Breath, The Mystery and Science


spacer-25I’m just back from Kripalu Center and the Energy Intensive - and a wonderful gathering of like-minded folks.

One of the features of the retreat is doing some intensive breathwork that can be quite transformative.

Participant lie down and do ‘circular breathing,’ with full inhalations and deeply relaxing exhalations. They are supported by a breath work 'coach' as they go through their journey.

Many reported powerful and even mystical experiences.     Big New England Sky   spacer-25

The day after we had a great conversation about what actually happened during the breath work session.

A Pulmonary specialist suggested some of the symptoms could be explained this way: Hypocarbia -- exhale blows out CO2 and shifts PH of blood, producing acute respiratory alkelosis Dehydration -- increased breathing eliminates water and body heat Blood pressure drops, which also lowers body temperature Hypoglycemia and hypobelimio-- low blood sugar and low potassium from eating lightly

All this may be true. Yet there was an almost universal sense of powerful releases of deep-seated tensions and profound shifts in brainwaves states that set the stage for insights and new possibilities.

The fusion of science and ‘spiritual’ practice has brought forth not only a deepening understanding of how the brain works, but has also helped establish these practices in mainstream culture. The Marines now practice meditation, it’s part of school curriculum and ‘best practices’ for many corporations wanting their staff to be both happy and productive.

I’m eager to learn more how shifts in consciousness happen and this mystery of the mind/body connection.

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark     iTunes podcast here, online listening here, stitcher here, and Jonathan’s YouTube channel here.