29 02 2008

Breath seems extremely important to many spiritual experiences. Breathing correctly is a core teaching in many spiritual disciplines. A practice of meditation will almost always begin with calm, deep, regular breathing. In most churches, although breath is not focussed upon, singing often plays a significant part of worship, and it’s difficult to sing without breath.

This begs the question; Are spiritual experiences connected with breathing?  I remember reading a long time ago, and I’m very vague about the details,  about a theory that spiritual experiences are somehow caused by an increased supply of oxygen to the brain. I’m not so sure that I believe this. If the theory were true why don’t athletes, or people in the gym, experience lots of spiritual moments.

What I do know is true is my own experiences of meditative breathing. When I consciously take long, deep breaths I certainly feel different. I often feel a warm peaceful glow in my chest, a calmness in my arms and legs, and strength in my back. Other times I might feel a tingling up my spine and over my scalp.

Is it the breath or my focussed attention that brings on these feelings?



26 02 2008

Most of the time I’m just an ordinary person. Just living the best life I can; working, DIYing around the house, ferrying the kids to and fro, sorting out the car, cleaning the bathroom, cooking an evening meal, dealing with the minutae of daily life.

And then there are times when I am somehow more … awake, more conscious of things around me, seeing things differently. These can be moments when I am surprised by something; a beautiful tree, the irridescent shine of a beetles wing, a bird singing. It is usually something out of the ordinary that stops my breath with awe or wonder or perhaps just makes me lift my head and notice it.

Or they can be moments which I consciously create. For example, if I simply breath slowly and deeply, soften my eyes, notice how I’m feeling and reflect on things I can easily drop into a state of waking meditation, a state of heightened awareness and creativity.

During these times I feel different; a warmth in my chest, a tingling up my spine, a lightness and ease. Often my eyes grow moist. I feel ‘big’. If I really let the feelings develop my chest feels fit to burst.

What is happening to me in these moments? I could just shrug it off and say that it’s merely that my mental state is affecting my physical state. But, although I believe that is largely true, I can’t help thinking that a part of ‘me’ that is neither physial nor mental is at play in this.

This is a question that many others have tackled since the beginning of human history. Is there a spiritual dimension to a human being? And if so, what is spirit? These are questions to which I have never really got a satisfactory answer.

Exploring the answers to these questions is what I intend to do with this blog.