It has been written that to control one’s breath is to control one’s life. Nearly all spiritually oriented healing practices utilize and embrace active breath-work. Initiates of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition are carefully apprenticed in several breathing exercises that are core ceremonial embodiments of consciousness-raising and life-healing efforts. Even contemporary therapeutic modalities recognize the restorative power of employing intentional breathing. The neurophysiology of respiration is finally being understood as the primary mechanism of energetic activation and deactivation, and a key to the regulation of one’s innate threat response system, and as such, is considered a fundamental technique by many master healers. With this said, it follows then that to lose control of one’s breath is to lose control of life itself. Is this not the exact anxiety that has panicked individuals, families, and communities across the globe in recent weeks? The coronavirus pandemic stirs fear because it can steal breath away and thus steal both the means of regulating our fear of losing life and, finally, life itself. Ultimately, it is this fear that motivates our response, not the stress and challenge associated with the loss of pleasure, convenience, ease, and mobility. Certainly the restrictions currently in place do present varying degrees of pressure and complexity, even resulting in life-threatening difficulties for some. But simply put, we are afraid of dying – right?
But what if it is more than just that? Being afraid that we or those we love might die is big enough, but what if there is more to the feelings of dread and anxiety that surround us every day? I would like to introduce a concept, as manifestly self-evident at some levels as it may be, but that presents itself to me as a framework for better utilizing my breath as a supporting, even strengthening, practice. I see an essential link between two germinating instruments at the core of life itself – breath and connection. By breath, I mean exactly what it is – the taking in of air through the exercise of our diaphragm and lung tissues for the purpose of oxygenating our blood which is then utilized as fuel at the cellular level. By connection, I mean the living fabric of the universe, that primal, ethereal bond between one’s self and other through a relational, energetic exchange that is both life giving and life sustaining. It is in our nature to do both, breathe and connect, enabling life through our breath and relationships. Now bear with me. On the surface this notion seems obvious, “No kidding, David…we need to breathe in order to live…and relationships are kind of important too. I get it.” But let us look deeper.
Given this link between breathing and relationship, we can see a dynamic in the global response to this pandemic that challenges the very fiber of our being. We are terrified of dying through a loss of our ability to breathe and our response to this threat is to isolate ourselves in ways that sever relational connections. As Earth-honoring practitioners of cross-cultural shamanism, we accept certain fundamental principles that define our reality. Chief among these is that the universe is a living, energetic fabric of interconnected, interdependent manifestations of sentient beings. We acknowledge that Mother Earth, Pachamama, has breath. We acknowledge that we are inextricably connected, inseparable, from Her. While we as individuals, or as a society, may not always recognize the immediacy of this interdependent relationship, it exists nonetheless. For his reason, we strain to live by the axiom of “Right action, borne of compassionate spiritual wisdom, unites” – llankay munay yuyay kanchay hunuy. Herein lies the medicine.
Are we isolated? Are we ever, truly disconnected? No. If we heed the nudgings of the tirakuna, the guardians of ayni, and take our seat in the South to call-in and feed these living connections, we can breathe as Pachamama breathes. We can connect through breath to a living universe that offers wholeness, beauty, and relationship. We can weave ourselves into an undying, animated tapestry of lineage, community, and practice. So, wherever you find yourself these days, be it confined in your home or out serving in the community, remember our sacred commitment to take “right action” by breathing as The Great Mother breathes: fully aware of the manifold golden threads of connection that bind this universe together. Spend time going deep within by breathing into the ukhupacha. Spend time grounding and restoring your heart and mind by breathing into the kaypacha. Spend time seeking to raise your consciousness and commune with your celestial guides breathing into the hanaqpacha. Call in physical healing with Kawsay breath. Call in emotional and mental healing with sami breath. Call in spiritual healing with K’anchay breath. Breathe and be connected. Breathe and serve. Breathe and live.
The PMT Foundational Apprenticeship includes an in-depth study of breathing practices: Learn more