Breath is the essence of life. From our first moments fresh from the womb until the last sigh of death we are breathing. Most of the time we breathe reflexive without thinking; inhaling and exhaling our way through morning routines, work, train rides, exercise, and sleep. Using the breath consciously as a tool is the first step to entering the mindful world of intimacy and love. When we are present with our breath we can reach a place of focus, stillness, and inner peace that allows us to go deeper into ourselves and our experiences. Using conscious breathing practices enables us to calm the incessant chatter of the mind and become a witness to our thoughts, feelings, and sensations. When we are in this place of observing ourselves, we stop being our feelings, and instead are aware of and not run by them.
For example, when feeling angry, a common response is to “see red” or “lose your head” and become so angry that it takes over every part of your consciousness. By using conscious breathing in moments like these, you can retain your sense of self and clarity of mind, and be aware that you feel angry, giving space and distance to the state of feeling instead of being swept away by the feeling. It is the difference between: “I AM ANGRY!” and “I feel anger.” In one way, the anger is so apart of your state of being that it becomes who you are just as you might say, “Hi, I’m George.” Mindfully, through focus and breath, you can separate yourself and become the observer of your feelings so that “I’M ANGRY” is changed to “I am George and I feel angry.” Breath is the key to unlocking the inner worlds of yourself in order to live from a place of peace. It is only from this place of calm and peace that we can sit with ourselves, know ourselves, and then begin to know another.
Lauren is a fresh faced twenty-five-year-old woman just getting her feet wet in the grownup world. She is independent, responsible, and motivated. Since high school she has always had a boyfriend and referred to herself as a “serial monogamist.” She described that having a boyfriend gave her the chance to express her loving, nurturing, caring side that was very much a part of her joy. When one relationship fell apart for some reason or another, Lauren was often quick to find someone else to fill that need for feeling love and being loved.
She had left her past relationship feeling disappointed, annoyed, confused, and jaded about love. She described always putting so much into a relationship and the other person, but never getting enough back from her partner. She would take the initiative setting up dates, romantic outings, and always gave the best and most thoughtful gifts. She thought of herself as good at relationships and a great partner, and probably was for many of the men that she dated, but yet Lauren always felt unfulfilled by her partners. She often found their faults and very rarely recognized her own feelings, expectations, and behaviors that contributed to the relationship losing its spark or coming to an end. Not one of her partners was able to give her what she gave them and satisfy her need for feeling loved.
Upon moving to Chicago during one of her rare single stretches, Lauren was introduced to TantraNova and started working with conscious breath, energy awareness, and the “observer”. She learned to be present to what is in the moment and develop that non-judgmental observer to her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Lauren started to see that although her partners weren’t perfect, they weren’t all to blame either. She started sharing that she might be looking to others to love and be loved because there was something within herself that felt empty and craved love and attention. In one realization, she made the connection that perhaps it wasn’t her partners who didn’t love her enough, but that she didn’t love, nurture and care for herself enough. She came to notice that she had often lost herself in her love relationships and was so busy showering her partners with love as an avoidance of feeling empty, loneliness and discomfort within herself.
In the TantraNova approach, we use the breath as a guide to come to the present moment. This allows for the inner “observer,” “watcher,” or “witness” of one’s feeling states, emotions, physical sensations, and the conversations in the mind to arise. Unlike animals, we as humans are able to self-reflect. Through linguistic capacity, the human mind can interpret and give meaning to life and circumstances. It’s designed that way. Yet, without focus and intention, the mind goes on automatic chatter making up stories and meaning incessantly.
Here is what we mean by the “observer:”
There was a moose walking through the forest moving along in its merry way. Then, suddenly a big tree fell right in front of her. The moose looked at the tree, lifted her nose and started smelling and nibbling on the twigs and leaves. Then the rain started to fall. The moose raised her head enjoying the rain drops falling on her face and tasting them. And with this she found her way around the fallen tree and continued on her journey.
Now, the human was walking through the forest. Then, suddenly a big tree fell right in front of him. The human looked angrily at the tree cursing and huffing: “Now I am going to be late for my meeting. And what about my wife and children and my retirement fund? I have to make a bridge to get where I need to go! What—and it is raining too?” Throwing up his hands in despair and disgust he exclaims, “Why me, God, why me?”
As Eckhart Tolle says, “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is.”
Becoming the “moose” allows us to be in the present moment, witness what is, notice how one feels, and watch the chatter, thoughts, and interpretations in one’s mind. In the “moose” or witness state, one gets to be connected with oneself, tap into stillness and peace—and that’s the space where we find intimacy.
We invite you to connect with your “moose” by offering the following practice:
Belly Breath Meditation:
- Sit comfortably in a chair or on a cushion on the floor
- Close your eyes
- Place your right hand on your belly right below the navel
- Exhale all the air emptying yourself out
- Take in a deep breath down into your belly expanding your belly like a big balloon
- On the exhalation notice the belly flattening
- Take in a deep breath again into the belly extending your belly into your hand
- On the exhalation again notice the belly flattening
- Continue breathing in this pattern for a total of 10 breaths
- Inhaling witness the rising of your belly – exhaling witness the falling of your belly
Upon completion, notice how you are feeling right now and how your body is feeling. Become aware of any sensations and your state of mind at the present moment.