There is an amazing power that we all share and that is the power of the breath. This power stays with us from the first moments of our life and till the last moments of our death. In fact, there is no life without our breath.
Most of us however go on in life without ever giving our breath a single thought except when we have a problem. At this time it’s usually a bit too late.
Not only does our breath oxygenate our blood and rid our bodies of carbon dioxide, which alone is nothing less than amazing, but it can also be a force of healing and letting go. How so? Glad you asked. Let’s explore this on three levels.
Level one, most of us don’t breathe fully. This means that especially when we are stressed we might only take in 20% of a full breath. This is clearly an exasperation of the situation. When we are stressed we are ineffective in all that we do. One must simply take a few deep breaths and imagine with every inhalation peace love and joy coming into us and all our problems leave us on the exhalation. Recollection of the breath Shiné in Tibetan Shamata in Sanskrit forms the basis of almost all meditations. It also only takes a few seconds or minutes. Try it now, take 10 full breaths in a row without being distracted.
Level two is the level of the bhodisattva. A bhodisattva is someone who works for the benefit of others. So how does this work with the breath? Here we begin to really meditate. The meditation is called Tonglen in Tibetan. It translates as giving and taking. In Tonglen we breath in the pain and suffering of others as black light or energy and we send them back the bright clear light of love and healing. The exact process is that as the black energy enters us and touches our heart center it dissolves or is transformed by our compassion into the light that we then give back. We start with our family then our friends then the neighbors then the whole city, country, continent and then the whole planet. We repeat the steps a few times depending on how long we wish to practice.
The third level is called Tummo in Tibetan and this is quite similar to prajnanic breathing that one can learn in a Hatha yoga class. Tummo is one of the Six Yogas of Naropa and has been traditionally a very secret teaching. The practice fulfils several very interesting needs of the meditator or yogi.
Tummo is also known as inner heat and as one can imagine that a yogi sitting in a cave meditating in the mountains of Tibet might have been a little cold from time to time, this heat must have come in handy. Secondly, the complex series of bodily movements, some of which can now be found on YouTube would have been necessary to keep one’s body fit when one sits for many hours in meditation posture. Lastly, since the source of this heat is one’s emotions, the yogi uses this “way of methods” practice to free himself from samsara. This very powerful meditative experience is profound and life changing, to say the least. Nevertheless, this meditation should not be tried by the uninitiated and by rookies.