By Muzaffar Ali
August 6th, 2010
Breathing is a divine act. It takes one deep within one’s body and soul; it explores the realm of sound that awakens the consciousness. It explores the zahir, the outward, and the batin, the inward.
“And remember when thy Lord said unto the angels:
Lo! I am creating a mortal out of potter’s clay of black mud altered.
So, when I have made him and have breathed into him My spirit...’ (Quran 15:28 -29)
This reveals through the breath, the mystic relationship between the Creator and His creations and the sanctity and the unity of each creation. Each breath contains the whole world and the whole world is contained in one breath. Allah uses several ways of exemplifying this phenomenon. In sound and prayers; in ways of doing; and the essence of the act. Allah uses the word nafs for His own breath, and He uses the word ruh for His own soul and these same words are used to mean the human breath and the human soul, through which it’s been proven that we all come from one source and to that one source we return.
The discovering of the self and divinity through the breath is a universal happening. Breath is an active area of study which bridges the body, mind and soul and connects civilisations across the globe. In many cultures breath is envisioned as a direct manifestation of the spirit. Baraka, prana, chee, num, lung, pung, pneuma, ruach... It is the subtle energy which enlivens us, and we receive this subtle energy by breathing it in or having it breathed into us from above. As the Prophet of Islam said, “Travel to China to seek knowledge”. He probably talked about the primordial knowledge of breathing which was inherent in the Chinese way of seeking divinity and secrets of longevity. It was known as chee, the vital energy contained in the air we breathe.
The Sufis resort to the use of divine names, which condense and compress the effect of a longer recitation into a brief space, which becomes Dhikr.
Yoga teaches that the body reflects the breath, the breath reflects the mind, the mind reflects the heart and the heart reflects the soul. The Kapalbhaati and the deep breathing in pranayaam is a measure of one’s healing power. As you learn to become still, you take your attention to where you want the healing to happen.
For the Taoist, the conscious cultivation of breath offers a powerful way not only to extract energies from the outside world but also to regulate the energetic pathways of our inner world, helping to bring our body, mind and emotions into a harmonious balance.
As Lao Tzu says: “Without leaving his house, he knows the whole world. Without looking out of his window he sees the ways of heaven”. To experience this we need to breathe naturally, free from unconscious motivations and constraints of our self image. Visualise and sense your internal organs... sense your organs, sense the outer movements of the breath... go deeper into sensations. A perceptual re-education of breath and movement in martial arts, tai chi, dance etc tells us that the body-mind-breath synchronisation is capable of remarkable intelligence, sensitivity, and action when we rid ourselves of unnecessary tension.
As Ilse Meddendorf, the breath therapist, points out: By perceiving our breath as it comes and goes, we discover an opening into our own unconscious life, and bring about a conscious expansion into the whole of ourselves. This conscious welcoming of everything that we are lies at the heart of deep, inner quiet and relaxation. Listen to your body. Sense yourself. Let the mind become still. The 10,000 things rise and fall while the self watches their return. They grow and flourish and then return to the source. Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.
We live in a universe of energy and energy transformations, and we depend on these to think, to feel, to move, and so on. The sound of Aum is deep and resonating and the sound of Hu or Allah Hu equally resounding and cleansing. It is the agent upon which divine permission is borne and is responsible for conveying divine attributes from the heart to various centres of the body. Breath is not just oxygen, but emerges from divine origin of our existence. It belongs to the Beloved who has breathed life into me...
“I belong to the beloved, have seen the
two worlds as one and that one call to and know,
First, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being”.
(A free translation of Rumi by Coleman Barks)
— Muzaffar Ali is a filmmaker and painter.
He is the Executive Director and Secretary of the Rumi Foundation. He can be contacted at www.rumifoundation.in
Source: The Asian Age, New Delhi