Monday, February 4, 2013

Birthing Breath

I wanted to share something with you that just came up to me as I was getting ready for bed and was reading through an article published on another blog intended for my art students for exercises that we sometimes do as a way to help them to relax and in the midst of scanning the article something emerged that I think needs mentioning.

I think its pretty cool....

Breath work is kind of big in helping us to relax.  I mention it a number of times over the years in various ways and forms.  In fact, I just wrote about it in the previous blog entry here.  But something new emerged, something I realized just now.

When my children were getting ready to enter this world, as they swam in their watery world prior to birth, the nurse midwives that we used as part of our birthing plan would from time to time do sonograms at various stages of my children's development to see how they were developing.  It gives you a view into how their bodies are developing visually, but it also gives you something else, which is sound.  In a sonogram of the womb, you are able to hear what a baby hears as though you were within the womb, and one thing you hear is their heartbeat and also the heartbeat of the mother as her blood is amplified within the watery realm of the womb, now full of amniotic fluid.  It is the first ocean that we know prior to birth, and as you may know, water is a very good carrier for sound waves. So good in fact, that whales can communicate to each other through salt water for hundreds of miles. The bodies' fluids, like sweat and tears and amniotic fluid, are a near perfect mirror of the ocean for the proportion of salt to water contained in both of them (well, nearly so).

When you hear the symphony of sounds taking place in that watery space within, what has struck me just now is how similar the sounds are to the ocean surf as well as how our breathing sounds.  There is an intake of air, and an exhale, both of which have a very similar mirror to how the heart valve sounds as it takes in blood and pumps it out again.  The sound of blood being drawn into the heart is different from it being pumped out.  There is a staccato sound that comes about from the heart valve that closes, which gives the "beat" part, but the rushing sound is so much like an ocean wave, so much like breath, that it is hard not to feel lulled by it once you drop into its rhythm.  Listen to this and how it sounds in your body, listen to your breath as you lie in bed tonight and just let yourself listen to just that, and then let yourself be carried along by that sound and see where it takes you.  The blood, rich with nutrients, presses against arterial walls and there is a rushing or "whooshing" sound.  Granted, with the heart, its a bit faster then most breathing, but the effect is very similar.  So similar in fact, that I think that this is one reason why we are calmed by the sound of our breath when we stop to listen to it perhaps because the history we have in hearing the heart within the body of the mother.  It is also why we can be lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean surf, which is a still-slowed version of our breath.  I know that for me, it can put me into an almost hypnotic state.  Many times as a child I would simply fall asleep near the water as its whooshing in and out took me back to some primordial point in my own experience.

So perhaps yet another power of breath is how much it falls in line or harmonizes with other sounds that take us all back to a point of origin,  a point where our own souls moved in and out of this new life that was forming, back to something that could well tell us something about ourselves in ways that we could only imagine.  Maybe it is time to imagine, and maybe this sound is a means to tap deeply into ourselves in ways just a moment ago were not available to us until I just mentioned it to you.

The thing is, we are terribly complicated creatures in some ways, a whole world of things and thoughts and concerns all swimming on the surface of a self, that when plumbed, most often results in a deepening sense of calm, quiet, and simplicity. Certainly the Buddhists and anyone who has done meditation work have brushed against this or felt themselves rooted deeply in its comforting waves of utter simplicity.  It is in this place where bliss dwells, where an expansive sense of self resides, a feeling as though we have just moved from a busy river bed full of movement and even turbulence, into a deepening calmer sea.....which of course empties out into a vaster yet ocean. Getting here is not "work" or effort.  We trick ourselves I think into thinking it is a project or goal or path or method or thing we do.  But it is no do. A life work, a discipline, something to take care of, attend to, or create a space for. It is what we are, and we simply meet it, find it, realize it, slip into it.  As though in the hustle bustle of our world, we think its like doing the laundry or groceries or dinner, or yoga or running or crunches.  This is a discipline that is so radically different from other forms of discipline that most tend to see it as NOT disciplined.  You have to be disciplined enough NOT to fall into the hurry-girdy and allow yourself to fall back into the arms of Mamma Ocean Bliss.  Here, you are disciplined enough not to be tempted to return to the focus of outward focus but a deep velvet of being that is simply a different way from what we have trained ourselves.  The first step is often through breath.  As you slip into a deep state of relaxation, it is so often with breath.  No thought, just attention on your breath.  A whooshing in and out, first with water, now with air.  Once with blood, now with prana.

And it might just be that the portal to this place need only be a breath away, the gentle whooshing and swishing of the heart within the body, heard less as a beat as we are used to from the outside and more as it is heard from within the body, which is more like breath or the ocean.  Maybe if we just let ourselves sink into that, we might feel into some vaster ocean that is our own common experience.....
I wonder where such an awareness might carry us.

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