Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Breath Play

I have been thinking about what I want to do with this blog over the next year.

While I will continue to speak out against the stupidity and fascism of the Right and the stupidity and cowardice of the Left, and the tyranny of fundamentalist religion of every flavor, that has never been the first purpose of this blog, just something done out of necessity.

I have decided to focus on the things that are most important to me for the next couple of months to see what people do with what I have to say.

What I find most important is Human evolution, both general and personal, and movement disciplines, especially martial arts as a tool for this.

In part I want to focus here because no one else is doing this (that I know of) from a Sufi perspective.

This is unfortunate because it used to be that Sufis had a good grasp of this subject.

I am also going to address the enneagram as a tool.

I am not talking about the bullshit pop psychology "personality profiling" crap that has flooded the more gullible areas of the so called New Age movement, but the process mapping tool as it has been used for quite a while by those who actually have a clue about what they are using.

As a matter of fact, let's start with giving you, my dear readers, access to two documents that will prove useful for gaining a basic understanding of what an enneagram is and how it works.

These are two essays written by your humble servant at different times for different audiences, but which have proved to have some general use.

The first offers some history of the enneagram traced from its earliest sources to its introduction at the beginning of the twentieth century by G. I. Gurdjieff.


The second document is more of an introduction as to how to use the enneagram as a map making tool for process. While it was written quite some time ago it is, I think, still useful.



With that out of the way (though we will revisit this information again and again) let's start by talking about breathing.

Every spiritual path starts with breath. Some do so overtly, some not, but nothing is more foundational, so here are a few thoughts.

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I have noticed over the years that many people tend to think of the respiratory system as analogous with the digestive system, that is to say, some people are under the impression that we breath in to get the food (O2) and breath out to expel the waste (CO2). This leads to the assumption, O2 = good, CO2 = bad. Sadly for those that see it this way, nothing could be further from the truth. The function of the respiratory system is really nothing like that of the digestive system, and trying to view them as the same leads to dysfunction.

I remember years ago reading a book by a Norwegian Olympic athlete by the name of Thorleif Schjelderup, (not to be confused with Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebb who is another interesting person) who suggested that if things continued to progress as they had been in the Industrial World, that one day we would have to attend classes where we could learn to walk and breath. (Or something very close to this).

Well, that day came quite some time ago and we just didn't notice.

One of the things that I watch as I travel around the world is how people breath, it is a professional interest, being as I am a martial arts instructor.

Outside of sports and music there is very little attention paid to breathing, and even in these areas there is a lot of misunderstanding.

What I have seen is a substantial increase in pathological breathing over the years world wide. I am not sure of all of the reasons for this, but the effects are quite obvious.

A good number of the maladies that the "First World" countries suffer from can be linked directly to pathological breathing patterns. Interestingly, a good number of problems health-wise found in the Third World can also be traced back to other pathological breathing patterns.

As long as we as a species are willing to live at the level of Darwinism this is not too much of a problem, enough of us will breed before we die to keep the species going.

The problem comes when we want a little bit more than the continuance of humanity for its own sake. Allah has set up things so that the species will continue, and evolve according to environmental pressures, but if the individual wants to evolve it is a different game entirely.

It only takes about fourteen years for a member of our species to pass on his or her genetic inheritance, but it takes several decades at least for the individual to do the work necessary to evolve.

The Sufis of Central Asia were well known for their longevity and good health. The all attributed this to Breath Work. Breath work is also essential for bringing the Nafs (mechanical ego) under control and bringing the individual to a state of true consciousness.

The problem here is that by and large, the true understanding of Sufi Breath disciplines have been lost or hidden away from public scrutiny. I suspect that this was mostly done as a defense against the rising tide of fundamentalism, which makes any spiritual practice dangerous.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this message, the "digestive" model does not work well for breathing. Let me give you a different view on the process of breathing and you will understand why.

Unless you have a medical background you most likely have never heard of the "Bohr Effect", but it is essential to the understanding of proper breathing.

Stated very simply, Oxygen does not transfer from hemoglobin to tissues except in the presences of CO2.

When we breathe normally (Reflexively) hemoglobin, the principle carrier of oxygen in the body, remains about 98% oxygen (O2) saturated. When we breathe more, we increase O2 saturation negligibly but lose the CO2 that is essential for O2 utilization. If the level of CO2 in the body decreases our hemoglobin does not release O2 to the tissues, which in turn causes O2 starvation. As a result, the more you breathe the less oxygen the tissues of your body might receive! This explains the light-headedness associated with many breathing practices such as "re-birthing", it is oxygen starvation.

So breathing is much more about maintaining the correct balance of blood gases than it is about taking in a "nutrient" and expelling a "waste by-product".

To read more about this, check out counter-conditioning dysfunctional breathing
by Scott Sonnon

Here is an interesting thought for you.

A person who has been correctly trained can tell a great deal about the state of a person's Nafs just by watching them move and breath. This is of course because the Nafs is directly connected with every aspect of a person's physicality.

The patterns of tension held throughout the body, and the pattern of breath that a person habitually falls into are the "matrix" that "grows" the "mechanical nature"

If there are any questions about this material please feel free to use the comments area.

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