Infinity Breathing

This type of breathing, which I have dubbed Infinity Breathing, likely goes by many different names. 

There are many ways of teaching this breathing method but the end result is the same - once you master the technique, then your awareness (consciousness) will naturally raise and your ability to handle situations proactively instead of reactively will also increase. 

I dub this mode of breathing "infinity breathing" because as you will experience once you "get it," it does feel like you can breath in forever. 

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how, however, we will focus for a moment on the why.

Why learn this technique? 

My present understanding is as follows: The body has two basic modes of breathing: one is shallow and in the chest and the other is deep and in the belly. 

So what? 

What I detected as I shifted from mostly breathing shallow (in the chest) to mostly breathing in the belly is that thought (and subconscious fears) are attached to the mode of breathing you are presently experiencing.

How did I determine this? 

At the time I made my initial discovery, I was using a bio-feedback device from the heartmath institute. While they have a slick self-contained unit these days I had the early version that ran on a computer and had a clip that attached to your earlobe. Actually, I also had the earlier model to that as well, which clipped to your fingertip but it wasn't until I had progressed through a lot of practice that I started to experiment and notice particular things occurring. 

Right out of the gate, I quickly managed to score the perfect step "power wave" as it was referred to back then. Bio feedback made it easy to tell when you were 'in coherence', as they called it, and when you slipped out of coherence.

If you timed your heartbeats to the tune of 5 heartbeats to one breath (and timed the peaks and the valleys to line up), you were in coherence. The older models of software let you see (or at least appeared to let you see) this happening. The new models just indicate whether or not you are in or out the coherent state. 

Now, I don't know about you but when I play with something, I tend to see what it does or what I can do with it. No different here. Somewhere during my play, I started to notice that each and every thought affected my heartbeat. Ever so slightly and ever so subtle, however, the pattern was in fact distinct, detectable and repeatable. 

Coherence seemed to occur as one's mind was mostly "quiet". I won't say silent, as that it not accurate, but there is a distinct difference between what I will call a foreground or conscious thought versus a background or unconsciously inspired thought. 

In a mind that has not done a lot of meditation, those background thoughts tend to get taken up by the foreground process (young me!). I saw a movie once that used the phrase "sucked into the drift" and I felt it was a very apropos way to describe this phenomena. In a mind that has done a lot of meditation (the now not-quite-so-young me...), the temptation to engage these thoughts in a foreground or active, conscious mode is significantly reduced.

Note that the amount, intensity or frequency of these thoughts is not important. You can have a raging torrent of background thoughts and yet still achieve coherence simply by not actively engaging with them. Just stay in the observer position and watch that torrent of thoughts flow on by.

What became the deciding factor was simply what thoughts you choose to engage with (or not).

So what does all this have to do with breathing? 

Here's the thing: all active thoughts also caused breathing in the shallow chest mode to occur. I never found an exception. 

I found the following all to be true: 

  • If you had an active thought, you were breathing in the chest 
  • If you were breathing in the chest, you had an active thought 
  • If you did not engage your thoughts and simply observed them, you could, with focus and intention, achieve the deep belly level of breathing. 
  • If you achieved a deep level of belly breathing, then you were not engaging any active thoughts.
In other words it did not matter which came first!

You could achieve the breathing pattern by focusing attention on letting go of engaging thoughts, which is what meditation teaches, or you could focus on the breathing to let go of actively engaging with your thoughts, which is what yoga and other body-based practices teach.  

With a great deal of research and cross referencing (Gregg Braden and Neal Donald Walsh with a whole lot more rolled in for good measure), combined with experimentation, here's what I currently believe to be a useful working model: 

Focus on the breathing and it will, over an extended period of time, take you to the place of a calm and quiet mind. 

Now lets get into some of those nuts and bolts and let you experience "infinity breath" for yourself. 

Let's start by doing it "wrong" so you can feel exactly how that feels first. 

Take a deep breath and purposely fill the chest up with air. Fill the lungs as much as you possibly can and notice the "hard stop" that occurs -- the point at which taking in any more air is virtually impossible. 

Good. 

Once you feel this hard stop, you'll know that you've gotten to the other mode by the distinct lack of any hard stop at all. 

For some, this is going to be hard to do, whereas others might pick it up quickly. It depends on how much body and or mind work you've done to date and how aware you are of your internal state. 

Do not be discouraged, however, as no matter what state you start at, this can be achieved with focus and dedication. 

Place one hand on the chest and the other hand on the belly. Now take a breath and see if you notice which hand or hands move. Try to breathe such that you only move the hand on your belly. You will feel your stomach area expanding when you do this. 

Notice as you get better at moving just the hand on the belly that it feels like you can always breath in more even though there is growing pressure to breath out. Try to extend the breath in to prove this to yourself. Once you've found this infinity state then no matter how long you breathe in for, there is never any hard stop present. It always feels like you can breathe in a little bit more. Hence my term: Infinity Breathing

Here's the real kicker: Once you know what this state feels like and you can achieve it at will, then try the following exercises.  

Purposely hold a thought -- say your pet peeve as a good starting point -- and try to maintain the breathing. 

You'll notice an odd effect. 

The two will fight each other! 

Let the fight happen but stay determined to get back to the infinity level of breathing while continuing to hold that thought. 

The shift will be subtle but it will occur by the time you get back to full infinity breathing mode. Your pet peeve will no longer be a peeve but just a distant memory. 

Say what? 

You can self "clear" reactions using this technique of holding the thought while practicing the breathing.

Your pet peeve is just an attachment, as the Buddhists refer to it, and all attachments are either based in one of two flavours: "I want more" (craving)  or "I want less" (avoidance).  

The "I want more" is the sense of lack. This is a fear that you do not have enough, that you won't have enough, that you can't obtain enough. The Buddhists refer to this as a craving. 

The "I want less" is a sense of no control over what comes at you. This a fear that you have no control, that you can't prevent something from happening to you. The Buddhists refer to this as avoidance. 

A lot of time, we hear these terms and instantly feel like the teachings are trying to tell us that a "thing" is neither to be craved nor avoided. The reality is kinda upside down. To freely enjoy something, it is best to simply have no attachments to it at all. 

Enjoying owning a boat is radically different from the craving to own a boat. Not going for a swim or not enjoying swimming because you're terrified of drowning is radically different from simply being able to enjoy a swim without fear. 

Do not worry if one or more of the pet peeves you want to experiment with seem to stick or resist past your patience to practice this exercise or to achieve that infinity state.

All that means is that the reaction is somewhat deeply ingrained or it might need other reactions removed or addressed before they can be unlocked. These attachments tend to form a complex web of interconnections over time. As you persist in this exercise, you'll notice when a complex web suddenly unravels. It's an interesting experience!

Depending on how deep or ingrained your reactions are, you might need someone else to help you hold your focus or intent though the exercise. This is why working in a group is sometimes far more effective than doing it on your own. The group helps you to work through the challenge instead of simply getting sucked into the drift and reacting with your mind. It provides you sources of added strength and resilience to allow you to simply passively hold the thought through the transition phase.  

You can even accelerate this process when working by yourself by augmenting the exercise with binaural beats or recordings or theta waves.