Linda Nicholls writes very personally about the powerful benefits of conscious deep breathing.
Linda Nicholls teaches a wide range of programs at The Haven and internationally – many of them focused on breath. This article is her reflection written just after completing the February 2019 Body, Breath and Energy Training that she taught for years with David Raithby. Unfortunately, Covid put a halt on plans to lead the program again.
Linda is offering a 2-day Breathe: Recalibrate workshop with us, April 28-30, 2023, dedicated to providing the opportunity to acquaint yourself with the powerful benefits of consciously breathing deeply.
I have been working with the body, breath and energy of hundreds of others, as well as my own, for over thirty years. Over these years I have found it enormously gratifying to witness remarkable transformations in our participants through body and breath work. I’ve accumulated a massive treasury of data, experience and observation of the benefits. As a culmination to the Body, Breath, and Energy training, we ask participants to share their assumptions about how body, breath and energy relate to personal and relational growth and wellbeing. As leaders, we also shared our assumptions.
Condensing my personal assumptions into writing seems monumental, so I tend to speak the thoughts that are foreground for me at the time. This time, late the night before our closing I had a sudden desire to put some of my thoughts into writing. What emerged were personal assumptions about existence, my own and others. As I have been going through my life-altering voyage with cancer, more than ever I see my existence as an ongoing, at times mysterious, work-in-progress. My relationship with certainty has always been paradoxical. I am suspicious of certainty. I experience it as an illusion while at the same time longing for it. “It depends” and “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure” are my familiar responses these days when asked how I am or what is going on with me.
During our closing session, although it was edgy for me, I took a leap of faith and read what I had written to our group. I’ve received requests from some participants to post the thoughts I shared – thank you for your patience!
Expanding beyond the edges of my comfort zone is a commitment I am living these days, so here goes, still in unpolished form, a work-in-progress, as am I.
February 2019 Body Breath & Energy Training Assumptions:
(Work-in-progress, raw, crude, what I am thinking about tonight)
Existence is unified. Air is our unifier within all existence. It unifies me with all that only appears to be outside, around, and separate from me. Air shows me/us that we are not, cannot be separate. We cannot separate air and claim “this is my air, this is your air.”
Breathing air is essential to sustaining life, we can only exist for a short time without breathing. No breath, no life, no being, no plants, no creatures, no food, no existence.
The vibrational frequency of my life force energy is governed by the depth, the breadth and the magnitude of my breathing.
Breath is energy, breath is life, breath is spirit, breath is being.
Breathing air fuels my mind, my body, my life force, my consciousness.
Breathing is an astoundingly unique body phenomenon! My body breathes for me, even when I am completely unaware, for example when sleeping or knocked out. I also have conscious choice over a myriad of possible breathing patterns. I choose when to breathe or when not to breathe, how slowly, how rapidly, how deeply, how shallowly, the rhythm of my inhales and exhales, the sounds I make, which nostril I breathe through – and more. My breathing is inextricably correlated with the flow of my emotions and the vibrancy of my wellbeing.
Breathing is my access to consciousness. The less I breathe the less conscious I am.
I/we exist interwoven amongst a unified, holistic mind. Universal consciousness is an infinite field of dynamic interactive energy and information, outside of time and space, where past, present and future potentials co-exist.
Throughout centuries of conditioning, driven through fear, greed, hunger for power and control, we have been led to believe that we are confined solely to time and space, to a limited, small, often fearful existence. One of the primary ways I trap myself within a small, limited existence is by breathing minimally.
I/we have forgotten and detached from what I am capable of with my body, my mind, my imagination, my intuition, my guts, my heart, my soul. Conscious breathing is the portal to these multifaceted, brilliant, expansive dimensions.
My mind, my consciousness is vast, existing infinitely beyond the border of my physical body. Dan Siegel defines mind as the seat of consciousness, the essence of our Being. “… the emergent self organizing process both embodied and relational that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.” My consciousness lives both inside and outside of myself.
I/we historically have separated myself from the breadth of my consciousness, and from my conscious coexistence, my interconnectedness, with others and our more than human world. Evidence of this tragic detachment is reflected not only in my personal health issues, it is reflected in the deterioration of interpersonal relationships which then further extend into deteriorating global relationships and the mindless destruction of each other and our eco systems. I/we are suffering terribly from this estrangement, tearing asunder and annihilating our planet and ourselves with terrifying speed. It is urgent now that I/we wake up to becoming actively engaged as conscious co-creators of our precious existence.
My consciousness is dynamic. I choose to broadly expand or narrowly focus my awareness. Right now, try this out for a moment by focusing on the feeling of your head. Notice the weight of your head, the shape of your head. Close your eyes and breathe gently and deeply. Now, expand your awareness by feeling your entire body – the shape, the space that your body occupies. Now, pinch a spot on your hand. Go ahead, give yourself a good sharp pinch! Notice the instantaneous narrowing of your consciousness? Imagine stubbing your toe and how that narrows your consciousness to a single point, immediately losing track of the rest of your body! Now close your eyes, breathe gently and imagine yourself consisting of light, floating weightlessly within vast spaciousness above the earth.
When I concentrate on a single object, including a single problem, my consciousness narrows and I identify myself with the object or problem I am focused on. When I become absorbed in a movie I lose my broader awareness of the people around me, my problems, the rest of my life. Even my popcorn! (This is one of the reasons I love watching and absorbing movies so much!)
The point here is recognizing that I am creating my sense of who I am by where I am focusing my consciousness. My sense of who I am determines how I participate with others and the world around me.
My consciousness is a vast field of awareness that constantly exists in the background of my being. This is the awareness that registers my physical senses, my thoughts, the ebb and flow of my emotions. For me, some of Sadhguru’s meditations are great reminders. I am not my thoughts, I am aware of my thoughts; I am not my emotions, I am aware that I feel them through my body. I am not my body, however I live experiences of the world through my body, I see the object of my body in a mirror. As a conscious being, I am aware that I am aware of inner and outer experiences.
Beliefs play a primary role in my overall health and wellbeing.
Beliefs developed through experiencing fear, hurt, humiliation, disappointment, loving, comfort and pleasure become the focus that I narrow my consciousness around. I attach to and fixate on my beliefs about myself, others and the world around me in order to create a sense of safety, security and predictability. Rather than face the unknown, I cling for dear life to my established beliefs. Beginning early in life I have skillfully used my beliefs to construct a cage of protection around me. The stronger the protective cage, the more trapped I am within.
As an aside, as I have been considering all this, an insight struck me. I am uncomfortable with aspects of organized religion, being adamant that I don’t want to worship in that way. Imagine my dismay at realizing I have been, in effect, worshipping my limiting beliefs by so ardently clinging to them!
To compound all that, I/we are only aware of a minuscule fraction of the beliefs, thoughts and assumptions that govern my behaviors, health and life path. Recognizing this is an enticing invitation for me to expand and explore my consciousness!
Breathing with intention and vigor ignites the vibrational frequency of my life force energy flow. Engaging full-heartedly in bodywork, expressing, freeing suppressed and repressed emotions in a safe, boundaried container liberates me from my self-constructed cage, opening and expanding my consciousness. I re-member, reunite with my whole self, my whole being and the vast spaciousness within which I exist.
For as much as I currently know about how I function, I still know very little. My/our existence is an awesome mystery. To be living this mystery is a privilege. What there is to be curious about is infinitely vast.
My health, most recently the cancer, has sliced open and exposed a portal for me to explore the mystery of me and the mystery of existence in a deepening way, calling me to adventure boldly into the expansion of my consciousness.
Increasing the amplitude of the vibrational frequency of my energy strengthens the channel through which the wisdom of my soul speaks to me – inviting me to listen, to follow the beacon directing me toward what is incongruent in my being that is longing to be addressed in order to fully embrace my wholeness.
Through conscious, intensive breath and bodywork I enhance my ability to be as awake and aware as I can be. I have glimpsed the threshold between the material world I am conscious of in my daily existence, as I tend to necessary practical demands and desires, and the vast breadth and magnificence of consciousness that is also available to me, to each of us, NOW.
Through deliberately choosing and directing the nature and focus of my beliefs, my thoughts and my mindful intentions I have the capacity to intensify and increase the vibrational frequency of my being, and access the infinite, unified field of consciousness/energy within which I/we inextricably exist and within which unknown, limitless potentials and possibilities can be realized.
My direct access is available through intensifying and aligning my breath, my focus and intention with strong enough desire to commit to dedicated practice. These ‘muscles’ are waiting to be developed, this ability is within reach, no need to go to a mountaintop or to use altering substances.
My experience is that when I align my breath with my mind/my intentions and my emotions I have what it takes to transform my being — to no longer remain trapped within the narrow limits of my self-constructed, familiar, patterned cage.
Now that I have woken up to this, these are questions I ask myself: Do I have the courage, the wholeheartedness to truly transform, not only step out for a peek beyond my familiar comfort zone but actually live there? Do I want this enough to do the work? I am facing the reality that my life depends upon saying yes.
I/we am/are more than my thoughts, my emotions, my earthly body self. I am all these AND I am more. I am spacious.
My mind, my imagination and my energy live beyond the borders of my material body. I am my awareness, my consciousness.
I am more than the physical and psychological dimensions of my being, I am also the flow of pure energy and I have choice over the vibrational frequency of that flow.
I have experienced identifying with the lower frequency of form, of habits, of problems and the higher frequency of spirit, the divine, the creator and am now aware of the difference.
When I am identifying only with my body, I often feel uncomfortable with one thing or another.
When I am identifying only with my psyche, I can focus on complaints, problems and fears.
When I identify with spirit, what I refer to as the divine, the creator, spaciousness, I feel open, light and loving.
When I breathe with conscious awareness my being unifies, the multifaceted dimensions of who I am coalesce. From within this integrated state my perspective broadens and I access my wits and wisdom to face what comes.
Einstein’s well-known statement, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking as when we created them” resonates even more deeply with me now. I am amazed at the positive difference it makes when I address issues from an expansive state.
This is much more than a casual recognition for me. It is pricelessly, personally beneficial. However, it goes way beyond that.
It is about healing, and not simply healing myself. Healing, as in “restoration of wholeness.” It is about engaging meaningfully and responsibly as a co-creator in the health and wellbeing of our greater Earth community.
As Pema Chodrun says “I am the sky, everything else is the weather.”
Nourishing my capacity to be aware of my awareness enriches my peacefulness and strengthens me to engage challenges with presence and choose my actions responsibly. Observing my reactions, my thoughts, my disturbances and my emotions as the weather that simply rolls through the sky of my consciousness enables my awareness and ability to choose my actions without becoming overwhelmed and mindlessly reacting. I am truly liberated.
I am the sky. I am not the clouds or the stormy or sunny weather that temporarily drifts through.
Join Linda at The Haven for Breathe: Recalibrate, April 28-30, 2023.
This spring, Linda’s offerings include: