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The Art of Breathing

by Jeremy Liebbe

"Breathe in, breathe out," the song Machinehead by Bush repeats over and over.  Breathing, a simple function of life required by our bodies to bring in clean, useful oxygen and be rid of carbon dioxide waste.  A task in our lives so simple that we, quite literally, can do it in our sleep or without even realizing that we are doing it.  Yet is breathing truly as simple as it seems?

The way we breathe can effect us in an unimaginable number of ways.  When something startles us we take a forceful and rapid inhalation of air, forcing oxygen through our bodies and beginning a chain reaction that helps to put us on our highest alert.  Lamas breathing techniques can lower our pain threshold during times of stress, reducing or even eliminating the need for medicinal pain management.  Breathing slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth relaxes the body in preparation for meditation.  The list goes on and on showing how breathing effects our bodies physically, and most people are fully aware of these phenomenon - yet there are few who ever begin to understand how breathing, and the art of breathing, can help shape the world around us in both physical and magickal ways.

Take a moment to think back in your life to some of your key moments in breathing.  Your first breath gave you the ability to sound out your emotions and desires, the magick of vocal communication.  A breath of warm, steamy air relaxes both the body and soul, helping you to surpass illness.  A gasp of cold, crisp mountain air during snow fall leaves you feeling clean and refreshed.  The breath found in the warm kiss of a lover can be more powerful than the strongest drug.  A sharp inhalation in response to a fear stimulus signals your body to tighten your muscles in preparation for fight or flight.  Patterned deep-breathing calms the nerves and reduces pain.  The examples go on and on demonstrating how we use breathing techniques in our everyday world for mundane tasks.

Continuing from the more mundane tasks and accomplishments of breathing, we can focus our breathing techniques to be more useful to us in our magick.  The Japanese Ki or Chinese Ch'i practitioner uses focused inhalations and exhalations to draw, focus, manipulate and expend life-force energies.  Inhaling the energies around allow you to refresh yourself and draw a surface charge that can be later focused and utilized or, in some cases, draw energies or ailments out of another for balancing or healing purposes.  Inhaling residual energies around you can also give you a sort of reconnaissance of the area, letting you know who and what is currently around you or has been here recently.  Exhaling focuses our energies outward in a variety of ways, each unique and dependant on how we choose to focus outward -- to attack, to heal, to defend, to let others know we are here or any of a number of other purposes.

Once we begin to understand how powerful something as simple as breathing can be we can begin to combine that power with an item used for focusing that power -- the blade.  For this exercise choose a blade that fits your personality, your level of comfort and your style of magick.  For some an atheme or bolene, for others a full sized sword such as a katana.  Most any blade will work, even a common kitchen knife if necessary, however, the higher quality blades as well as those that are hand-crafted, especially by magick users, will yield better results.

Once you have found the blade you will use for this exercise it is best to start out playing with the blade, moving the weapon back and forth in slicing and sometimes piercing motions to help awaken the steel.

After a few minutes of play, hold the blade in your dominant hand.  Look at the weapon, notice how the energies of the steel interact with your own energies.  Do they seem to work together as if partners in a dance?  If not, that's okay, most blades will take some time to work fully with you and, if not, there is probably another blade out there that fits you better.  Go ahead and finish this exercise, you might be surprised by the results.

Now, point the blade at the earth.  Exhale slowly through the weapon, using it as a focus for your energies as you send a part of yourself below.  Then inhale slowly back through the blade, absorbing and feeling every little detail of what comes back to you from the earth.

Point towards the sky, extending a breath of air to the heavens through the blade as before then inhaling through the piece, noting and absorbing what returns.

After grounding your weapon, perform the same breath exercise to each of the four corners, four guardian spirits or four directions -- whichever is most appropriate to your path of magick.

Now spend some time again playing with your blade.  Notice the difference made by awakening the blade and allowing it to sync with the universe?

Breathing, even as simple as it seems, is one of the cornerstones of magick.  Without being able to control our breathing we cannot control ourselves or our abilities.  So, go forth, my friend, and breathe.

 

Jeremy Liebbe is a regular contributor to SwordMagick.com and has been with us since the dawn of this realm as our lead web designer.  He is a martial artist with expertise in both Isshen-Ryu and ninjutsu.  His martial weapon studies began with the bo staff and in recent years has begun to incorporate knife fighting as well as the katana and jian.  Jeremy is a student and practitioner of the Eastern magickal arts and has many gifts including guided meditation, reiki and Ki-combat.  After studying computer science and psychology with the University of North Texas and then the University of Texas at Dallas, Jeremy began to pursue a career in law enforcement in Dallas, Texas, where he also teaches at one of the local police academies.  He plans include future studies to complete his masters degree and doctoral degree in psychology.

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