About Articles Poetry Video Images Services Events
Edited Words: 152,263
Articles: 180
Poems: 52
Videos: 25
Images: 10

March 9, 2006

Practice Makes Perfect

How many times do you breathe in a day? Ten-thousand times? How deeply do you breathe? In The New Art of Sexual Ecstacy, Margot Anand states, "The average person inhales one pint of air per breath, while our lungs can actually contain seven pints when fully expanded."

There's a way of conscious breathing in yoga called ujaya. In this breath, the throat is constricted so that the breathing rate can be regulated. This constriction results in a hissing sound being emitted from the throat. The breath comes in through the nose and goes out through the mouth. The inward breath and the outward breath take roughly the same amount of time. The breath is as slow as comfortably possible. The inward breath starts with an inflation of the stomach and ends with an inflation of the chest. The outward breath starts with a deflation of the chest and ends with a deflation of the stomach. When doing this for prolonged periods it is important to keep the spine straight; I won't explain why here.

Yoga means union; union with the Light, or the One. The word is used to refer to the process of attaining union as well as to the state of union. People who pray, who create artistically, who do pretty much anything, are performing yoga, even if they call it something else. Some yogas are more effective than others at reaching the state of union with the One, but all yogas lead us home.

The ancient sages noticed that their suffering was caused by their minds being agitated. They also noticed that when their minds were agitated, their breathing was uneven and shallow. A man named Patanjali wrote a scripture called the Yoga Sutra. He begins the Yoga Sutra in Sanskrit with, "Yoga chitta vritti nirodh." This can be interpreted as, "Union is the smoothing of the mind."

These wise guys tried an experiment, an experiment which is documented in the Yoga Sutra. They wondered if making the breath calm would make the mind calm. It turns out that this works. By performing the ujaya breath that I mentioned earlier, the mind becomes calm and still. It becomes as clear and fresh as a mountain stream.

I know a very aware woman who told me that she believes that this is how people breathed in the Garden of Eden; I can well believe it. Let's say that we call those people who lived in the garden, enlightened. That's not hard to believe; after all, they were in perpetual bliss, in heaven, like every other enlightened person you know. So how about this: what if we just cut to the chase and breathe like we're enlightened? Well I tried that, and this is what happened:

A few months ago, I woke up one morning and decided to do ujaya breathing all day, until I went to sleep. I can breathe at a rate of between one and two breaths per minute. At one breath per minute, that's only seven-hundred-and-twenty breaths in a twelve-hour day. So off I went into my day. I did this while I washed, while I drove, and while I typed. I went to work with it, and I came home with it. I had to interrupt it to swallow and to speak, but at all other times I kept the rhythm going.

And the result? My mind became like a smooth surface upon which the world played out. There was no agitation, no resistance, and no problems. The day just unfolded as it did. And the way it unfolded, and the way it was, was perfect; exquisitely perfect. And I was calm, funny, and capable. I was unflustered and patient. And most importantly, I was filled with a deep and constant joy.

At work I just picked the next thing to work on and got on with it, filled with joy. There was no tension, no wondering about whether I should be working on something else; this was it.

After work I drove to a drugstore, and as I drove I sang along with my friend Charley Thweatt who's voice was coming through the car's speakers, "I am surrounded in light so bright. I am surrounded in God's healing love light." As I got out of the car, I noticed things that I wouldn't normally be aware of; little details that were really interesting to me; like the shape of a lamp post or the color of a leaf. Inside the drugstore, when I looked into people's eyes, it was as if I knew them. It felt like my trip to the drugstore was an event as significant in the cosmos as the liberation of India. I felt ecstatic, and so did my bowels: I went to the toilet three times that day.

Perhaps if we breathe like this for long enough, it will become a habit. Perhaps if we breathe like we're enlightened, we really will become enlightened. This is the essence of tantra: behave "as if"; believe that you already are what you seek to be.

Prana is a Sanskrit word that refers to the flow of energy in the body. The disturbed mind causes the prana to be disturbed, which in turn causes the breath to be disturbed. Breath control is referred to in Sanskrit as pranayama. Yama means control; so pranayama means control of the prana. Ujaya breath is a form of pranayama. By practicing pranayama, the breath comes under control. When the breath is under control, the energy and thus the mind comes under control.

The word practice is used to refer to a spiritual discipline: a practice. It's possible to practice a practice. Pranayama is a practice which leads to perfection; it leads there quite quickly; some say that it's the fastest way. For one yogi, "Breath is the only prayer." But the attained perfection is not an outward one. The world can never be made perfect from the perspective of a disturbed mind. It is the nature of the disturbed mind to see imperfection, because the mind can see only itself. A perfected mind is a still mind, a unified mind. And a still, unified mind sees only stillness, only the perfection that is continually placed before it.

Pranayama: practice makes perfect.


Font: S M L
Receive by email:
Designed by Duncan Riach RSS Feed Icon   Site Map Copyright © 2006 Duncan Riach. All rights reserved.