wind (ruach) sweeping over the water.
Psyche is the Greek word for consciousness, or mind, and it also means "a breath" or "a gust of wind."
As always, Sally presents a message that is both informational and inspiring. She reminds us of the importance of breath and demonstrates how breath itself is connected to Soul.
The Latin word for soul--anima--also signified air and breath. And as philosopher David Abram points out, "these were not separate meanings--anima, like psyche, 'originally named an elemental phenomenon that comprised both what we now call 'the air' and what we now term 'the soul'." In these old cultures, there was an assumption that air was a sacred presence, that it is synonymous with spirit, and that the air joined human beings to the environment. The Navaho people believe that we are in a constant interaction with the surrounding winds. Through the winds, human thoughts, songs and rituals were thought to influence the whole environment, either positively or negatively. To the Navaho, both the breath and the wind were not only interconnected, they were holy.
So, tuning into your relationship with the air around you can be a profound act of awakening to the sacred. Maybe you get quiet enough to recognize that you aren't actually breathing, but are being breathed, as if by some great invisible lung. You might become aware of how air is constantly caressing you, embracing you, energizing you. Air invisibly enters our bodies, carrying not only oxygen and other chemicals, but also carrying the thoughts, feelings, and energies of everyone around us. Through the air, you're continually being entered and opened by the world around you. Air is the medium of connection. Every time we inhale, we take in the life force of millions of others. When we exhale, we breathe ourselves, our moods, our energetic state, back into the atmosphere that carries it across all borders and barriers.
So, why not let your breath carry blessings? Why not let the breath carry mantras? Why not consider your breath the vehicle through which you transmute the disharmony you might feel in a particular place or person? Why not do the breath practice of the sages--inhaling with the thought, "May I be blessed" and exhaling with the thought, "May blessing flow to everyone and everything." Sending love through the breath a powerful act of subtle activism!