Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of July 21, 2014

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Breathing Energy

(Energy Practice: Part 2)

Our body produces a certain amount of the sensitive energy in its normal, healthy functioning, enough to mediate our contact with our body, to have a sense of having a body. This is fine for ordinary purposes of living, but for spiritual purposes it is not enough. The practice of putting our attention into our body and being in contact with and sensing our body, as described in the previous part of this inner work series, does increase the production of the sensitive energy. But to build our soul, we need still more of the sensitive energy.

The time-honored way in several spiritual traditions consists of breathing in the energy. In the Hindu and Taoist traditions, the sensitive energy is called prana and qi, respectively. The breath is known as the avenue to increase our store of that energy. Other major spiritual traditions also approach this in various ways.

True energy breathing is a very specific practice: it means consciously and intentionally drawing the energy from the air into our body and retaining that energy. This differs fundamentally from ordinary breathing, where there is no awareness of the energy in and from the air and little or none is retained. It also differs fundamentally from conscious breathing, wherein we focus our attention on the sensations associated with breathing. Such conscious breathing practice, as taught in some forms of Buddhist meditation and as the way pranayama is typically taught in yoga, is an excellent practice for being present, but does not develop awareness of the energy in and from the air, nor retain it.

Sit quietly and bring your attention to your breathing, in particular to the sensations in and around your nostrils and upper lip as you breathe. Feel the air passing in and out. When your attention wanders and you notice that, gently bring your attention back to the breath awareness. Stay with this for ten minutes or however long it takes to reach a concentrated state, where your attention is not wandering away.

Now shift your attention from the body sensations of breathing to the air itself, particularly on the inhalation, as the air comes into your nose. Use your attention as a kind of net. Put it out into the volume of air you will breathe in. Then as you inhale draw your attention back in, along with the air. While you exhale, let your attention rest on your nostrils and upper lip. Become aware of the particles of energy in the air you are breathing in. Set your intention to draw those particles of energy into your body. If you could see them, they would be shimmering particles of energy in the air. After you draw them into your nose, let the energy flow on its own, where it will, throughout your body.

Gradually, that energy builds up the sensation in your body, by joining the sensitive energy already there. Your sensation body grows stronger and your awareness of your body and your sensation grow more vivid. Note that this practice does not require you to hold your breath, nor to intentionally alter the normal, physical pattern of your breathing.

As you gain experience with the practice of breathing energy, you begin to notice that the energy you draw from the air does not enter only through your nose. You can breathe energy in through the entire surface of your body. This is whole body energy breathing through your skin. The advantage lies in the greater surface area allowing for more energy to be drawn in with each breath, as compared with only taking what’s carried with the air you inhale. Taking this a step further, you notice that drawing the energy in does not need to be associated with the action or timing of your physical breathing. You can simply cast the net of your attention out into the space surrounding your body and pull it back in along with the energy from the air, without synchronizing with your breath. A step further still and you can draw an influx of energy from the air continuously, rather than in cycles like the breath. For that, instead of going out with your attention, keep it inside your body, but change your intention to an active need for the energy and to allowing it to flow into you. At each stage of this progression of energy breathing technique, more energy becomes available to you, to your soul.

We are surrounded by a sea of spiritual energies. True energy breathing is one major way of accessing a particular stratum of those energies, namely the sensitive energy carried by the air. Without this, we leave untapped a sacred resource for nourishing our soul. With it, we accelerate the growth of our soul.

Next week, we will explore how we might retain more of the energy we breathe and use it to nourish our soul. For this week, please practice the energy breathing itself.

See also: Energy Breathing


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