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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Article ID: 14584
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,466
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Author: Ryan Hatcher
Posted: July 24th. 2011
Times Viewed: 2,620
Every day we breathe, we take thousands of breaths in our lifetime without thinking. Breath has played an important part in many of the mystery traditions of the world as well as in many Eastern martial arts, from the pranayama techniques of India, to the tan t'ien breathing of Qi Gong and the meditation techniques of Buddhism, breath has been the pivotal focus of many self-development techniques.
In some Asian cultures it was once believed that each human being had a limited number of breaths in their body, and the day of their last breath would be the day they died. So slower, deeper breathing was encouraged to reduce the number of breaths used and potentially prolong life. Asian cultures (China, Korea and Japan etc) held the idea that the breath and the life force energy (Qi or Ki) were inherently entwined and that as one inhaled one drew into themselves the life force energy (incidentally, the word Qi/Ki can be translated to mean 'breath' as well as 'life force energy') . This belief is also held in some schools of yoga where the technique called pranayama, meaning to extend the life force energy or breath, is practiced (coming from the Sanskrit words 'Prana' meaning life force energy or breath and 'ayama' meaning to draw out or extend ) . Both Indian and Asian cultures have used breath control in their spiritual practices, to calm the mind and body, enhance the soul and prolong their life.
There is an adaptation of a breathing technique from Qi Gong, which I wish to focus on; it was practiced in Japan and features in Reiki. The point of the technique is to encourage diaphragm breathing to be able to draw in more air, and therefore Qi/Ki, gathering and focusing it in the tan t'ien (also called the tanden, seika tanden and hara in Japan) , thereby increasing one's store of energy allowing for greater health and flow of Ki.
This technique, known in Japanese as joshin kokyu ho (mind focusing breath method) or hikari no kokyu ho (breath of light method) is actually relatively simple and is also a mediation technique.
To begin, sit or stand comfortably, wearing loose clothing and with a straight back. Close your eyes and allow yourself to relax. If you would like to follow the Qi Gong method then place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth against your teeth. This is intended to prevent Qi/Ki leaving the body via exhalation. Place your hands on your lap, usually palms up but in whatever way is comfortable. Now, focus on the tanden/Tan t'ien. This is the point about 2 finger widths below the navel (corresponding with the rough location of the sacral chakra featured in some schools of yoga) , and is believed to be the centre of gravity for the human body, linking the body to the earth.
Focusing on this point, breath deep, using your diaphragm (you stomach should move instead of your lungs. You can place your hands on your belly to feel this if it helps) . As you inhale draw Qi/Ki in on the breath, and allow it to flow down into the tanden (through intention and visualization) . Allow yourself to hold the breath for a couple of seconds, still focusing on the tanden, allow the Qi/Ki to swirl and grow around this energy centre. As you exhale allow the energy to expand from the tanden, filling your body, seeping out through your skin and into the area around you.
Repeat this breathing method for about 5-10 minutes, or longer if you wish. It is believed that the tanden is the store of all our body's Qi/Ki from birth, and that this technique allows for an expansion of that energy and the amount we can store within ourselves. (As a note, I find the most effective breath pattern is inhale for 4 beats, hold for 2, exhale for 5 beats, hold for 2. 4-2-5-2) .
Now, how does this relate to western Paganism and Witchcraft? Well firstly, since the life force energy is the same as the energy used in magic, if we can increase the amount that is stored and flows into our bodies then surely more can be drawn upon and directed in our spell work? The energy drawn into and stored in the tanden can also be drawn upon to be used on the exhale. In Reiki this is used as a healing method (which you could try out if you wished) , but it could be used to empower objects with energy by blowing it into them; giving them the 'breath of life' so to speak, potentially useful when working with poppets!
The principal of this is virtually the same as the breathing technique, but almost in reverse; you breath the energy in the tanden, draw some more from it if you wish, then direct this energy, moulded with your intended purpose onto the out breath (which should be slow and gradual) and the into the object you wish to cleanse, empower or heal. And all that aside it's actually a nice, simple and effective meditation technique that can improve visualization abilities, mental focus, and awareness of energy, all good things really.
We take thousands of breaths in our lifetime without thinking, but perhaps we should spend some time breathing consciously and being aware of our bodies. This way we can improve ourselves, not just physically through breath control and increased oxygen levels, but mentally through relaxed focus and visualization and energetically by increasing the levels of life force energy we have within us and improving our sensitivity to it.
Give the techniques mentioned here a try next time you're meditating or working in circle and see how it works for you. And as a personal side note, while performing this technique I often find it causes a greater energy flow to my hands, characterized as a strong tingling and warmth, so healers should definitely try this and perform it while healing as it will definitely give your work a boost!
Thank you again for reading yet another of my articles.
The Reiki sourcebook - Frans and Bronwen Stiene
The Japanese art of Reiki - Frans and Bronwen Stiene
Essential Reiki - Diane Stein
Location: Swaffham, England
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