Spirituality – Spirare – To Breathe

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Spirituality-Spirare-To Breathe

The word “spirituality” comes from the Latin spirare, “to breathe.” What’s the connection between “spirituality” and “breathing”? Grab a New Testament and look up what is translated as “Holy Spirit” and you’ll discover two words: pneuma: “breath, wind” and hagios: “whole, holy, sacred.” The so-called “Holy Spirit” is actually a “Whole Breath”- not something to “believe in” but rather something to receive: a full breath. “Have you received the Holy Spirit?” in Greek, actually means, literally, “have you received a Whole Breath?”

The “Christianity” imposed upon our European tribal ancestors never taught us that there are very concrete, vital keys hidden in the mumbo-jumbo of a “Bible” mistranslated to confuse, rather than liberate, those whom the Romans enslaved. Instead we were led to confuse reality and symbol and forced to hold to the symbol while ignoring its reality. Fascinating to see how tools for liberation can also be used to enslave.

A “spirit-filled life” is a life that breathes, where there’s an inhale, and an exhale, not just from our lungs, but from the entirety of our life.

Look around you and you’ll notice that this world breathes, it cycles, fills and empties.

Take a full breath… in….. and out… without spaces or “spacing out” in between the inhale and the exhale, then notice what you FEEL. What happens in your Aliveness when you live in a way where you breathe full breaths? I’m pointing out something very, very simple to pay attention to.

Take another five slow, full, connected breaths, connecting the end of the inhale smoothly to the beginning of the exhale and vice-versa. What do you notice? Do you find it challenging to connect five breaths in a relaxed, conscious, not forceful manner, or is that easy for you?

This simple and invigorating “micro-practice” vitalizes us with minimal effort: just five breaths, or even just three, throughout the day, when we think about it. No big deal, just a treat, with a spirit of lightness, of vitality and delicious curiosity and noticing. This simple exercise reveals something profound and simple about our spirit, which is our breath, and our spirituality, our connection to the Aliveness that vitalizes by filling and emptying. With practice we learn to nourish ourselves with breath, a key to overall well-being.

In the dominant culture we’ve lost the grounded, Bio-Logical sense of spirituality, as something natural and innate to all breathing life. We often adopt a dissociative spirituality disconnected from our world and our bodies.

Ten years ago I spent a summer as the head cook for a retreat center on a remote island off the coast of British Colombia where I was taking classes in Qigong, a Chinese exercise and medical system. We worked a lot with the breath in ways which were actually quite forceful and goal-oriented, and which I would very much warn people against. Nevertheless, I learned what a powerful doorway our breath is. One day I was with a friend who had lived and studied there for several years, a young man whom I admired for his wisdom, his excellence, dedication and delightful demeanor. We were in the kitchen talking.

“Do you know that you cut off and hold your breath every few minutes?” he asked me. I had never noticed. When he called my attention to it, it was quite obvious. I investigated the nature of breath for several years and continue to invite myself to full, connected, GENTLE breathing. Disrupted respiratory patterns are one of the results of trauma I was up there to learn to integrate and heal.

I spent much of my life thinking that I had somehow escaped unscathed from a turbulent and abusive childhood. But my body, my Aliveness, my spirit (breath) hadn’t. I had learned to live and flourish as a person (from the Latin persona: “mask”) in profound denial of what my body knew, deeply, and for good reason: denial and not-feeling allowed me to survive just as self-denial and self-estrangement have allowed many generations of post-conquest peoples to survive and adapt to a cultural reality that is weaponized against our awareness, deep freedom and well-being.

Heart-Breath-Song of the Ancestors
Heart-Breath-Song of the Ancestors

Our ancestors and our history are not behind us. They are inside of us. Consider it in the Logic of how Life makes Life, which is always Emergent, Connected, Related and Patterned. Even our breathing patterns are not just “ours.”  We develop our patterning in parent-child relationship dynamics that replicate unconsciously.

To reconnect our breath is to, literally, reconnect our ancestral spirit to a more whole and harmonic way of Being. For a fascinating perspective on how these patterns emerge multi-generationally and how they are impacting all aspects of contemporary life, including the relationships between men and women, I highly recommend reading Amazing Capacities & Self-Inflicted Limitations: An Interview with Joseph Chilton Pearce

I began to notice my breathing with more attention and began to study what affects our respiratory pattern. Notice how people breathe around you and you’ll begin to understand very concretely what spirituality and breathing have to do with each other. Our spirit is not just our breath, but our breath reveals our spirit, our vitality, our connection to Aliveness.

Life is coherent and fractal. The qualities of any aspect of our lives reflect the qualities throughout our Living System. Our breath holds a key to knowing ourselves, by daring to experience not only our “selves,” but our cells. How we do anything is  how we do everything. Everything we do reflects the Qualities of our Aliveness.

In modern births babies are often spanked to stimulate their first breath, with trauma not only installed in our respiratory pattern from the onset, but also deep trauma to the entire nervous system and spinal chord, as is now only beginning to be understood. The umbilical cord is cut or clamped almost immediately after birth, often causing the baby to have to breathe, by force, and without the smooth transition that has been natural to humans for millions of years.

Many indigenous people, on the other hand, embrace their child after birth, with the umbilical cord intact. In that warm, maternal embrace and connection to our mother’s heartbeat, we find our breath, through innate connection and readiness, umbilical cord intact, until we find our breath, in our own time and the umbilical cord slowly begins to stop pumping blood as our lungs begin to nourish us with air. When the cord stops beating and the placenta is birthed the umbilical cord is cut. The breathing that emerges in this spirit of respect and trust of the innate Bio-Logical (Life-Logical), natural wisdom of a newborn is very different than the breath that emerges in people who have been subjected to endless “procedures” starting with our first breath.

Few of us imagine that both our “breath” and our “spirituality” are profoundly affected and, effectively split when our culture of biopathic (life-harmful) “experts” already begin their violent “ministrations” in our lives. Add sexual amputation for many male children through circumcision, where 50% of the child’s genital nerve endings are whacked off, and then a body flooded with mercury, aluminum and all kinds of foreign pathogens via vaccines and our children are already being undone and assaulted before they’ve even spent a full day outside the womb. This is the induction into the life of human livestock.

Take that same child and send her off to be raised by total strangers in “daycare centers.” Sit them in front of a television to watch repeated violence and the modeling of dis-eased human relationships… and we are alarmed that kids have trouble “concentrating,” relating to each other and are developing all sorts of health problems. Next time you have the opportunity to observe a child watching television, watch their respiratory pattern.

I have lived in more than a few villages full of infants, children and newborn where I never heard a baby or young child crying or screaming. I never witnessed the staccato, distressed breathing and loud wailing so common among the children of those who fancy themselves to be “civilized” and, curiously, use brutal gestures to “welcome” their “loved ones” to their first breath, who feel at liberty to use harsh tones and repeated interference with their children. I never witnessed any temper tantrums which many believe to be characteristic of “the terrible twos” and which would more aptly be named “two years of totally-frustrating parenting.”

Spirituality, spirare, to breathe. To comprehend the nature of what we are being acculturated to, it suffices to just track one single thing, something as primary to our life in this world as our breath. Pretty soon we get powerful clues. Looking simply and nakedly at the obvious reveals the obvious. Then we become conscious. We develop our conscience, which literally means “to know with.”

Next time you hear a parent interrupt or yell at a child, notice what happens to the child’s respiratory pattern. Then notice how often that happens, discretely. Notice what happens to your breath, as you witness this. Then notice what happens to the child and the parent’s breath once you reconnect your own. These kinds of patterns get repeated unconsciously, a nd they can be reconnected consciously.

When I work with clients individually I have them spend a lot of time on playgrounds, paying attention. How we talk to and treat children is how we set the tone for our lives.

Observe the breathing patterns of the people around you. The point here is to simply notice. In the United States child psychologists have noted that parents interrupt, interfere with and say “no” to their children, on average, every 9 minutes. When I was in Belgium six years ago, where I grew up, I was stunned to see how parents “hound” their children almost continuously. Children raised this way are never allowed to fully develop their own will, from their own center. They are forbidden to be the authors of their lives and to develop authenticity or true, grounded inner authority.

Instead they are either submitting or in resistance to an external authority who wants to be the author of someone else’s life, feelings, emotions and actions. Notice the breathing pattern that emerges in children continually being “directed” by adults or related to by adults who speak childish nonsense to them as if they were idiots.

In Belgium I’d watch mothers shouting endless commands and directions to toddlers riding tricycles or simply walking around. “Go left. Stop. Turn around.” and on and on… I would go to the parks and just observe, and FEEL what came up for me. Eventually, those children learn to interrupt, interfere with and negate themselves. They internalize their mothers continually telling them what to do and how to do it.

They are raised in continual submission to external authority and attention, which they eventually internalize, permanently listening to those internalized voices while never quite connecting with the voice of their BEING. They shout commands at themselves but never find their heart’s desire through all the inner shouting.

Our breath gives us powerful clues about the qualities of our connection to Aliveness. By paying attention to how we are breathing, in different circumstances, with different people, we begin to notice what is happening to our literal spirit, our connection to our primary source of nourishment: our breath.

When we learn to connect our inner reality to our outer reality, our respiratory pattern also comes into coherence with our heartbeat. The Institute of Heart Math has done some fascinating research in this area and simple exercises with which to foster this coherence, to relieve stress and activate well-being, simply, through breathing centered in the heart.

When we grow up in constant interruption, correction and interference,  “cut off, interrupted, interfered with” will become our spiritual, and respiratory, condition. This is not some mystical statement. Reading this and believing or disbelieving it is not the point. I am not here to define your world. I am calling your attention to it. Pay attention and you will discover far more nuance and variety than these words can point to, and feel free to share with me what you discover. Observe your respiratory cycle and the respiratory cycles of people around you and you will notice something fascinating.What do you notice?

The very common, interrupted respiratory pattern is one of the fundamental rhythms that is profoundly affected by being raised in the ways that have become “normal” in many, thankfully not all, families in the Western world. Our breath reveals where we are in harmony, or at odds, with our evolutionary, life-logical continuum. We are trained to lose our inner compass and connection.

Hand-in-hand with this kind of pattern of relating and breathing comes a certain kind of “spirituality” where the breath remains interrupted, where we space out in the spaces between inhale and exhale, and where our minds no longer attend to present reality and our experience. We try to attain some “ideal state,” decidedly neither here nor now, and with very few avenues, in our body, for connecting coherently with Aliveness.

Our “spirituality” becomes an endless search for some more peaceful, comforting “elsewhere,” some sense of Welcome that we are designed for but that our experience has convinced us is, decidedly, “not of this world.” We want ideas that make us “feel better” while avoiding the challenges of getting better at feeling, full-spectrum. I talk to all kinds of people who get “updates” from the Pleiades, the seventh cosmic orbit of zuvuya, know all about “astrology” but can’t connect that “knowledge” to anything actually in the sky or in their hearts and coherent, connected awareness, and remain fundamentally cut off. Our breath starts and stops and rarely consciously finds itself.

We wait for “spiritual” leadership, guidance.

This kind of “spirituality,” so common in the West, including how many Westerners “adopt” Eastern “spiritual” practices totally decontextualized, is the direct result of our ancestors’ conquest and the ongoing institutionalization of trauma, and the “spiritualization” of dissociation. In this kind of “spirituality,” body, awareness and spirit are separate and literally cut off from each other.

What if YOU could reconnect what has been separated? You CAN. Breath holds a key. Connect.

Calm, relaxed breathing that connects and savors inhaling and exhaling helps us recover and reactivate our inner compass and connection.

There is tremendous power in reconnecting the inhale and exhale of our breath and to FEEL, with our senses and in our bodies, what comes up in the first 15 minutes upon awakening and for the last 15 minutes of our day, before falling asleep. Clients who have spent decades studying meditation have told me that they discovered more peace and groundedness, as well as profound challenges and connection to deep-seated programming and neuro-circuitry, doing this simple exercise, than they did studying meditation.

One client who had done five years of Tibetan Buddhist meditation, found it very challenging, even scary, to just connect her breath and to FEEL in her body, even though this is actually a very classical, and basic, form of traditional Buddhist meditation. Many Westerners adopting “spiritual practices” from other cultures end up using them to further dissociate, rather than reconnecting with their lived, embodied reality.

It can be very easy for there to be a mismatch between foreign meditation teachers, raised in a culture where children are still mothered competently, giving teachings designed for Tibetan people, to use one example, in a culture where an overwhelming majority of the population needs to be medicated for “depression,” or “attention deficit disorder,” and all kinds of labels that are, in essence, the developmental sequelae of the abbreviated neurologies that develop in a culture where our natural intelligence, lovingkindness, sociability and trust are systematically frustrated from birth on.

Deformed and incomplete, yet adaptive neurological structures, emerge in our first four years of life. They develop in response to preconscious experiences we have no memory of, especially the mother-child and father-child bonds, or their overwhelming replacement with “caretakers” of whole groups of children. These early experiences lay down the foundation with which we relate to all of Life.

Much of what we call our “spiritual search” is actually our biology seeking to complete fundamental developmental steps with little to no awareness that these are the issues we are looking for help with, precisely because they are pre-conscious and sub-conscious! Most people whose childhoods led to developing disorganized neurologies have no memory of ever having any childhood problems! We only have a very firm conviction that “there’s more to life” than what we’ve experienced so far.

Indeed there is.

Full-filling these profound and natural desires of ours requires actually completing foundational, even infantile development rather than continually “shopping” for “advanced spiritual techniques” that often leave us in states of further alienation and easy prey for “teachers” from other cultures. People whose spirituality emerges in a developmental and relational context profoundly different from ours will be very challenged to get a clear grasp of the deep dynamics at play with people whose relational, familial and cultural dynamics are foreign to them and who show deep challenges at “getting” what they have to teach. There are some profound pitfalls to teaching cross-culturally that both student and teacher can very easily be unconscious of.

Spirituality, spirare, to BREATHE.

Breathe. Connected breathing grows connected neurologies.

Interrupted breathing patterns normalized society-wide come hand-in-hand with our ancestral conquest and enslavement. De-indigenized peoples not only become displaced and economically impoverished on their own land, we also become displaced in our own bodies and capacity to orient in the world from our actual, living, cellular, Bio-Logical (Life-intelligent) selves. Our body is the land, literally. Our bodies are the ground of our Aliveness, of our spirit.

Slave “spiritualities” divorce the spirit from the ground, from the body. The body knows, experientially, connectively, through an Intelligence nourished by attention and breath. That kind of knowing does not make good slaves. A slave is a person who is possessed by another, but not in possession of herself. Mystical nonsense is one of these forms of self-dispossession.

In the dissociative culture that emerges post-conquest we are forced to believe that “we are not this body.” This conclusion leads us to seek a “spirituality” that is “not of this world.” We then inhabit our bodies as the “ideas of our selves,” largely disconnected from the 4 billion years of evolutionary wisdom each one of us is.

Reconnecting our breath and reconnecting with our capacity to feel, with our senses, leads to developing the skills for effective self-regulation and reconnection with our evolutionary, Bio-Logical wisdom. We invite ourselves to connect coherently and sense-ably with our felt experience. Simultaneously, we offer ourselves the whole breaths that are the hallmark of healthy, well-connected people.

This is precisely what a well-supported, inwardly-connected mother and father provide their children, as the maternal and paternal ground that modulates the natural stress of normal human development through the parent-child connection which models and is patterned by the parent’s ground in self-connection and self-grounding, especially in the first six months of life. Allan N. Schore’s masterpiece Affect Regulation and the Origin of Self brings to light this extraordinary relational ballet that is the bond between child and primary caregiver, and how the textures of this bond shape, literally, the child’s neurology with patterns that repeat from generation to generation.

Anyone working with the sacred (i.e. whole) texture of the miracle of being human, their own and/or that of others, will discover tremendous wisdom and appreciation for the genius, subtlety and susceptibility which the nature of our developmental sojourn reveals.

Becoming aware of the dynamics of our own early childhoods can bring up a whole host of repressed yet profoundly embodied feelings in us. Becoming aware of my patterning bodily, certainly did for me. It’s easy to get stuck in reawakened childhood grief, but that’s not enough.

Our Aliveness still awaits competent grounding and masterful, connective parenting and self-regulation. We can learn to provide it, for ourselves, to guide ourselves, to mother and father ourselves into new wholeness, wisdom and joy. Whatever grief awakens is our body’s raw and honest expression of its still-alive longing for connection. We can acknowledge and feel the grief deeply, and bodily, then learn to lead ourselves back into the connection we were designed for.

We are not only deeply patterned by these early experiences. We also have the capacity to profoundly reshape and reconnect them into more fulfilled and expansive expressions. Each one of us can learn to become artists in the medium of our Aliveness. Deep Freedom Now is dedicated to this Art.

Many of us grew up crying and longing for connection with our mothers for hours, alone in cribs, like cages, while our mothers followed their doctors’ advice. When I went to nursing school my nursing professor who specialized in obstetrics taught me to pass on this great medical “pearl of wisdom” to new mothers: “let them cry. It helps their lungs to develop.” A sad, and profoundly consequent, bit of expert non-sense, indeed.

Does the sound of a desperately screaming infant ever truly feel right to any of us? The dynamics of a culture that makes precisely that which feels wrong “right” are revealed. Next time you hear an infant screaming their heart out notice their breath, then notice what happens to yours. Reconnect your breath in slow, full, connected cycles… then notice… You might be amazed at the depths of connection you discover.

To blame mothers is not helpful. We don’t need blame, we need reconnection and awareness of consequences. The pattern is pre-conscious. Without bringing our patterning into consciousness and reconnection, it replicates from generation to generation precisely because the structures our attunement or misattunement with our loved ones express themselves from are NOT conscious, unless we connect them consciously. We are Bio-Logical, ancestral fractals.

Life SEEDS. Take a seed, plant it, watch it grow and observe its relationships to its origins. We, too, are seeds. Each one of us encodes our entire lineage’s experiences in everything that we are, not just our DNA.

Not only ARE we the Ancestor, but each one of us has the opportunity to take our ancestry down new pathways, back to Aliveness, Connection and Fullness in us. We don’t need to “fix” our parents, nor can we, unless they choose to take this adventure from their own deeply-felt desire.

We can, however, learn to reconnect our neurology, our breath and our inner Aliveness to the Greater Aliveness, and move beyond inherited limitation by way of Connective Invitation. We take a Whole Breath and discover how natural and pleasant it is to reconnect again, inside, outside, inhale, exhale, ALIVE.

For people with a history of abuse or abandonment – and twelve years of public schooling counts very intentionally and designedly as both, as New York State educator of the year and educational historian John Taylor Gatto points out – this practice allows us to regulate our own affect AND to provide an affective ground for growing children and the people around us. We learn to engage beyond drama.

If we are raising children and find ourselves in reactivity to their behavior it is VERY probable that neural circuitry that was deeply imprinted during our own pre-conscious childhood is getting activated. This is a GREAT time to take a break, even if for just a few minutes, and FEEL bodily, instead of acting out our refusal of what we’re feeling upon our children.

See the article Emerging into Being, and the links to Dr. Allan N. Schore’s work, to understand the profound consequence and subtlety of parent-child attunement and how it replicates multi-generationally.

If you devote 15 minutes upon rising in the morning, and before laying down at night, to connected, calm, loving breathing and find it challenging, start with as FEW minutes as is comfortable. Do it daily and then increase by one minute per week until you get to 15 minutes. Don’t overdo it.There’s no need to and it’s not necessarily helpful.

Yes, you may feel feelings that you were taught to be uncomfortable with, ashamed of, or guilty for. Meeting them, embracing, and learning to FEEL them bodily, not just with reactive emotionality, is precisely the deep, connective and sacred Gift that competent mothering develops in a child. Feel WHAT you FEEL like, WHERE you feel, WHEN you feel, WHO you feel what with or in response to, HOW you’ve learned to respond or react when you feel. Learn to give yourself the gift you have waited to receive from others and you will soon become that gift for others, including the children – young and old – in your life.

Learn to feel your embodied, sense-able BEING with your senses.  In so doing new connections will get made. Don’t censor your feelings, just feel, be open, be curious, just as a connected mother opens her heart and makes space for whatever her child is feeling, and tunes in, rather than shutting out. Discover the difference between what you bodily and sense-ably FEEL, especially when you are feeling something your parents were uncomfortable or even aggressive toward you, when you felt it. Notice all of the emotions you’ve learned to generate about that FEELING. RETURN TO THE FEELING, bodily, with your senses, and its qualities and locations in your body.

True growth happens in the fabric of our aliveness. It’s cellular and it’s like gardening. Love, sunshine, water, attention and care encourage what happens naturally to happen naturally. It provides the ground for Aliveness to thrive. It is truly that simple; AMAZINGLY simple.

We are not just “people” or “individuals.” We are 4 billion year old Living Wisdom Systems. The body knows. All we require is an invitation, OUR invitation; a celebration and ground for our natural delight and capacity to thrive.

Connected breathing and reconnecting with our felt experience, in our body, can, in itself, elicit very powerful feelings. Be gentle. Be curious. Find YOUR rhythm and YOUR way. Discover how life grows in natural, inner connection, without any pretensions to becoming something or some way you’re not. Breathe. Feel.

True Spirituality has nothing to do with belief. It is rooted in breath and the vitality that gets expressed and grown from the qualities of our nourishing or starved, connected or disconnected way of Breathing and BEING.

Enjoy Yourself! Breathe! Breathe Fully! Breathe LIFE!

Gather Seeds,

Sisters, Brothers,

Of Wisdom,

Which is Way-finding,

That We May Make Our Way to Living the Life We Love

By Loving the Life We Are.

May It Be So!

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4 Responses

    • Journeyman O

      Dear Lori, I loved discovering this post with your link back to one of mine. Your writing flows from the heart beautifully. I’d love to know more of your experiences in 8 years of traveling as I’ve been on the road most of my life and very much so for the last six years. I’m presently roaming around the Western United States. You say, “there is no figuring it out.” I agree. But there IS dancing and moving and feeling and experiencing BE-ing, and touching the figures the Aliveness makes. This is the ancestral flow; connecting to a Living Universe from inside of our Aliveness, discovering that we are designed to Connect and, in Connection, to KNOW experientially. The sapience of the Natural homo sapiens sapiens has the same root as to “savor,” we find our way in the savoring of the flavors. Nice to savor the flavors of your speaking-heart-offering. Thank You!

  1. Erin Y

    That many are on the search for higher spiritual practices as a compensation for missed childhood development makes a lot of sense.

    I found the medicine of breath for relieving my menstrual pain when I was traveling without the pain killers I was used to taking – breath became a necessity to be grounded in this situation and it taught me an immense amount.

    THANK YOU Journeyman O! Thank you ever so much for sharing this wisdom ~

    • Journeyman O

      Thank you Erin for your comment, which is richer than one might appreciate at first glance. All Living Systems are emergent systems. What manifests at higher levels of “organization” reflect the qualities of Aliveness being reflected at smaller levels of organization. Whether that’s a culture where we have to “shop” in other cultures for “spiritual practices,” or one where we just take it for granted that “menstruation is painful,” the Qualities of our experience of Aliveness at what we might term “spiritual” or “health” levels reflect the Qualities of our Aliveness at cellular levels. Regardless of the level, we are often challenged to address conditions where Ease is absent or diminished; dis-ease is, literally, “the opposite of ease.” Curiously, the word “school,” from the Greek “skhole” means EASE, a Quality of Attention – not just “looking for the fix,” but seeing greater expanses as well as details of the economies and ecologies that our lived conundrums get experienced in… beyond “the fix” or the emotional reactions, labeling we so readily place on our experience. We are curious beings in a curious state in a curious phase of a very curious cycle in a luscious, Living Universe. ENJOY! Thank you Erin!

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