This lesson is excerpted from Lightning Path Workbook One: The Basics.
In the last few units of this introductory booklet we have talked about the nature of awakening, healing, connecting, initiating the process, lubricating the gears, and navigating some of the initial challenges. A question that arises at this point is what happens when you do start to move forward and connect. What happens when Consciousness descends into the vessel and you begin to awaken? What happens when you awaken and begin to see the true reality of your life and this world? What happens when, during powerful connection events, you meet with the brightest light in the universe, your higher Self?
That is a good question, and a big question, and unfortunately, we cannot go into a lot of detail here. The problem is, depending on the quality, intensity, duration, and content of your connection, many things could happen. You could experience grand revelations of cosmic identity and a total revolution of purpose. You can have little “nature experiences,” moderate peak experiences, or massive transcendent experiences. You could talk to God, talk to your higher Self, or even find you are communicating better with your cat. What the experience is and what it is like depends on many different things. Therefore, it is impossible to predict in advance, and it is impossible to discuss in this short introductory document. What it is possible to say in all this is that in all these various experiences, breathing is most important.1
The truth is, connecting to consciousness can be a very challenging process. Even in the best of situations, it can challenge you intellectually, morally, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally. Unfortunately, we do not live in the best of situations. We live on a world filled with global poverty, greed, ideology, confusion, corruption, war, anguish, despair, toxicity, predators, pedophiles, pain, and abuse. When you connect and awaken, even if only for a few moments or so, you are shining a bright light on yourself, your thoughts and ideas, your actions, your families, and the realities of this world. The problem is, when you connect, the reality of these bad things can flood your awareness. That is a problem because when you confront the truths of this world, or your life, or your behaviours, emotions can run high, fears can bubble up, and confusion can strangle you cold. From the political and economic truths of this world to your own victimization, complicity and guilt, authentic connection, whether it is experienced in short and dramatic connection events, or over a drawn-out and gentler process, can feel like being hit by a brick tsunami. As Cortright “An Integral Approach to Spiritual Emergency.,” Guidance & Counseling 15, no. 3 (2000): 12. notes, “Most people think of spiritual growth as safe. The spiritual path may not be easy, but it is usually not considered dangerous. However, the world’s spiritual traditions all warn about different dangers along the way, the ‘perils of the path.’ New and expanded states of consciousness can overwhelm the ego. An infusion of powerful spiritual energies can flood the body and mind, fragmenting the structures of the self and temporarily incapacitating the person until they can be assimilated.”
It is not always like this of course. You can, and will, have beautiful, warm and fuzzy connection experiences, what we call Zenith Experiences,2 A Zenith Experience is any positively felt connection experience. A zenith experience may range in power from minor nature and peak experiences through to full-blown visionary revelation, where you feel one with nature, the universe, and even God. But, and this is important, you can also have negative, Nadir Experiences.3 Nadir experiences are negative connection experiences characterized by confusion, anxiety, guilt, shame, fear, paranoia, and psychosis.
Both zenith and nadir experiences can be challenging. When it comes to a zenith experience, the challenge is grounding and integrating powerful zenith experiences. When it comes to nadir experiences, you have to deal with confusion, anxiety, guilt, shame, fear, paranoia, and other “dark night of the soul” stuff? If not properly prepared or supported, nadir experiences can cause major setbacks.
Dealing with the challenge of connection experiences, whether they are zenith or nadir, is where breathing comes in. Breathing, in particular, deep breathing, can help you ground and maintain control when you are overwhelmed by the positive light of a zenith experience or blasted by the deep negativity of a nadir experience. When it comes to handling the emotional and psychological sequelae of connection experiences, remembering to deep breathe is important.
Because deep breathing is an important practice, and it can be especially helpful in times of challenge, difficulty, and emotional crisis. Air is the critical fuel of your physical body and mind. If you do not breathe, you die within minutes. More to the point, if you do not breathe, you cut off your body’s supply of oxygen. Without adequate oxygen, your body and (more importantly here) your mind do not function at optimum levels. If you are going through an emotional crises or difficult experience, you need to make sure you are getting enough air. If you do not, it will be harder to handle the intensity and crises. Remember this. It is hard enough to deal with the emotional and psychological challenges that can accompany connection and connection experience. If you hold your breath you are depriving your body of the fuel it needs to cope and survive. If you deep breathe, if you oxygenate your brain, you are giving your mind, i.e., your brain and bodily ego, what it needs to handle the situation.
Deep breathing helps oxygenate the brain and that is important. Deep breathing also helps your body and mind deal with the stress of emotional and psychological challenge. Deep breathing can slow your heart, return blood from the extremities, and reduce adrenaline in the bloodstream. In other words, deep breathing calms you and helps you focus. It might sound ridiculously trivial to some, but deep breathing is critical and can make the difference between overwhelming fear, panic and anxiety, and calm, grounded, and empowered forward movement.
Of course, breathing is not a miracle cure, nor is it the only thing that you have to do to keep moving forward; however, it is part of a backpack of tools that you should have with you on your journey home. When you are feeling anxious, afraid, stressed, shocked or otherwise discombobulated by the things you are feeling and seeing, the first thing you need to do (assuming you are not dealing with immediate threats to your physical survival) is take deep breaths.
Thankfully, as long as you maintain a certain assemblage of your wits, that is easy. To breathe properly, sit up straight, straighten your spine, raise your chin so your head is straight, close your eyes, breathe in as deep as you can, and breathe out.
Breathe in; breathe out.
You can even add a visualization to make it work better if you like. For example, when I (Mike) am trying to calm down, I like to visualize a leaf gently falling from a tree. You can also use various meditation apps to help. Be creative. Use any calming visualization to go along with your deep breathing that you want. Gina likes to lie on her back and do deep breathing exercises. She visualizes her body in a fluid, liquid form, and imitates the rise and fall of water waves as she breathes in and out. The deeper the breath, the bigger the wave i.e., the rise and fall of her chest movements as she inhales deeper breaths.
Just breathe in, breathe out.
Breathe in; breathe out.
Do it at least three times and more if you need to. Moreover, note, you do not necessarily have to “assume the position” (i.e. back straight, head straight, spine straight, lotus position, etc.) to get benefits from deep breathing. If you are hunched over in a state of great anxiety or fear and all you can manage is deep gasps, that is fine too, so long as you eventually straighten up. Of course, you should aim for the more technically correct practice whenever you can, even when you are breathing for creative and not anxiety management purposes; but in an emotionally charged pinch, any deep breathing will help. It sounds basic, but do not let that fool you. It works like a charm.
At this point, we have spoken a bit about the challenges and pitfalls of awakening. We have even suggested that you might have to look forward to nadir experiences and have said that to prepare for those you need, amongst other things, to learn to breathe properly. At this point, your anxiety levels may be rising a bit and if so, pause and take a deep breath. Achieving connection can be a challenge that is for sure, but it is not random, and with proper preparation and practice, you do have control. When you experience fear, anxiety, confusion, and disorientation, especially in the early stages, breathing helps. It helps not only as you attempt to clear fears and blockages, but it also helps as you move forward and deal with other things you have to do on your way to stronger connection, like control your thoughts or direct your connection experiences. As the Light begins to shine and the facade begins to crumble, remember to breathe. Breathing, and some other practices which we will discuss as we progress, is what will get you through.
Also, believe us when we tell you, you do not have to deal with everything that comes up as it comes up, or all at once, or by yourself. Pick your battles (do the easier ones first and do a little bit at a time). Take your time, and get help when you need it. Moreover, the hardest part is in the early stages. In the early stages when things are the most messed up, when the room is a total mess, when chaos and discord is most severe, and when ignorance of truth and denial of reality are high, it can be tough. However, that changes very quickly. Once you begin the process, things can move quite quickly and things can change quite fast.
1 An alternative discussion of the significance and importance of breathing may be found in the book The Great Awakening: Concepts and Techniques for Successful Spiritual Practice.
2 For more, see http://spiritwiki.lightningpath.org/Zenith_Experience.
3 For more, see http://spiritwiki.lightningpath.org/Nadir_Experience.