Last week it struck me that we, in the English language, use the same word for the thing that gives us creative energy and motivation as that which gives us life.
To INSPIRE is to BREATHE IN. The inspiration is the breathing-in part of our breath cycle.
This means (in the world as I experience)…. as each of us breathes in, we literally inspire life – our life, lives of other people, and life of the natural world.
In fact, as our inspiration gives us our own lives, our expiration gives life to plants.
I know we know this, but have we really felt it?
Sometimes it feels calming to me to experience life as just that simple.
Integrating the influence of many teachers (thank you, teachers), I put together this visualization practice for you on the idea of human/plant breath exchange.
This practice requires a beautiful intersection of our intellectual, scientific understanding to guide our experience (how oxygen and carbon dioxide flow), with space for allowing our experience to impress our minds.
May it bring you a glimmer of inner peace you're searching for, a taste of connection for which you are longing, or simply a moment of pause and pleasure in a busy life.
Mutual Life Support Breathing (3-30 minutes):
- Set up: Turn away from your computer, turn off your phone ringer. If possible, face a window or a live plant. Best is to go outside.
- Ground: Focus on the parts of your body touching the ground. If you’re sitting in a chair or on a bench, place both feet down (no crossed legs) and feel the contact with the floor/earth. If you’re lying down, focus on the contact between your back and the surface beneath you. Recognize that without the ground, you would just keep falling. Allow yourself to notice, then feel, the support.
- See: Make visual contact with a plant, tree, blade of grass – something green that is alive and breathing (green things sprouting up between concrete in the city count). If you cannot actually see one where you are, visualize something specific – a favorite tree from childhood, a house plant, a vine, etc.
- Feel: Close your eyes and feel your own breath. No need to change anything. Focus on feeling the way your body moves as you do nothing except observe your breathing. Begin to notice how the chest, belly, and ribs can expand and condense; how the skin stretches as you breathe.
- Image Inspiration: Visualize a stream of oxygen flowing into your lungs as you breathe in. Allow the stream to percolate your entire body, as the oxygen moves through your circulatory system reaching every single cell.
- Image Expiration: Your cells exhale; the stream of carbon dioxide returns to your lungs. As your exhale moves out of your body, visualize your stream of breath flowing to your plant. Allow the stream to enter the plant, percolating through its life support system to every single cell.
- Mutual Support: As the plant processes your waste to give it life, it releases a stream of oxygen that flows into you.
- Merge: Continue to visualize the breathing circuit between you and your plant. Allow the imagery to feed sensation; relax into the sensation. Open yourself to receive images, sensations; let your body lead the experience.
- Shift: As you are ready to shift out of the practice, come back to the solid sensation of your feet on the ground, of your body’s contact with its supporting surface.
- See again: Open your eyes. Take in the light. Pause for a few moments before re-engaging with the next thing.
Suggestions for practice: Read the guiding points above all the way through, set yourself a timer if you have a short amount of time, then engage in the experience. You could also record yourself reading the guiding points slowly, then play them back while practicing.
Can you try this at least 5 times before the next post (2 weeks)?
As always, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Write about them below. If you try this with a loved one or in a classroom, how did it go?