I can think of no better place to begin discussing Mind, Body, and Spirit topics than with breathing. Considering that the act of breathing is something most of us take for granted, the role of breathwork and mindful breathing can be truly transformative to your mind, your body, and your spirit.
The process of breathing is a complex coordinated effort that involves the whole torso, not just the lungs. If you follow a yogic or body awareness path, then breathing can be a full-body sport. As a voice teacher, I start all my students on ujjayi breathing, the belly breathing technique from yoga, before we sing any scales or attempt any songs. The student must begin to incorporate ujjayi breathing into their everyday life and subsequently into their singing. Phonation (sound production) is based on airflow. While vocal science research has shown that the vocal folds are responsible for controlling airflow across the vocal folds when we speak or sing, breathing is a coordinated dance of the abdominal muscles, the thoracic and pelvic diaphragms, as well as the internal and external intercostal muscles of the ribcage (to say nothing of the bronchi and alveoli inside the lungs responsible for the gas exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide).
Deep, calm breathing has many relaxing and healthful benefits mentally and somatically.
When we are under stress, nervous, or anxious, the body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. An adrenal response evolved from the human body’s early days, adrenaline is great if you’re chasing a mammoth or running from a saber-tooth tiger. It’s not so great if you’re about to go on stage to recite your lines or enter a restaurant on a first date. Adrenaline floods the brain, sort of shutting down the frontal lobes, which are responsible for things like language. (Another reason being nervous before an audition or a date can leave you stumbling for words like a blithering idiot.) With the frontal cortex on coffee break, the primal brain takes over and straddles the fence in fight-or-flight mode. Deep, slow breathing can counter all of this, calming the mind and allowing the stress to be manageable so you can deal with it like a rational human and not a caveman. Breathwork allows you to focus on the task at hand or ease your pesky thoughts away if you’re trying to meditate.
Try sitting alone, with all noisy electronic devices turned OFF, and just breath deeply for 10 or 15 minutes.
Breathing is the action by which we replenish that chemical that is pertinent to our existence: oxygen. Breathing high in the chest — upper chest breathing — is a style of breathing in early English and French singing, but it is not recommended for any singing, speaking, or breathwork, in my opinion, because upper chest breathing also triggers the release of adrenaline. Breathe low in the belly, breathing down into the pelvic diaphragm. In voice, this style of breathing is called appoggio, but it is basically ujjayi breathing. I’ve been known to have students lie on the floor or sit against the wall in chair pose to feel the expansion of the back while breathing and singing. While on the floor, I have them place their binder or sheet music on their stomach so they can see when the book rises and falls and learn to associate that feeling with proper, deep abdominal expansion and contraction. A mirror is crucial to see the ribs moving outward away from the torso.
When we focus on breathing, we tend to focus on our body and our alignment, taking an inventory of how we’re doing physically. Tantra and Kundalini paths use different breathing exercises like kapala bhati and bhastrika that really, really work the body — these are powerful breath practices that require guidance from a teacher, especially if you’re engaging the body by applying “locks” at certain chakras. And in case you’re wondering, oxygen feeds orgasms!
A basic Sun Salutation is a great way to combine deep breath and body work to get the blood and oxygen flowing.
The word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus meaning “soul, vigor, breath,” derived from the word spirare which means “to breathe,” the root of both of these being spir. When we are born, the first thing we do once the umbilical cord is cut is breathe — we take in breath, we are in-spir-ed, or inspired. The last thing we do before we shake off this mortal coil is to exhale our last breath — ex-spire, or expire. In between that first inspiration and our final expiration, we take in and release breath repeatedly, or as we call it re-spir-ation, the act of respiration.
It is no coincidence to me that the lungs are located right there at the heart chakra. Whenever we are touched emotionally — in a good way or unpleasant way, we tend to either gasp, inhale quickly, or exhale in sadness or disbelief. I feel our emotions and breath are connected. Mindful breathing helps us stay rooted, grounded to the earth, when circumstances leave our mind — or our heart — reeling. Deep breathing can also lower blood pressure and slow a racing pulse.
Breathwork is absolutely fundamental to being healthy. The art of being inspired repeatedly throughout our life is as simple as breathing. When we’re overwhelmed, overly excited, can’t focus, or can’t think, deep breathing can help keep us centered and better prepared to relax into our task at hand or meditation session.
Copyright 2013 by Trish Causey. All Rights Reserved.
Some schools of thought say all dreams are a form of astral projection. If so, then I’m astral traveling 3 to 5 times every night. But what I consider astral projection — traveling across time/space to the Other Side — has only occurred once — that I remember.
I astral projected in a dream years ago, in 2002, or 2003, maybe 2004 — before Hurricane Katrina. This was either the only time I’ve ever experienced this or the only time I remember it this fully.
I was flying in my dream, which was great because I had not had a flying dream since I was a young teenager. As a kid, I’d have dreams in which I would float up out of my body (in the dream) and hang out at the ceiling, sometimes getting bored with whatever was going on in the room, like a classroom or sometimes a hospital/surgical type area, and I’d float out of the room, ducking to not hit my head on the door jamb, then fly/float down the hallway to something more interesting.
In most flying dreams, though, I would be outside where I could get a running start, spread my arms, take off, and fly — but never higher than just above the trees. These were always amazing. I progressed to the point where I didn’t have to take a running start — if I had the thought I wanted to fly, I spread my arms, bent my knees in a small plie’, and I was up in the air, soaring. The most interesting of these was one dream in which I was flying with Elton John. I have no idea why I dreamt that. I love Elton John, but to this day, that is a mystery. :-)
So back to this particular dream… I was enthralled to be flying again, something I had missed for almost two decades. I was flying above the trees. I looked down as the canopy of treetops whizzed by. Suddenly, I realized I was not flying horizontally but vertically, like a helicopter going up instead of across. I thought, “How cool!”
I went up and up, still facing down, looking down towards the land. Further up and away from the trees. I went through the thin, low-lying clouds, higher and higher. Here’s where I started getting worried. I had no clue what was happening. Up and up. Still looking down, I saw I was high enough that I wasn’t just looking at the land or the water, I was now moving up through the clouds. Layers and layers of frothy white clouds. Then I was looking down at the clouds — up and up — looking down now at the entire earth, moving further from it at an increasing speed.
As the earth got smaller, I looked down toward what should have been my body but there was nothing there. I looked to my right at what should have been my arm, but my arm wasn’t there. I looked to my left, but my left arm wasn’t there. I thought, “Where’s my body?!” I looked around at myself, but I wasn’t there — only a fuzz of transparent light.
I felt my fuzz self cross a barrier, and I realized I had crossed the Veil (as pagans say). I was on the Other Side. I slowed down and took it all in, just floating. I had no body because I pure energy. Where I was was pure energy. It looked like an infinity of clouds in a golden light emanating from a huge golden light source off in the distance. In that instant I experienced what I’d never felt before or since — pure love. I knew it seemed crazy even at the time — this is what people who have near-death experiences say. They felt pure love. But it was true. I felt pure love. Pure connectedness to the supraconsciousness. I felt the infinity of the universe. I knew I was returning home — returning as light energy to rejoin the All light energy. No gods. No Jesus. No floating Buddha head. No made up human religious bullshit. The All was nameless, faceless, race-less, label-less energy.
Feeling that pure love was transformative. I knew what that pure love was as soon as I felt it and knew, with sadness, no one had ever extended that pure, unconditional love to me here on earth. I floated in the energy and felt my fuzzy light self being gently pulled toward the golden infinite energy All, and I loved it. I wanted it. Nothing had ever felt so wonderful, so intensely right — to be a part of that energy from whence I came, to leave the crap and the struggle of life on the physical plane. Everything I had ever wanted was right there. All I had to do was drift in the pure love energy stream to rejoin the infinite Source Energy.
I suddenly remembered my young daughter, and I thought, “Oh well, this was nice, but I have to go back now.” I expected to drift back to the Veil and begin my descent toward earth. However, I kept drifting toward the golden light. I thought, “No, really, I can’t stay. I have to get back to my daughter.” Nothing changed, in fact, I started moving toward the golden energy faster. I shouted (as only a fuzz ball of energy can), “NO! I have to go back to my daughter! She needs me!!” I tried to resist the pull of the energy — it was so immensely strong, and truthfully, I really wanted to stay in that perfect love vibration. But I tried pushing against the pull — hard to do with no arms or legs. I pushed against it, tried to pull myself away, pushed and pulled, tried again and again. I yelled, “I HAVE to go back! My daughter needs me!!”
At that instant, I began plummeting downward, downward, downward, accelerating exponentially. I saw the earth getting closer and closer. I went through the earth’s cloud layers, and I went faster. I worried how I was going to catch myself since I didn’t have a physical body. Was I just going to land on the roof of my house — SPLAT?! The earth got closer, then North America, then the Gulf Coast, the water, the trees — boom!
I bolted upright in bed. I was panting, breathless as if I’d just run a marathon. I looked down. I had a body — had arms and legs — nothing seemed broken. I looked up — the ceiling was intact. I felt like I had slammed into a concrete wall. I had crash-landed into my bed. I had no idea what just happened. I sat there for a few minutes, thoroughly confused by this, the weirdest dream I’d ever had.
I got up out of bed, shaky on my feet (that I was glad to see had returned), and I checked on my daughter. She was sound asleep. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary with the house. I could not wrap my head around what had happened. Of course, I had heard of out-of-body experiences (OOBE, or OBE), but I had never really delved into the topic, or astral travel, or remote viewing. I liked my easy-going nature-based Irish pagan path. I liked my relationship with my perception of a Source Energy, and I left all the New Age woo-woo stuff for the confused woo-woo people (who probably smoked a lot of weed).
Because of this dream/astral dream experience, my perception of “god/gods,” heaven/nirvana, et al were confirmed for what feels right for me. Science says energy is the basis of the universe, and I saw that that is true. Spiritual sages say “we are all connected,” and I felt that to be true in my experience. The bullshit importance humans place on ethnicity, economic class, political party, religious affiliation are all that — bullshit — completely made up, human busy-work to keep the physical plane mired down in drama so the soul energy has something to do while it’s here to learn lessons during its incarnation in the carbon-based meat-suit.
At that moment, I became what I call an Energist. I believe in Energy. Gods, goddesses, etc., are anthropomorphized interpretations of particular energy vibrations to appease the inquisitive human-animal’s mind as the soul sorts out its karma this go ’round.
This is when I became a Humanist. We are all energy. We are all equal. We are all connected, regardless of skin color, spiritual path, or other divisive pigeon hole man-made society wants us to buy into to keep strife and war in perpetual motion, usually for the benefit of sociopathic lizard-brains who feed on misery to secure their own financial gain and to ensure their elite status and control.
This earthly existence offers glimpses into the love and connectedness that exist on the Other Side. They are possible here… if we lose our temporary selves long enough to find our true selves.
This is my experience. You don’t have to like it, agree with it, or believe it. It is mine. This is the experience as it happened to me, so I don’t feel the need to justify or rationalize any aspect of it. This was a truly integral and life-changing experience for me, and to this day, it greatly influences many of my tenets that I hold to be true for me and my path.
I hope to return to the All Source Energy again this lifetime to say Hi — as long as I can come back here once I’m done hanging out in the energy love fuzz.
An author and creator of oracle cards, Baron-Reid is billed as having “facilitated hundreds of her popular seminars and workshops on developing intuition.” She also wrote the books The Map: Finding the Magic and Meaning in the Story of Your Life and Remembering the Future: The Path to Recovering Intuition.
Baron-Reid is firmly entrenched in the 21st century New Age movement, so this CD may not resonate immediately for those who are more logically-minded. However, without knowing much else about her and by listening to the CD, I can sense Baron-Reid is adept at helping clients attune to their inner selves. After all, loosening the hold (and reliance) on the logical mind is part of the inner journey we all encounter as we grow spiritually and energetically.
“Chakra” is Sanskrit for “wheel” and refers to the philosophy of seven energy centers that correspond to seven body centers from the tailbone to the crown of the head. As with Chakra or Kundalini training, Journey Through the Chakras begins with the first chakra and its correspondences, progressing through each energy center. The vivid guided meditation is narrated by Baron-Reid herself, over original music by Mars Lasar. The CD concludes with an original song written and sung by Baron-Reid.
The CD has its flaws, but overall, I do think it has merit for those wanting an indirect lesson in learning about the chakras. It is less than an hour long, and yet doesn’t feel that long.
The very aspects of the CD that some listeners find endearing, others will find annoying: repetition of certain phrases, nature sounds, breathing “ahhhhhh” sounds at various intervals, and New Agey music underscore. Oddly, the more I listen to the CD, the less some of these elements stand out, and therefore the less they annoy me.
Baron-Reid is clearly not a voice over artist. Her voice has a rasp to it that some find to be sultry, but I do not — I think she needs to be seen by a speech pathologist. She also breathes in strange places, and her voice gives out at times, which are clear indications of weak breath support. Her glottal stops on words beginning with vowels were truly annoying to me.
The audio engineer did not edit the voice over track to current industry standards — you can hear Baron-Reid’s mouth clicks, lip smacks, numerous plosives, and weird breathing. **Note: I am being extremely picky here. Some people find her voice to be “sultry” and “husky,” lending a sensual feel to the meditation. But since this is an audio review, I have to lay it all on the table for the potential listener. Your mileage may vary.**
It’s too soon to tell if I will ever really love this CD, but I do think it has some valuable properties. I have found myself plugging in to listen to it as I lay on my bed, wanting to let my mind wander a bit. I do not focus on picturing the journey as she describes, but rather what I want to think about, and yet, I occasionally find myself suddenly visualizing the scene she is currently describing.
In the few days I’ve had the CD, I’ve listened to it perhaps 5 to 7 times. Each night I’ve had a strange dream or series of dreams involving my current life circumstances (which I never dream about), people I know (I almost never dream about people I actually know), situations I know I need to resolve, getting help (from people I never thought would be willing to help me), and other “strange”/never-dreamt-that-before types of dreamscapes. Interesting, indeed.
How to Use this CD:
Like most “pursuits” that are spiritual or energy based, you cannot actually pursue them. Your subconscious self has to be open to receiving information which in turn allows you to experience and integrate needed information into your psyche and your subconscious. Only half listening to this CD brought me dreams I don’t think I would have had otherwise. I can only wonder “what dreams may come” if I actually did the meditation/visualization.
Perhaps I will revisit this review in a month’s time. I am not sorry I bought the CD — I generally despise guided meditations and I’ve never bought one before now, so the fact that I actually bought this and keep listening to it must mean something positive for its effect on me.
Aroused and meditating,