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“Time is Breath”

September 17, 2011
Free Your Breath, Free your Life

Free Your Breath, Free your Life

G. I. Gurdjieff said that “time is breath.” And J. B. Priestly once described our time-starved situation as that of a knight who gets on his horse to go in search of time, not realizing that time is the horse he is riding. If time is indeed breath, and it is also the horse we are riding, then perhaps we can look toward our breath to discover a new, more conscious relationship to time in our lives.

For anyone who cares to look, it is certainly clear that the growing stress, anxiety, worry, and disharmony that many of us experience in this period of human history is closely associated with the fast, shallow upper-chest breathing that many of us experience in our daily lives, even when we are at rest. Such breathing is not just the result of chemical or mechanical imbalances in our body, but also stems from our increasing sensation and feeling of not having enough time and space in our lives. And this sensation comes in large part from our brain and nervous system, which is often in a state of emotional alarm. The truth is, as adaptable as we are as human beings, we are not designed for the kinds of chronically high-speed stressful lives that many of us live, and we pay a heavy price for it in terms of both our health and our happiness.

The Full Expanse of the Present Moment

If time is indeed breath, however, then there is an intelligent and healthy way out of this dilemma. The secret is in discovering a new inner attitude that can help us slow down our breathing and live in the full expanse and freedom of the present moment. Looking toward the future for some change in our lives without learning how to fully experience “the horse we are actually riding” is doomed to failure. Pushing ourselves into the future, as many of us do under the influence of our latest high-speed information technologies, undermines the rhythms and wisdom of the human organism and suffocates our breath and our life.

To open ourselves to our own inherent rhythms and wisdom, we must learn to experience through direct awareness the terrible effects that our time-conditioned life has on our health, well-being, and perception, and we must learn to open the breathing spaces of the body and find our own unconditioned breath—a breath that will most certainly reveal itself as longer and slower than our usual breath, which is now held captive to the stress-producing emotions of fear, anger, anxiety, and worry.

What is needed to help bring this about is not just work with breathing (though this is certainly necessary), but also a radical change of perception—the conscious, heartfelt experience of love, kindness, nonjudgment, and compassion, both toward ourselves and others. These feelings, which act as antidotes to the poisonous time-eating emotions that many of us experience day in and day out, can help harmonize our nervous system and bring our attention into the miracle of the present moment. They represent the felt ­appreciation for what exists here and now both in ourselves and ­others.

Copyright 2004-2011 by Dennis Lewis. This entire passage is from my book Free Your Breath, Free Your Life.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 18, 2011 4:39 am

    Nicely observed, Dennis, and beautifully expressed.

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