BREATH AND FLOW
Music is form through time. Gurdjieff said that
"Time is Breath". Given those two propositions, it is through the full inner
understanding of "breath" that we can begin to understand and master what we
call "music". This is not simply a matter of "learning to breathe
right" or "breathing Experiments to increase your health". Both of these
are good and helpful skills to have, but we are talking about something altogether
different. We must reach a deeper understanding of the nature of breath itself, and,
through this understanding, find the inner functions, rhythms and structures of the
architecture in Time that we call music.
There is no simple or straightforward
explanation for this. We will delve into these mysteries through direct and paced
experience. You will notice that we recommend that you practice each of these Experiments
for only a short period of time. This has to be emphasized. Breath is a powerful method of
unleashing energies and altered states. By the same token, whatever is powerful is also
dangerous. This is one reason for the short amounts of time given. We want you to focus
your attention on these Experiments for these small amounts of time and then let it go.
Don't allow it to become an obsessive compulsion. None of these Experiments are "the
right way to breathe". Each is a different approach towards a fuller understanding.
Take them as small interruptions from your normal "human" existence and let them
go when you come out. This will be not only the safest approach but also, paradoxically,
the most powerful, since your attention will be more intensely focused and the Experiments
will have their fullest and richest effect.
* * *
Breath is a carrier of energy. I brings into the
body oxygen, which is the quickest burning fuel we use to keep our bodies going. It also
brings into the system all kinds of subtle energies and vibrations. Our system then
distributes these impressions and energies for our use. On a different level, breath can
also be seen as the keeper of rhythm in our system. While the heart keeps a basic beat
going, breath helps regulate the activities of slower systems. We have then heart beats,
breath, and circadian rhythms, all keeping other organic systems synchronized.
Take three slow and deep breaths, bringing
your breath all the way down to your belly.
Close your right nostril with your right
thumb. Inhale deeply through the left nostril while counting to five.
Now, open your right nostril and cover the
left nostril with your index finger.
Exhale through the right nostril while
counting to five.
Keeping your fingers as they are, inhale
through your right nostril while counting to five.
Switch nostrils, exhaling through your left
nostril to the count of five.
This is a full round. Keep going for at least
The number to which you count is not
important. Choose a number that is comfortable to you. The important thing is to keep the
same count in the exhale and the inhale, and to alternate these.
Make a note of any changes in mood, feel, or
sensation after you do this experiment.
Sit on a chair or on the floor with legs
crossed, back as straight as possible.
Take a deep breath in, very slowly. Feel (or
imagine) energy flowing into you as you breathe.
As you let the air out, sing
"AAAAAH" as the breath goes out. Let the "AHH" be the carrier of
energy as it flows out of you.
Repeat several times. Each time you repeat try
to make the "AAAAH" sound SLOWER, STRONGER and MORE "IN TUNE"
(whatever note you sing with the AH, try to maintain it.)
Do this for about 5 minutes. Not less and
definitely not more.
Repeat the whole Experiment once a day for a
week or more, until you feel very confident about the "AAAAH" note you produce.
Sit in a comfortable position. Close your
Imagine a vortex of energy and form all around
as your have your eyes closed. Feel it twirling around you, forming and unforming in a
Now inhale the vortex. Take your time. Inhale
deeply and slowly. As you do it, push your stomach out.
Hold the vortex inside you for a moment.
Now exhale the vortex and pull your stomach
Repeat for about 5 minutes.
Sit at a piano or another similar instrument
(guitar, electronic keyboard, marimba, etc.) If you don't happen to own one, you should
get at least a cheap keyboard for some future experiments.
Sit quietly with your eyes closed for a
Now take a deep breath. Hold it for a moment.
As you exhale, play a note on the instrument.
Now let it ring while you inhale again. Hold
Play another note as you exhale, and again let
Continue for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Do this Experiment once a day for a week. Repeat
the whole cycle every few months.
Lie down and get very comfortable. Hands at
your sides. Eyes closed.
Inhale deeply. Imagine a ball of light
entering your body through your nose and slowly descending down the front of your body.
Allow it to slowly descend with the impulse of
your inhalation, all the way down to your genital area.
Hold the breath and hold the energy there for
Now as you exhale, imagine the ball of light
moving up your spine, very slowly. All the way up to the crown of your head.
To complete the circuit, press the tip of your
tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Do this for about 5 minutes and stop. Repeat
once a day for a week.
Experiment 5: Word on the Exhale
Stand in front of a mirror. Breath deeply and
relax as you look at your own image in the mirror.
Focus your attention on your eyes as you very
gradually slow down your breathing.
When your breathing is going at a very slow
pace, take a deep breath and hold the breath.
Now, as you slowly exhale, say a word. Not a
sentence, not a random sound, but a single word. Maintain your attention on your eyes in
the mirror as you say this single word.
Now hold the silence as the word ends and your
exhalation completes. Allow a small rest before you start to inhale again.
Repeat for about 10 to 15 mins.
Experiment 6: The Image
Sit down with your back straight. Close your
Breathe quietly for a few minutes.
Now take a deep inhalation. As you inhale
allow an image to form in your mind. Let it build in detail as you inhale.
When you finish inhaling, hold the breath and
the image still. Let the image rest in your mind without adding anything or substracting
Now exhale. As you exhale, let the image
dissappear slowly, let it vanish into nothingness, as if it was made of little grains of
sand that slowly dissolve into the water.
When you finish exhaling, hold the nothingness
as well as your breath for a moment.
Repeat the cycle for 5 to 10 minutes. When you
finish stay in position and breath quietly for a few more minutes.
When you place your attention on the breath,
there may be a tendency sometimes to "fade out" or "zone out". Images
will begin to appear in your mind's eye or sounds will lead you into thoughts... and all
of a sudden you will find yourself far away from the Experiment that you are doing and in
a land of imagination and dreams. There are some things that you can do to avoid
this. A physical element will help in some Experiments. If, as you breathe, you place your
attention on your abdomen, letting it expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale,
this will have a two fold effect. Your breathing will be fuller and more intense, and your
attention will find it harder to wander (and, when it does wander, you will realize it
faster). Another element that can help is the use of a metronome to keep your breath at a
steady tempo. It will be painfully obvious each time your mind wanders as you will
suddenly hear the metronome going off "on its own" (it's really you that has
gone off, obviously).