Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Breath and the Sacred Feminine

A practical spirituality bids us to look beyond the
confines of dogmatic religion and into natural states of soul in which heightened consciousness and consequent well being emerge just as freely as the unencumbered flow of a Rocky Mountain river. Water is a prime symbol of the sacred feminine. The human psyche, when healthy and attuned, finds its way to the River of Life, that which sustains it and can best be described as feminine and nourishing, soulful.

Breath highlights the quality of an individual’s state of mind. Shallow breathing indicates states that range from mild tension to high anxiety. There is no question that superficial breathing prohibits a quality experience of self, others and life. A person once confided that once they realized how short and quick their breaths were they really began to panic. It was as if the awareness brought to consciousness a fear for soul, so to speak. That is, without breaths that fill us, oxygenate our bodies and minds, we intuitively know that we are losing hold of ourselves.

This person explained it in terms of panic, the Great God Pan inducing a state of hyperarousal to call attention to imbalance within the psyche. Pan’s appearance in situations gives rise to the potential for change by drawing our energies to the sense of crisis and emergency at hand. As we are able to listen to this, then we can begin to wonder why it is that such intensity of emotion is required for us to engage in appropriate self reflection. The individual whom I mentioned was able to arrive at a point of facing what he was attempting to flee in his life. He didn’t want “to be bothered by it”, so became symptomatic, anxious. His symptoms of anxiety abated, breathing became deep and tranquil as he listened to the stirrings of Pan who essentially led him into an interiority, a calm mental realm, in which the sacred feminine was able to once again be experienced as equanimity and contentedness in life.

Pan serves as an intense repository of quickened and potentially transformative energy. As quickly as breath enters the lungs, a flash of inspiration communicates a quickening of perspective, a change of attitude, a new take on situations and people. A soulless ego is an ego bereft of the feminine element that allows inspiration to enter conscious thought. The receptivity that deep and rhythmic breathing signals calls forth the energy from psychic recesses and resources that act to generate change and healing. William James’ assertion that authentic being means knowing, an immediate perception of the nature of a given reality, comes to bear as inspiration from deep repositories of psychic energy brings immediate clarity, insight, to previously conflict ridden situations.

A gentleman shared a dream in which out of a gust of wind there appeared a coyote that looked at him quizzically. He awakened frightened, heart palpitating and short of breath. The trickster archetype in the guise of coyote brought a message to him, one that he came to realize as having to do with his responsiveness to the insight and inspiration of the moment. He tended to doubt himself, to second guess his instincts, living a constrained and consequently unhappy life. Quickened energy came in the form of the coyote, another aspect of trickster-pan numinosity, insight into the meaning of the symbol helping to free the gentleman toward a more spontaneous and inspired way of living.

The soul has been described as a vessel full of grace, the ultimate image and experience of the sacred feminine. We know that with each breath that we fully draw into ourselves the soul is nourished, mental faculties made open to heightened consciousness. The sacred feminine embodies that attitude of receptivity to consciousness that is imparted to us in the moment. It is nothing that can be contrived or anything that mental strain can attain; rather, the goddess comes and whispers in our ear what we need to hear at the moment we need to hear it as we cultivate a relaxed and yielded psychic openness.

Dreams, of course open us to the breath, the whisperings of the goddess; but, attention to breath itself can help to create a psychic receptivity that can take us by surprise. Outer events suddenly coming to together once we relax is the work of the goddess behind the scenes. A Nath yoga master once told me that the very atmosphere is charged with energy when a person engages in deep and rhythmic inhalation. Such energy is the energy of Shakti, the goddess of prana, the breath, life force that streams up the spinal column and into the life of the practitioner. Yogis claim that infusions of energy generate siddhis, miraculous powers, in the form of spontaneous healings and unexpected turns of tides in events. Shakti, sacred goddess of breath and the miraculous, is accessed when breathing becomes natural, rhythmic, spirituality an inherent life force that quickens the soul and turns the tide of life events.