By Jo Mooy
In challenging times, each single breath can offer a moment of silence, serenity and stillness.
As you begin reading this article you’re concentrating on the text on the page. In the next couple sentences, the average person breathed in and out a few full breath cycles, depending on how fast they read. Breathing is a process controlled by the brain. It’s automatically taking place in the background without us giving it any thought—but interrupt it for more than four minutes and the human organism dies.
For eons, mystics understood that controlling the power of the breath could lead to illumination. Teachers from the East brought specific techniques to harness prana—or the lifeforce—in the breath. The mantra students are taught: “Follow the breath.” That means to sit quietly and observe the steady rhythmic inhalation and exhalation of each breath. The training calms the mind while reducing anxiety in the body. Done perfectly for endless cycles, over years of training, teachers promise it will lead to cosmic realization or enlightenment.
For the past several months, the world was sequestered by a virus that rampaged without respect for any geographic borders. Stay home, the authorities urged. It was an order to “flatten the curve” of infections that kept spiraling upward. If you go out, maintain social distancing and wear a mask! As friends lost their jobs, and some developed symptoms, fears ratcheted up. Cooped up at home, days that no longer had a name felt like weeks.
One afternoon, after slogging through texts and emails, and dozens of reports, I hit the wall. I needed a major timeout from everything associated with the coronavirus. I wanted to sit—to be—to not do. A practice called Wu Wei floated by. I grasped at it like a drowning victim floating in rough waters in need of a life preserver.
I shut down my computer and headed to the sofa to sit quietly for a while. I pulled down the shades to block out the world so I could focus on the practice. Wu Wei means “The Art of Doing Nothing!” I sat there for a few minutes doing nothing. But too many conflicting thoughts raced by. Each one demanded an audience and resulted in a trip down the rabbit hole. I was in for a long afternoon.
Then out of nowhere, one thought glided in and held. Take a breath! I put my head back on the sofa and closed my eyes. I drew in one long, slow breath. All my concentration moved to the inhalation of that breath and the equally matched slow exhalation. In a matter of seconds I was now IN the breath, no longer in the thoughts. I took another long, slow breath and held it for a moment at the top. Then I exhaled slowly. The second breath was more relaxing, and it was anchoring. By the third deep breath, the mind-numbing thoughts disappeared.
I sat there for about 10 minutes, eyes closed and breathing slowly. The only thought that came and stayed in consciousness was this one. Nothing else exists but this one breath in this one moment. A visual image surfaced along with that thought. I “saw” the deep sea divers who dive without tanks, holding their breath for 5 to 9 minutes. These “breath-masters” sink 700 feet down into the depths of the ocean with one breath before floating gently back to the surface.
Visually they reflected back to me, One Breath—One Moment—One Present.
I didn’t do my practice under water but I’d become one of the divers. I went down deep into the breath. I was no longer part of the chaos on the surface. I was in the present moment, floating free without any thoughts. Each single breath was a moment of silence, serenity and stillness. There was no virus, no fear, no anxiety, no worries. In that One Breath in that One Moment I was okay. In every breath in those 10 minutes I experienced the same thing. All I had to do was “follow the breath” that the mystics taught. I did and found myself in the spaciousness of safety.
Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to http://www.starsoundings.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.