Skip to content


Get free breathing and awareness practices, insights, and tips on my Facebook Public Figure Page

See the books on breathing I recommend, as well as books on Gurdjieff, self-transformation, and self-realization.

Listen to my podcasts

Humming for Health

March 6, 2014

In a study that was reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (2002; 166: 144-145), researchers at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden found that nitric oxide levels in the sinuses were 15 times higher during humming than during normal, quiet exhalations. Nitric oxide (NO) helps to dilate the capillary beds and increase blood flow. Humming had the effect of dramatically increasing the gas exchange in the nasal sinuses. If fact, during normal exhalation the gas exchange between the nasal passages and the sinuses was about 4 percent. When the volunteers (all “healthy”) hummed, the gas increased to about 98 percent.

A poor exchange of gas, as well as poor circulation, in the sinus cavities, creates an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria and viruses. And this can quickly lead to infection. Based on the results of their study, the researchers believe that regular breathing exercises that involve humming may be able to help reduce the incidence of sinusitis and infections in the upper respiratory tract.

Over the past years, I have been including sound-oriented breathing practices, including humming, in the work with breathing that I teach. Done on a daily basis, humming can help relax us and increase our mental and emotional clarity. I am sure that researchers will soon find, if they haven’t already, that humming can greatly increase oxygenation and blood flow not just in the sinus cavities but also in the brain and elsewhere in the body. In fact, I have included in my book Free Your Breath, Free Your Life an entire section about how humming and other sounds during exhalation can beneficially influence our overall health and well-being.

Copyright 2014 by Dennis Lewis

Understanding Marshall McLuhan, by Dennis Lewis

February 7, 2014

This review, written by Dennis Lewis, first appeared in “Explorations” (Number 14, August 1968), a monthly magazine published by Exploration Publishing Company, Berkeley CA.

Right now you probably think you’re awake. It isn’t true. You’re in a kind of hypnotic trance. But you don’t know it. That, essentially, is the theme of Marshall McLuhan’s book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

The medium itself is the message, warns McLuhan. The very form in which the message appears is itself the message. And what we’ve been doing is paying attention to the message but ignoring the message-quality of the medium. Meanwhile, our perception is transformed by the process itself. The medium, as message, takes us unawares, influencing us without our knowledge: hypnotizing us.

Right here it might be well to point out that McLuhan includes technology as a medium-as-message. Technology’s “message,” he writes, “is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.”

Not only did the railway introduce more rapid movement, it also “accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure.” Likewise, the airplane did much more than contribute a further acceleration. It tended to dissolve the older railway form of city. “The railways require a uniform political and economic space. On the other hand, airplane and radio permit the utmost discontinuity and diversity in spatial organization.”

The electric light has a “message” (i.e., unconscious effect), too. “The message of the electric light,” McLuhan contends, “is like the message of electric power in industry, totally radical, pervasive, and decentralized. For electric light and power are separate from their uses, yet they eliminate time and space factors in human association exactly as do radio, telegraph, telephone, and TV, creating involvement in depth.” (Involvement is caused by a “cool” medium in which little information is given, thus demanding that the audience participate more; “hot” media do not leave so much to be completed by the audience. The telephone is cool; a movie is hot.)

Electric light does more than illuminate. It alters the pattern of our living. Man is no longer as much a slave to the cycle of day and night. What were formerly daytime activities now extend into the night. Sports, medicine, the arts, reading, sleeping, lovemaking, business–nearly every human activity–have felt the effects of this instant illumination which makes possible a permanent daytime. The electric age has established a “global network,” quite analogous to the central nervous system, though on a larger scale, where the slightest impulse in one area has immediate reverberations in others.

A more subtle example of the medium as message is the alphabet. Not only is our alphabet a simplified medium for creating words, it unconsciously conditions us to adopt a way of experiencing reality which is lineal and causative–a kind of “assembly-line” mode of perception that is primarily visual and, more important, that is seldom in touch with the actual rhythms of human experience.

The clock, which produces uniform seconds, minutes , and hours, reinforces this attitude of lineality. But infinitely repeated seconds, like the infinitely repeatable letters which make up the alphabet, have no real counterpart in human experience.

In contrast, the Chinese ideogram or Egyptian hieroglyph springs out of an intense oral and tactile–as well as visual–tradition. It’s a tradition that depends on a more balanced relationship among the senses. No one sense predominates.

Our emphasis on the visual sense, extended by phonetic literacy, declares McLuhan, “fosters the analytic habit of perceiving the single facet in the life of forms. The visual power enables us to isolate the single incident in time and space, as in representational art. In visual representations of a person or an object, a single phase or moment or aspect is separated from the multitude of known or felt phases, moments and aspects of the person or object. By contrast, iconographic art uses the eye as we use our hand in seeking to create an inclusive image, made up of many moments, phases, and aspects…” Man finds himself fragmented as a result of the predominance of one sense over another. The possibility of a “whole” experience, an experience of the total field, depends on the degree to which a man is able to allow his various senses to co-operate with each other.

What this means is that Western man has become trapped in the fixed point of view. What he needs to get out of this is the discovery of an iconographic, or inclusive, approach to experience. The fixed point of view excludes those moments, phases, or aspects which do not fit into its framework.

By itself, the eye can know only a limited part of reality. And when conditioned by literacy, its limitations are even more severe.

Television, McLuhan contends, will bring about a more balanced mixing of the senses. “The TV image…is an extension of the sense of touch. Where it encounters a literate culture, it necessarily thickens the sense-mix, transforming fragmented and specialist extensions into a seamless web of experience.”

Now, McLuhan may be right in his contention that TV involves more of man’s senses in depth. But, even granting that this is the case, McLuhan does not seem to notice that this involvement may still be very representational, or “fixed point of view.” The person who identifies completely with his hero is unable to understand another’s hero. The viewer’s submersion may be so complete that he forgets he is sitting in front of an electronic box, experiencing feelings, thoughts, and actions suggested to him from without. This is hypnotism par excellence and seems to have little to do with awareness.

Awareness depends not only on involvement, but detachment as well. McLuhan himself points this out when he tells us that “when we want to get the bearings in our own culture, and have the need to stand aside from the bias and pressure exerted by any technical form of human experience, we have only to visit a society where that particular form has not been felt, or a historical period in which it was unknown.”

And in order to be more aware of ourselves, to awaken from our hypnotic trance, it is necessary somehow to get outside of the most habitual pressures of our own psychological structure.

This review of Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, written by Dennis Lewis, first appeared in “Explorations” (Number 14, August 1968), a monthly magazine published by Exploration Publishing Company, Berkeley CA.

One Way to Free Your Mind

December 17, 2013

One way to free your mind is to learn how to think. To learn how to think requires the active use of your attention. You will need to see how much of what you call thinking is just the habitual, associative movement of words and concepts through your mind.

As an experiment, try counting slowly and silently in the following way and in an even rhythm: 1, 100; 2, 99; 3, 98; 4, 97; and so on until you reach 100, 1. Doing so as you walk can be a big help, counting one number with each step.

As you count, notice all the the so-called thoughts that come uninvited and automatically into your mind. Can you keep the count going? If you lose track of where you are, start over. In addition to helping you see yourself more clearly, this simple exercise will help strengthen your attention.

Copyright 2013 by Dennis Lewis

We Are Two-Natured Beings

October 30, 2013

We are two-natured beings! Let your attention move in both directions at the same time–toward the periphery, toward thinking, feeling, and sensing, in which discernment and naming are the norm, and toward the unknowable center, toward the nameless silence and stillness that make the experience of all things possible.

Copyright 2013 by Dennis Lewis

G. I. Gurdjieff: “Everything Must Be Paid For”

October 30, 2013

“Man never on any account wants to pay for anything; and above all he does not want to pay for what is most important for him. You now know that everything must be paid for and that it must be paid for in proportion to what is received. But usually a man thinks to the contrary. For trifles, for things that are perfectly useless to him, he will pay anything. But for something important, never. This must come to him of itself.”–G. I. Gurdjieff, quoted in In Search of the Miraculous, by P. D. Ouspensky

My Presentation on Gurdjieff and Chi Nei Tsang in Russia

October 12, 2013

Some 20 years ago, during a visit to Russia, I was invited by the head of a team of consciousness researchers, scientists, medical doctors, and alternative healers at the Russian Medico-Military Academy in  Saint Petersburg to speak on my understanding of the Gurdjieff Work and give a demonstration of Chi Nei Tsang, a Taoist healing modality involving internal organ chi massage and breathing, which I had learned in the Healing Tao and practiced in a well-known acupuncture clinic in San Francisco, even working on people with AIDS. The person I worked on with my hands and conscious intention gave his impressions in Russian to the rest of the group as he lay on the massage table.

At the end of my three-hour presentation to the 10 people who were there, the leader, a big bear of a man, gave me an enormous hug, intentionally readjusting my spine as he did so (I was tired, and he noticed and wanted to help). When he finished hugging me, he said–with a huge, engaging smile–something like: “here in Russia we are not parochial; we go beyond our training and specialities; we welcome and integrate all approaches and understanding.”

We then continued to talk (his wife spoke good English and functioned as the interpreter, as she had for the presentation), while one of the team, an energy healer, sent me energy from across the room using all sorts of novel (for me) movements and gestures. Here was a group of people who were open to influences other than their own, a rare occurrence in today’s world. And they really seemed to listen, not just to my words, but to my very emanations.

I think of these researchers often when I see the ways in which we in America treat our own frequently narrow, reductionist approaches to knowledge and understanding as somehow sacrosanct. We have paid a heavy price in many areas of life for this reductionism. Though I have spoken to numerous people and groups over the years, the great openness I felt among these Russian researchers was both rare and inspiring. We had a vital exchange on many levels.

Copyright 2013 by Dennis Lewis

Taking Sides in a Conflict

October 10, 2013

Sometimes you have to take sides! Remember, though, that when you do you create division. If division will help you solve the conflict confronting you, then, by all means, take sides. But if you know it won’t–and many conflicts cannot be solved in that way–then you will need to position yourself at the very center, where the opposing forces meet, and welcome both sides into your awareness. Once you see both sides clearly, you can see what connects them. It is through what connects them that you can often find an integrative solution.

Copyright 2013 by Dennis Lewis. First published on my Facebook fan page on October 10, 2013.

Do You Practice Unhappiness?

September 4, 2013

Many of us practice unhappiness; we train ourselves to be unhappy. We slump, we frown, we judge, we criticize, we express anger, we hold our breath. And the more we do these things and identify with them, the more we train our brain, muscles, nerves, and all the other living tissues and energies of the body to maintain these habits. But seeing how deeply conditioned we are by them, and thinking clearly about this truth, can be very helpful. It means that we can also train ourselves to be happy. We can remember to stand straight, pay attention, smile, think healthy thoughts, practice self-restraint, be kind to ourselves and others, and so much more. We can begin a new kind of training, a more honest and compassionate way of relating to ourselves and others. Of course, for this to happen, we must have the courage to be happy, and we must do the necessary work.

Copyright 2013, by Dennis Lewis

There Is Much To Be Done

August 4, 2013

People frequently speak of passion, sometimes in a very dispassionate way. But I tell you now that, whatever your age, it is time to go after what you really want. Your time is not limitless, and our planet is in dire straits. Don’t just believe those New Age guru marketeers who tell you that everything will be fine because people are becoming more conscious. Are they? Look around. Find out for yourself. When you really look and listen and sense, you will see that there is much to be done–and it begins with each of us.

When I went on a Freedom Ride in my early 20’s it was something in which I passionately believed, and the many thousands of us who did so made an enormous difference in the United States. You can make a difference, too. Perhaps you already have, but this is no time to stop. The politicians and others will eventually follow your lead–but YOU must lead before it is too late. Which means NOW! And in order to lead, in order to make a difference, you need to know what you really wish for and what actions you wish to take.

When I started the Dennis Lewis FB fan page, which indeed arose from my passion, there were some old friends (and still are) who didn’t and don’t understand. They thought/think it had to do only with ego. You know why? Probably because if they were to do what I am doing it would have been. The judgments they made were based on their own unseen process of ‘projection,’ a process with which I have had my own very personal, even dark, experiences over the years. Each of us needs to see this process in ourselves if we are to become free from its powerful grip.

Friends, if anything is to truly change, we need to grow up and do what our minds and hearts and bodies–motivated by passion, real intention, and consciousness–guide us to do. That’s how inner transformation takes place! That’s how the world changes! It’s a risky business, of course. Things never happen exactly the way we imagine–fortunately! There are so many forces at work, most of them unseen. But as we become more conscious, and more open to our passion, we discover who we really are and know what we must do. I wish you many great discoveries, and actions that matter, beginning right now.

Rushing Through Your Life

April 9, 2013

Next time you catch yourself rushing through your day on the way some place other than where you are right now (and this can be a mental or emotional “rushing” as well as a physical one), sense your entire body and pay particular attention to your breathing. What does your breath feel like? Does it feel open and spacious? Most likely it feels small and cramped. Ask yourself if this is really how you want to live your life, always tensing toward something to be done or enjoyed (or something you believe will be better) in the future. Yes, the future is important and we all have plenty to do on its behalf, but what’s the point of all this “doing” if we don’t actually feel and appreciate the miracle of our aliveness, our being, right here and now? What’s the point of all of this activity if we are not open enough to receive and appreciate the life force flowing through us and others and the rich scale of impressions and perceptions that come with it?

Copyright 2010-2013 by Dennis Lewis

%d bloggers like this: