Breath as Teacher

by | Aug 11, 2022 | Yoga Basics | 2 comments

watch your own breathing

“What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.”

Shunryu Suzuki

This quote, from the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,  is one of the most influential quotes I’ve read.  Buddhist texts used to be confusing for me until I began a meditation practice. The veiled language of Buddhism became clear once I experienced the power of paying attention. 

Whether you practice Buddhism or Yoga, you’ve most likely been taught to watch your own breathing as a way to calm the mind and prime your consciousness for meditation.

Watching the breath has benefits beyond meditation; it can be one of our greatest teachers. There is something very special and unique about the breath, and why we work with breathing to regulate our life force. 

Imagine all the earth. Billions of people, countless species of plants, animals and fungi… The buildings, cars, bodies of water, etc.  We are not separate components in this dynamic. On the contrary, we exist in a continuous field of life force together; one single organism vibrating at a single frequency. 

As one person exhales, another person inhales. As we exhale, the trees inhale. As we inhale together, we radiate and connect to each other. As we exhale, we plug back into our own inner space. Constantly giving to and receiving from each other. 

If we are not separate beings but little particles of one, what then is the “I”?

This particular strand of  life force has differentiated into the form of a physical body and a “ mind” that is composed of filters, thoughts and conditions. Behind the sheaths of the soul, the same consciousness is experiencing the experience of “being someone”. Your mind thinks you are the one who takes the breath, but every breath you take mixes you up with all the other strands of life force. What we call “I” is just a swinging door that doesn’t remain closed for even a second. Almost all the time, you are connected and constantly interacting with every form of “being”.

When you awaken to this – when you start embodying the feeling of this connectedness and non-separation – the “YOGA” begins. Yoga comes from the word “yuj”, the union, the oneness.  To experience yoga you need only to tangibly experience the connection you have with all that exists. This may happen in meditation, or it may happen in a myriad of other moments as you interact with life. 

I realize that I am in “Yoga” when I realize that everything I do, express, and represent flows into the river of life.

Just as everything I sip from this river – like loving others, eating, drinking, watching a film, or seeing a piece of art fills me in. That’s when I understand what Alan Watts calls “the birth of responsibility.” Everything I offer to life should be done mindfully, not randomly and without a purpose. I intentionally shape life by bringing attention to every moment, every choice I make from moment to moment, every thought that passes through the mind and every action I choose to make. It’s the easiest and the hardest practice, but the breath is my constant reminder. 

So close your eyes now and start to watch your breath, watch your thoughts. What do you present to life, what do you offer to this universe? What do you choose to receive?

Author Hümeyra Cengiz is one of the select HॐlloYogaWorld Sacral Chakra Team members who holds an Orange Yoga World NFT Passport. Follow her on Instagram @humcengiz. To join our Passport pre-sale, join us in Geneva by clicking here.

Special thanks to Abigail Akuffo, HॐlloYogaWorld Ambassador to Ghana, for the featured image.

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  1. Tad

    “So close your eyes now and start to watch your breath, watch your thoughts. What do you present to life, what do you offer to this universe? What do you choose to receive?” This is the question, the most important one. Thank you for reminding us of our connection to everything around us – the antidote to the dualism in which so many of us were conditioned from childhood. Our forgetfulness regarding this is the main source of our suffering in my experience.

  2. Michael

    This short piece is packed with so much wisdom! I’m humbled to know “I” am breathing these words in knowing they existed first in a part of me called Hümeyra. This touches on so many deep layer of reality that not another word can be said. I’m just going to breathe this in and feel it in my body, mind and heart. Yes, yug are one ☝️


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