For the first week of this process three aspects of magickal practice will be addressed.
- Preparation and mental commitment
- Basic breathing techniques
- Beginning Visualization
If you do an online search into meditative breathing techniques you will without a doubt find a myriad of different approaches and practices. For this series I am going to outline a few different breathing techniques that I found personally useful when beginning to utilize this practice. As the weeks progress I will add in a couple of other approaches I feel enhance the effectiveness of certain aspects of this work. For week one we will focus on basic controlled breathing exercises to induce relaxation and increase your awareness of the mind/body connection.
Basic Controlled Breathing
Application of Awareness
When first starting a new practice it is useful to build a foundation of basic habits that can increase in complexity and nuance as you advance. For breath work the best place to start is with a very simple application of awareness. Breathing is an automatic function of our bodies. When we apply awareness to this function it can help to increase focus and reduce stress, increasing relaxation in our body needed for meditative states.
Begin sitting in a comfortable position with your back straight. Posture is important. Sitting with your back straight helps to optimize lung capacity and allows for deeper breathing.
Close your eyes and exhale fully through your mouth. Next inhale slowly through your nose. Do not worry about counting the length of breaths at this point. The goal is to pay attention to your breathing right now and maintain focus. Inhale until you feel your lungs are full.
Exhale through your nose as slowly as you inhaled, paying attention to the sensation of your lungs emptying as you do. Continue this pattern of inhale and exhale while attempting to keep your focus on the execution and sensation of breath.
Once you have developed a good focus on breath you can throw in an alteration by exhaling through your mouth and inhaling through your nose. Do as above by keeping your mental focus on your breathing and the sensations of inhaling until lungs are full and exhaling until empty. Feel the air enter your nose, flow down into your lungs. With concentration you may be able to feel exactly how your lungs expand and fill your chest. As you exhale focus on the sensation of the air being released from your lungs and their slow deflation. Feel the air rush out of your nose or mouth as it leaves your body.
This very basic practice will help you lay a foundation for a strong awareness of the mind body connection. After some time you will be able to utilize this state of heightened awareness by transferring it to other aspects of practice, such as visualization. Once you feel comfortable with application of awareness on next is learning how to control that trance like state of hyperfocus by applying parameters and pattern
Applying parameters is an exercise in maintaining a state of hyperfocus, sometimes referred to as a state of gnosis, while simultaneously applying mental will to the process without falling out of said state. The way we develop this skill with breath work is through keeping time for each breath. Having established a habit of focusing on sensation through application of awareness it should be easier for you to be aware of sensation without as much concentration as when you were beginning. This allows you to build skill in more specific parameters, refining the effects of hyperfocus or gnosis to a specific spectrum by utilizing physical sensation.
To begin to apply parameters start by choosing a number of seconds that you will both inhale and exhale according to. A popular suggestion in pranayama is to start with 4 seconds. I find this tends to work for most people. Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. Count in your mind while performing each step of the breathing process and repeat this until you are able to maintain your state of gnosis while doing so. After you are able to easily maintain parameters you can play with different amounts of time to get a sense of how this effects you physically. The effects on the body for short, shallow breaths will be vastly different than long, deep breaths. This is one way we can alter the spectrum of our state of hyperfocus by utilizing these physical effects.
The application of pattern is another step up in complexity as the application of parameters. While applying parameters we focused on the ability to use mental will without breaking trance or hyperfocus. Now that we have established a foundation in that ability we can kick it up a notch by using more complex breathing patterns to actualize different physical symptoms and states of consciousness thereby.
For the purposes of the Silver Lotus Technique I find that exercises that encourage relaxation are especially helpful while developing foundations. A good one to start with is the popular 4-7-8 Relaxing Breath Exercise.
Sit comfortably with your back straight and exhale completely through your mouth. Then close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of 4. Then hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8 in one breath. Begin by going through this 3 or 4 times then going back to simple breathing in between. The 4-7-8 exercise can itself increase in complexity with additional modifications that will be covered soon.
Next: Beginning Visualization