Tag Archives: water

… breath – elements – purification – relaxation …

We’re first forced to catch our breath when the umbilical cord is cut. In that instant the lungs must exchange liquid for air. Some wise midwives promote, when appropriate, not to cut the cord immediately, but allow time to soften the transition for the infant and enable a gentle new bonding with mother.

Once separated, we’re alone, but if welcome and made to feel safe we hardly pay attention to our breath unless its rhythm is upset, usually through physical strain, excess tension, anxiety, or unresolved anger and resentment.

I wrote shortly about breath before, in the context of bio-rhythms. If this interests, here’s the link.

With this post I’ll share a practice I’m presently in need of myself,  a conscious breathing ritual with a focus on the elements of earth, water, fire, air – and the subtle element of ether. The easy-to-learn sequence, aided by concentration and imagination, bestows relaxation and renewed energy. Parallels to this practice can be found in ancient spiritual traditions. The Sufi version below is thought to derive from Greek mystery schools. Unlike some forced breathing techniques, it is safe to use alone.

A purifying practice of breathing through the elements. Repeat the breath for each element five times  and  allow the colour to suffuse your cells …

EARTH … imagine the colour yellow (like desert dunes, or wheat fields)

Breathe in through the nose – count four

Pause one count

Exhale through nose – count six – imagine a horizontal spreading movement.

WATER … imagine a blue-green colour (like a lagoon or a river)

Breathe in through the nose –count four

Pause one count

Exhale through mouth – count eight – imagine a downward flowing movement

FIRE … imagine a golden red colour (like a sunset, or a flame)

Breathe in through the mouth – count four

Pause one count

Exhale through nose – count ten – imagine an upwards rising movement

AIR … imagine a transparent blue colour (like a pale sky)

Breathe in through the mouth – count four

Pause one count

Exhale through mouth – count eight – imagine a dispersing movement

ETHER (optional)

Image a transparent mauve colour

Breathe in through nose – count four

Pause one count

Exhale through nose – count twelve

To ground your energy, return once more to the earth-breath. You may want to ignore the counting for the out-breaths, to begin with. The basic idea is to allow more time for breathing out, until the body naturally draws in a new breath.

*    *    *   To expand the imagination, here some more notes in relation to the elements:

The Earth Element
The early Christian hermits, living alone in the desert, used to concentrate on the earth’s magnetism as a way of restoring their vitality during long vigils. Native American elders have said that the loss of a sense of relationship and communion with the earth is the main cause of psychological and physical imbalances. Standing or sitting, feel like a tree with roots extending firmly and deeply into the earth. Feel the strength and magnetism of the earth. Breathe in through the nose and out through the nose, not forcing the breath.

Imagine drawing healing power through the soles of your feet (if standing) or the bottom of your spine (if sitting). You may have felt the healing power of the earth in your feet while walking barefoot outdoors or in your hands when working in a garden. Try to sense a subtle reality, a crystalline lattice-like structure, behind the denser aspects of the physical plane. The earth is not a singular organism, but is part of its solar system and part of a galaxy …

As you exhale, release your tiredness, disharmony and agitation. Now concentrate on the magnetic field of your body, similar to that of a magnet. Feel as though you are aligning your own field to the magnetic field of the earth, the way that iron filings align around a magnet. When magnetic power is weak, the iron filings are in disarray. When the power is strong, the filings align in symmetric, harmonic patterns.

The Water Element
The breath of the water element brings a sense of flow, of vitality and purity, and helps unleash creativity. It is also useful in breaking free from habitual thinking patterns, and flowing around obstacles rather than hitting them head on. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. You might imagine yourself immersed in a mountain stream. Feel the drops of water penetrating your cells, dripping off of your fingertips. Feel water reaching your chest and heart, helping to loosen any tightness and obstruction there. Feel energized and renewed, again focussing on those parts of the body that are in need of healing, and those that lack life energy and vibrancy. Concentrate on the purity of a crystal clear lake or stream, high up in the mountains. Let yourself become the water, and let the qualities of purity, life energy and power flow into your immediate environment.

The Fire Element                                                                                                                                               The breath of the fire element is a quickening. It sparks inspiration and is useful when you feel drowsy and dull. Breath in through the mouth, hold the breath for a moment and then breathe out through the nose. On the inhalation, imagine fanning a fire in your solar plexus. Purse your lips and draw in a thin stream of air. As you draw in, visualize the embers of the fire glowing. Then hold the breath momentarily and bring your attention to a few inches above the solar plexus. Exhale through the heart, imagining that you are radiating golden sunlight.

On the inhalation, evoke your aspirations; your desire to be authentic; to make your life meaningful and worthwhile; to stand up for what you believe in. On the exhalation, radiate light as if from a miniature sun in your heart. Subject your self-doubt, cynicism, addictive patterns or resentments to the fire. Avoid making pledges you won’t keep. Simply clarify your intention and allow the purification process, instead of using will power to change things.

The Air Element
Breathe in through the mouth and out through the mouth. The breath of the air element relates to freedom, ecstasy and transcendence. Imagine yourself like an eagle perched high on a mountain. Feel the wind ruffling your feathers, blowing through all your pores. Feel the coolness and freshness of the air. Soar upwards on the currents of air. On the inhalation, feel yourself buoyant and free, like a zephyr crossing a lake and lifting upwards. On the exhalation, allow yourself to reach out beyond the boundaries of the body. Let your being disperse with the wind, and let your consciousness reach out into the cosmos. Enjoy a sense of vastness and, if it helps, visualize vast landscapes, such as a mountain, canyon, or the starry night sky.

*    *    *   After you completed the purification breaths, reflect upon the effect of the elements taken together. Separately each of the breaths emphasizes different forces and qualities in our being, together they bring about a sense of wholeness. According to your own affinities, you may feel the need to place more emphasis on one or another element in order to attain greater balance.

For me this is the WATER breath.

Also – I admit I frequently fall asleep to this … consciousness is wherever consciousness is placed, and what travels on our breath travels either mindlessly or with intention.

 ‘Thoughts are beings that generate … One thought of kindness gathers a thousand beings of love and kindness around one.’  – Hazrat Inayat Khan

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… when the waters were changed …

Water

Once upon a time Khidr, the Teacher of Moses, called upon mankind with a warning. At a certain date, he said, all water in the world which had not been specially horded, would disappear. It would then be renewed, with different water, which would drive men mad.

Only one man listened to the meaning of this advice. He collected water and went to a secure place where he stored it, and waited for the water to change its character.

On the appointed date the streams stopped running, the wells went dry, and the man who had listened, seeing this happening, went to his retreat and drank his preserved water.

When he saw, from his security, the waterfalls again beginning to flow, this man descended among the other sons of men. He found that they were thinking and talking in a different way from before; yet they had no memory of what had happened, nor of having been warned. When he tried to talk to them, he realised that they thought that he was mad, and they showed hostility or compassion, not understanding.

At first he drank none of the new water, but went back to his concealment, to draw on his supplies, every day. Finally, however, he took the decision to drink the new water because he could not bear the loneliness of living, behaving and thinking in a different way from everyone else. He drank the new water, and became like the rest. Then he forgot all about his own store of special water, and his fellows began to look upon him as a madman who had miraculously been restored to sanity.

*    *    *

A Sufi story is from ‘Tales of Dervishes’ by Idries Shah. First published in 1967 by Jonathan Cape Ltd.

The above version is from a 1973 edition published by Panther Books Ltd and is attributed to Sayed Sabir Ali-Shah, a saint of the Chisti Order, who died in 1818 …  though like most Sufi stories, it is much older.

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… a ginger cat dreams of company in breath …

The woman used to sit in the deckchair with her sleek black friend on her lap, eyes closed, breathing in unison. She calls it meditation. I was jealous, what else.

I’m old and grumpy, a familiar sight. Small chance she wonders where I hang out when not visiting. Today she spotted me – a fluffy ginger ball dozing on a brick wall sheltered by ivy – not my regular spot. I prefer having my daily nap on a bench at the top. From that royal view downhill I keep half an eye on creature traffic, neighbour cats that shamelessly kill fledglings or lame birds, the stray dog or sly fox that slips through the hedge, reckless rodents … but it’s been drizzling all night and my favourite bench is soaking wet this morning.

I get no food here. However, she daily cleans and refills the ceramic bowl near the house with fresh water, just for me to slurp. In such moments we exchange glances, and she nods. What she doesn’t like is when I get too close to her little stone Buddha. Then she shakes her head or steps from the backdoor to clap her hands. I’ve seen her turn the water hose on cats with bad manners. She should know better, I’m not one of them, I have principles.

I bet she misses her companion, glossy and black as a moonless sky. She was gentle and tolerant of me, which is why I used to protect her from a nasty tom. Some years ago the woman dug a deep hole for her friend, near the compost heap. Not the most romantic spot to have one’s bones rest, but due ceremony was observed, which must count for love.

I wouldn’t impose myself. I wonder what attracts me to this human and her world. I’d love being invited in her house, as companion. Nowadays she often sits near the window, staring at some rectangular device like it’s the most fascinating sight in the world, the opening to a mystery, like a warren.

She keeps her distance, wary of attachments. I get it, of course; she doesn’t want her freedom restricted by caring for another cat. Her neighbours used to look after her pet during her absences. Now their health is fragile and can’t be relied upon. She objects to Kennels, rightly. I was put in one, long ago, confined in a cage, horrible.

I doubt she cares where I camp at night. Doesn’t know I endure the stoned torpor of Mr X, lost in a dark place. It’s not a home, the vibes upset me. But each morning I vocally rouse X from his hangovers to alert him to my dry meal. This must be my purpose – my insistence on my existence is how he tracks time, like noticing a new day. Alas, the filthy water bowl is only rarely topped, which is why I’m thankful that the woman got the message …  I’m always thirsty.

The image keeps returning, of her sitting in the garden with her black friend on her lap, eyes closed, breathing in unison. My thirst lives on. It may be complex and beyond measure, or awesomely simple, I don’t know, but company in breath seems the one simple thing of beauty most worth dreaming of.

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… meetings – poem …

At times, our inner landscapes allow for communing with nature’s elements. Ana has this knack in Course of Mirrors. As long as she remembers to calm her heart, she senses invisible presences, the timeless spirit within things – telling her that nothing dies, only reforms. She also picks up thoughts forms from uncluttered minds, and some animals talk to her.

Aspects of my protagonist’s receptive traits are based on my own experiences, expressed in a poem I composed during the 1970s. The poem, as such, does not feature in the novel but I like to share it here, with minor tweaks insisted upon by my inner editor.

meetings

earth –

you swallow my hand

giving way with fluid grace

to this dream of flesh and bone

yet as I recall the form

you allow me to retrieve it

tree –

circling round and round

spun by the mesh of time

I see your whirling

and sense my turning too

in its mystic trance

snake –

you slither in the spine of waves

and lay a track of fate in sands

entranced I follow

to your cave and become

this rushing in the dark

bird –

your rising pitch one vow

winging yonder blue

towards the break of dawn

above the silver winding stream

your passing leaves no mark

rose –

by the blink of eye you sink

to my core as glowing cipher

allowing for your lush

and fragrant state

to unfurl from the heart

fire –

your white breath burns clean

dark corners in my mind

without a moment’s pause

you blow apart

all apparitions of my art

Update: My first novel can be found on Troubador, on international Amazon sites and Waterstones via searching for the title, Course of Mirrors, or my name, Ashen Venema.                                                                   The e-book is now available. The paperback will be released on 28th of April and can be pre-ordered.

Paperbacks ordered within the UK will come from a stock of copies held by Troubador who distribute via Orca Book Services. Orders from abroad will be print-on-demand- copies, saving expensive postage.

If you enjoy writing reviews, they are easy to post on Troubador. On Amazon sites one has to log in as a customer, and a review entry only appears on the site of the country where it is entered, be it uk, de, fr, com … and so on. With a little effort reviews can be pasted into more than one Amazon site. 

Related posts:

… the magic of remembrance …

… cover reveal for course of mirrors …

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… clouds …

Last week, during a flight to Munich, and equally this week during my return journey to London, I witnessed some spectacular cumulus scenes from above, with the moist earth being the canvas.

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The changing cloudscapes drifting on the wind teased my imagination. I wanted to wander into this world that words can scarce describe, be there alone with my own heartbeat, where past and future is one and present. I’m no Percy Bysshe Shelley, who gave an eloquent voice to The Cloud

… I am the daughter of Earth and Water,       P1050995 SMALLER                                                              And the nursling of the Sky …

 

His cloud speaks of the ‘pilot.’

 

… This pilot is guiding me,                                                                                                    Lured by the love of the genii that move                                                                  In the depth of the purple sea …  

Shelley’s time had no flying machines that did away with the invisible navigator. He perceived through the inner eye.

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The first Cloud Atlas was documented in 1896.

Today’s airline pilots must know their clouds 

 

 

Like us, clouds change but keep on living. We and they are fleeting manifestations of nature – a show of impermanence ornamenting this planet. The water of oceans, lakes and rivers, the sap of life, flowing through the perspiration of plants and all living organisms, including the breath of 7 Billion people, clings and seeps into the warm earth only to be drawn up again, where its vapour compacts in cold air and spirals into fluid shapes between us and the blue dome, where all moods find expression – wild charcoal formations with dove grey wisps parading at the horizon, luminous coloured tendrils and satin sheets in slanting sunlight at dawn and dusk, or dewy porcelain veils.

P1050993 SMALLERClouds are moisture made visible. Who knows what information is inscribed and carried in droplets from one place to another? It takes about one million cloud droplets to form one raindrop.

What rises also falls. There is a wonderful Sufi story about this cycle of transformation, serving as a metaphor for identity, the form we must inevitably relinquish to change into another form while maintaining our essence … here told by Terence Stamp: The Tale of the Sands

There is ongoing research of water as an agent – receiving impressions and holding patterns of information. Water can be vitalised, for example, which explains things we know the results of but not the reason. Such findings, while presently called pseudo-science, may yet confirm many of our intuitions. Water is alive, and living things form a centre and have intelligence.

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