Body And Breath, part 1

I’m in the process of deciding to learn breathwork as a path that unites my far-flung interests in healing and self-expression. In a way, it comes down to the body and breath. I’m a long-time yoga practitioner and now teacher, but also work with various realms of creativity and self-expression, particularly poetry and the visual arts. I practiced vipassana meditation for a long time, but have found it more difficult to sit and remain simply attentive mindfully in the last few years.

I have an increasingly strong interest in the felt sense, which is the term Eugene Gendlin created for his Focusing Therapy, and in Peter Levine’s somatic experiencing and other somatic trauma work, all  of which I think is a huge missing piece from conventional healing and medicine. The class I’m taking now with Giten Tonkov, who started Biodynamic Breathwork, combines so many of my interests. I really enjoyed the first class and had a remarkable experience connecting with my heritage in the meditation we did last week. I found the way the material in the class was presented to be very lucid and engaging. It seems right at the heart of what I most need now, and I want to understand how to respect my being as a whole, expanding the frame of what I consider to be my body and shifting it, literally, and even seeing the earth as a part of who I am. I want to feel that all is sacred ground, all dimensions everywhere and if Errors are Oracles, it’s because they call us to reframe our stuckness into letting go and open us up in humbleness to the grace we hold within us, and the grace all around us.

This work on expanding from living in a contracted state, recognizing how far I’ve sunk into a kind of black hole of limitation, and stayed stuck there, feels like essential work right now. I think this is true collectively as well now. Healing is a kind of reframing, and our bodies and the body of Earth are the hidden frame that is opening and transforming us now. I once read that a spiritual or mystical perspective is the opposite of certain assumptions in scientific rationality, which regards the universe as being a single thing, with billions of discrete sentient beings existing separately within it.

A mystical perspective sees a myriad of universes, but there is only one consciousness, though there are profoundly different forms it can take, forms that are universes in themselves . . .
Is consciousness always fundamentally universal in form? It has been interesting to regard myself as also that person I am viewing, but in two different universes. People and even other beings are simply myself, but living in another, sometimes very different, universe– The sort of empathy that has welled up in me for this way of “being” is so vital–that a part of me that has such responsiveness to different conditions is awesome. It’s very wonderful to contemplate that “my” narrow stem of being flowers out of such a deep root. When I fill my body with breath, a universe flowers, a universal connectivity wells up in and out of me.

I remember zen teacher John Tarrant’s book, The Light Inside The Dark, he says there:

Attention gives us more life.

Breathwork is the dynamic path deepening attention follows, we take in the wholeness all around us, circulate it, and give it back. “Feel how your breath enlarges all of space”–as Stephen Mitchell translates Rilke’s poem in Sonnets To Orpheus . . . a space existing within us and around us at once.

Using my breath as the gateway to a more grounded awareness helps me more calmly attend to the ways I shut down my breathing and my body to be in safe mode: simple, limited, small. So small, no one or nothing can see me! How much I dissociate from what’s happening in my body and the important messages held there! I’ve set up a barricade/bandage against the overwhelm triggered by openness. Living in my head after a difficult childhood has meant that I have a lot to learn from the shift into grounding in my body and my breath. It keeps opening me up and also keeps me from flying off in a so-ready imaginative dissociation that is both a gift and an issue. Just as I am disconnected from my body, it means that I am just as much disconnected from nature and the organism of the earth whose body I are also part of. This is a deep painful collective pattern, too.

One tool that I use and want to explore more with breathwork is a kind of “automatic” drawing, which is a terrible word for it, another better one is haptic drawing or art, which is based on letting sensation and touch be the guiding elements of what emerges, using your felt sense and breath to explore line and color a palpable extension of our bodily awareness. It’s a movement like a dance, a flow of line and texture and color, not distinct from my bodily rhythm and coherence. The arc of my being translates into another universe, a universe I flow into as it flows into me, enlarging all my space within and without.

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