Conscious Breathing Inspires Enthusiasm

Attack every day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
— -Jim Harbaugh’s father Jack

Let me tell you the story of Gene.

When Gene came to me as a referral from a guy I have long mentored, it was obvious from the dullness in his eyes that something had deadened him. I would go so far as to say that he seemed disembodied, or from a therapeutic point of view, that he might actually be disassociated from himself. Regardless, Gene admitted that for many years there had been a lack of meaning in his life. Or more succinctly, a lack of enthusiasm. 

I am enthralled with the notion of enthusiasm, largely because it comes from the Greek idea of spiritual embodiment, en – theos, "to be possessed by a god and thus inspired." Note that even the word inspired has similar roots, inspirare, to impart a truth or idea. Of course, any lover of language then cascades into the similarities of the word "aspiration." And with just a little curiosity, one cannot avoid the realization that somehow this is related to breathing and breath itself, spirare.

Some traditionalists contend the very notion of enlightenment occurs in the body, not in thought, and that we are spiritually awakened by the embodiment breathing brings, or perhaps that consciousness and breath are intertwined at the core of our being.

If all I were to do were philosophize, it would be a disservice to you, the reader. However, I’m hopeful your imagination is fired by these ideas even as we turn to something practical. For without a means for application, we often are unable to make real progress with ideas no matter how profound they may be.

Over the next few days we chatted at length, then Gene agreed to an experiment with breath work. We approached it with a spirit of inquiry, really not knowing what might occur.

After about twenty minutes of practice with eyes closed and a variety of breathing approaches, a startled look suddenly appeared on Gene’s face. He opened his eyes and I saw they were filled with what could only be described as curiosity. But with open eyes he lost himself again, so we simply regressed in the practice. Sure enough a sharp intake of breath indicated he had again tapped into something.

“What is it, Gene?”

He shook his head; I could not tell if it was disbelief or amazement.

“What’s happening?” I asked. A moment later tears appeared in the corners of his eyes.

We continued the breathwork, and I monitored his progress. 

Time passed. I expected an outburst of tears, but they never came. Regardless, the physical signs continued to show that he was being inwardly affected.

At the seventy-five minute mark Gene visibly relaxed. A moment later he opened his eyes to reveal an obvious deep sadness. Yet he was noticeably present, much more so that before.

A hint of a smile came to his face as he gazed downward. I waited. Finally, he looked up and asked, “What the hell just happened?”

I shrugged. “Don't know, Gene. But whatever it was it changed you.”

He nodded. “Can we do breath work again next week?”

I smiled. Gene had been reawakened. And with that came enthusiasm.

Seeing True

The present moment is nearer than breath itself. Yet it is breathing and awareness that draw us into the now. Enthusiasm is only here and now.

Seeing True in Action

Many of us are so disembodied that we are completely unaware of our breathing. In such cases, rather than seeking some optimal practice, it is best to begin some simple practice such as any of the following.

  • If you sit at a desk for your work, set a timer on your computer to make some sound at regular intervals and upon hearing it pause for a moment for a single deep inhalation and exhalation. Pay attention as you breathe.
  • Likewise you can place a pad of paper somewhere and each time you remember to deliberately breathe place a simple mark on the paper. The awareness alone can alter our experience significantly.
  • When in the shower or even when you have to go to the bathroom, take a moment for an intentional breath. Or even a few more.

Regardless of practice, each time you are aware of breathing and the breath, notice your emotional state afterward. You may find greater stillness, focus or motivation.

Updated August, 2017