Use Meditation By Mary Jaksch A guest post by Patrick Stoeckmann from Unwrap Your Mind Breathing – it is our most basic function. And it is the most essential for survival. Yet most of the time we don’t think of it consciously, we just do it. And we have no choice, since our subconscious tightly controls the automatic rhythm of inhaling and exhaling to ensure our survival. While there are many techniques to control breathing especially in Yoga, which have certainly beneficial effects on your health if conducted properly, there is a hidden secret in your everyday breathing – this secret is so well kept from your eyes because it is with you every second of your life. In this article, I am not talking about specific breathing patterns, health benefits or training your breathing. I am talking here about becoming aware of these connecting layers of breathing with the universe, and how this can help you grow on many levels of your life, including the emotional and spiritual level. Since breathing is for most of us such an unconscious habit, I want you to close your eyes and watch your breathing for about 1 minute. Go on – do it NOW! What you might become aware is that there are 4 phases or stages in every breath you take. The 4 Stages of Breathing Stage 1: Inhaling Stage 2: First Pause Stage 3: Exhaling Stage 4: Second Pause Each of these 4 stages has a specific meaning you can use for meditation as well as for becoming much more aware of the different levels of your existence. Each of these 4 stages is a representation of: the 4 stages of life and death the 4 seasons the 4 stages of every day the 4 stages of receiving and sharing everything in this world. By becoming aware of these, you can transform your understanding and your relationship to these important parts of your life. Now with this exercise, I highly advise you not to force any of the 4 stages – simply just observe them. Simply close your eyes for some minutes, watch your breathing and become aware of the processes and layers that unfold through breathing. Become aware how breathing connects you with everything. Stage 1. Inhalation Inhale air through your nose and not through the mouth, since the nose helps to control temperature & humidity of the air, as well as hindering any dust or other particles in the air from reaching your lungs. The process of inhalation brings the outer world into your world. It is an act of receiving the outer world, of opening yourself up to connect with the outer world. This receiving act connects you with the whole universe, with every human being that has ever lived. It is quite possible that with one breath, you receive atoms that have been part of Mahatma Ghandi as well as Adolf Hitler. Want to do the math? Look here. This shouldn’t frighten you but make you realize that behind the facade and illusion of the world with all its ups and downs, all its terrors and hopes, there is something that connects all of them, permeates them and transcends them. Let all this into your being. Let the universe with all its vast variety fill your lungs and your whole body. When you breathe in, then realize that you opened the doors to your system, and you should open your mental and spiritual doors as well with this move, by realizing that you are one with everything. Say “Come in and thank you for joining me” for about a minute while inhaling. If you compare the whole cycle of breathing to the cycle of life, this is the phase from birth to maturity. It is the time of spring in the 4 seasons as well as the morning of every day that this stage is associated with. It is the stage where life is given. In the bible, god breathed life into man, so when man inhales, he receives this life force again. You can realize that this inhalation of life force is not something that happened millions of years ago (if you believe in the Genesis literally), but it is something that happens with every inhalation again. Breath is what makes our existence and as long as we breathe, we are alive. So every breath you take in is like a new birth. Every inhalation is a new start. With every inhalation, you can make a decision to change. Suck into you that force from a greater spiritual level and rejuvenate yourself by focusing on receiving that power. Stage 2: First Pause (Between Inhalation and Exhalation) The first pause between inhalation and exhalation is a moment of keeping, of closing your system from the open phase of inhalation. This is the phase of nourishment, of using what you have received. We just received the power from the inhalation. Now it is time to use it for ourselves. At this phase, there is a lot happening in our system. The exchange of oxygen (=power) and carbon dioxide (=waste) is what secures our survival, since we would die without this happening regularly. We cleanse ourselves and nourish our cells and for that we need that little moment of silence. At this moment, silence is born. Going within with all the power we have, we prepare to give it to the world, but before we can give (=exhalation) we need to transform the air (as well as we need to transform ourselves). We need to become someone else. And we literally are – with every breath, our atomic composition changes, and we aren’t the same person as just a second before. At this stage, we use that power to change ourselves, to become more, to increase our powers. There is a danger here in that this is the stage where you might want to hold onto what you have just received. You are so full with the good stuff you just received, that you might get dizzy if you don’t let it go. That is the beauty of this phase. It teaches us to enjoy the gifts we received, yet we also must let go all of the things we received in our life. This phase is associated with summer, noon of every day and the maturity of our life. It is the phase of potency and power that builds up inside. Stage 3: Exhalation After we used all the stuff that we needed from air, it is now time to let it go and to share it with the world. Although we might want to hold on to it for longer, the cycle of breath forces us to learn the lesson of the flow. And with this phase, it is time to let the air flow out from you. It is a phase of giving yourself to the world. Give what you have received and more. This time you share yourself with the world. Some people are frightened by this phase, about giving away the power that you felt inside. And we subconsciously might fear, that we won’t get another breath in. That this is our last breath. The last act we do in our life before dying, is giving our last breath. That is also a powerful metaphor. The last thing we do on this earth is sharing and giving to the world. It’s been said, that you can’t take anything with you from this earth. So no matter how much you amassed through your life. You give it away in the end. The big lesson of this stage is to let go. To give yourself away. To not be afraid of it. To enjoy it. This phase is associated with autumn, evening of every day and the later years of your existence (maybe after you retired). Stage 4: Second Pause (Between Exhalation and Inhalation) We then have another pause -but this pause is quite different from the first one. While the first pause was one full of power, this one is the pause of being empty and powerless. However, this state of being powerless doesn’t mean helpless or lost nor does it need to be frightening. It is like a cup that prepares itself to be filled again. This filling up is coming from the outside and the big lesson that this phase can teach you is to become still. It is the passive phase; the phase of stillness; of waiting for what will come to you. After you’ve given everything, you are waiting, listening and at this time you are connected with your creator, because he might come to you to give you another breath, and give power and life to you again with the next inhalation. And so the circle closes. This stage is associated with winter, night and sleep as well as with death. If you believe in reincarnation, this concept will be easy for you to understand, since death is just a phase before being born again. Even if you don’t believe in the concept of reincarnation, you should know that science has proved that no atom ever gets lost. It just moves to another form. And yet while your body might not been born again, every atom of your body moves to build other forms after you are gone. And in this (real physical) sense, you have given yourself to the world to build new forms. Then you yourself became a creator in this world with your last breath as well as becoming part of everything. Becoming aware of this enables you to use the power of breathing to reconnect you with your creator, the universe and the powers that lie within. You get the true understanding that everything is just flowing and changing, just like you. You are reborn every minute. I am looking forward to your thoughts on this issue. Read more from Patrick at his blog, Unwrap Your Mind.