The sacred breath
Alchemical art has long mystified casual observers.
Really, though, it is all about the breath. On a spiritual level, breath is the carrier wave of life itself—the sacred bridge between spirit and matter and the chariot of the soul. The word breath and spirit are synonymous in many ancient languages: the Sanskrit word prana, the Latin spiritus and the Greek pneuma. Here we are reminded of an alchemical inscription from the Zhou Dynasty:
In transporting the breath, the inhalation must be full.
When it is full, it has big capacity.
When it has big capacity, it can extended.
When it is extended, it can penetrate downward.
When it penetrates downward, it will become calmly settled.
When it is calmly settled, it will be strong and firm.
When it is strong and firm, it will germinate.
When it germinates, it will grow.
When it grows, it will retreat upward.
When it retreats upward, it will reach the top of the head.
The secret power of Providence moves above.
The secret power of the Earth moves below.
He who follows this will live. He who acts against this will die.
There is an infinite wellspring of love, abundance and vitality awaiting those who wish to breathe properly. Breathwork is the key to unlocking the crystalline grail within—it seeks to clear all that stands in the way of our most luminous expression and higher embodiment.
Be conscious of this unconscious prayer of your breath, for she is the most holy place of pilgrimage. She wishes for you to enter the crystalline temple of your being, where each breath is adoration of the infinite for the incarnate…
—The Radiance Sutras
Oxygen is our first and greatest source of energy. It is the fuel required for the proper operation of all bodily systems. Many find it surprising to learn that only 10% of our energy comes from food and water and 90% of our energy comes from oxygen. Indeed, every cell in our body requires oxygen to thrive.
On the most basic level, breathing is a restorative process more important than even food or water for survival. Without breath, we could not endure for longer than a few minutes. Breathing deeply and consciously improves the quality of our health, emotions and our ability to be more present in our experiences so that we may embrace the trials and tribulations of life.
After watching the breath for a long time, it will become refined—the awareness of the breath will gradually cease, leaving only consciousness. The breath may become so pure that it disappears. Perhaps we are “just sitting” as if there is no breathing at all. Actually there is breathing, but it seems as if there is none. This is because the soul is finally willing to surrender—only spirit remains.
The breath can take you all the way to nirvana.
—Ajaan Fuang Jotiko