Expanding Sufi Mysteries Of Breath
Take a breath. Feel the air passing through your nose, the chest rises and falls, the belly relaxes.
What are you thinking while breathing? Maybe you aren’t thinking, because when you focus on the breath, the body and the mind calms. “Breath has a tranquilizing quality, steady and relaxing if you don't force it; this is helped by an upright posture. Your mind may wander, but keep patiently returning to the breath.” Breathing is usually the first step in meditation and mindfulness practice.
The Sufis teach that breath has no boundaries. Breathe out, in. Did that in-breath with clean oxygen come from that tree or this bush, the purified carbon dioxide passing through leaves and branches? We live in reciprocal relationship with plants who process our wasted breath and exude purified air for us, while we breathe out and nourish their existence.
Boundaryless, our breath passes through space and time. Is this a molecule of breath from Hawaii? Cleopatra? Einstein?
Science teaches us that we are intermingling with the atoms and breath from all the ages and spheres. Our bodies — collections of stardust — use breath to move effortlessly, converging with distant worlds and returning to here and now, unseen. The subtle currents of breath enter our bodies and minds, penetrating to the very core of our being.
For thousands of years, seekers of the mystical Sufi traditions practiced the art of “breathing well.” In 1910, professor, musician and Sufi Master, Pir-O-Murshid Hazrat Inayat-Khan began teaching in the US. “The breath is the current… between all planes of existence. Its current runs from the life unseen to the life on the surface, thus uniting spirit and matter… In breath abides all the mystery there is.”
“Breath must be trained in these five different ways: it must be rhythmic, centralized, deepened, it must reach far, and its volume must be spreading.” When we are angry or afraid, we constrict our breath, disrupting our equilibrium and ability to think and act clearly. We lose touch with essence. Being centralized, the breath enhances certainty in life and we quicken the subtle sphere in the belly. With proper rhythm and volume, balance, vitality and insights grow. As we exhale, we can relinquish old thought forms and shed outworn identities. With intentional breathing, speech and singing are born.
Breathing in…breathing out…Students of Sufism explore the subtle currents of breath, meditation, sacred movement, prayer, immersion in nature, and more. May we all breathe with awareness!
Shahana is a student of Pir Zia, grandson of Hazrat Inayat-Khan, who teaches Sufi meditation and contemplation practices hosted by The Inayati Order of Greater Boston. For more information or to contact Shahana please visit www.gardenlight.org or call 617-522-0800. See event “A Weekend With Pir Zia Inayat-Khan”, Dec 2-4, 2016.