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A Dialog About Breath
A Dialog About Breath

It is likely that through deep and intense breathing an excess of oxygen enters the lungs, causing harm. What do you say?

     Actually, no person uses his lungs fully while breathing. There are roughly six thousand air sacs in a person's lungs, out of which hardly fifteen to twenty hundred sacs are filled with oxygen if the person happens to be very healthy and he breathes normally. The rest of the air sacs are filled with carbon dioxide, which is another name for filth. So it is difficult to find a man who takes in more oxygen than is necessary. One who takes in the necessary amount of oxygen is also rare. A major part of our lungs remains unused.
     It would be really a great thing if you could fill your whole lungs with oxygen; it would lead to great expansion of your consciousness.
     How expansive your life is can be known from the amount of oxygen you carry in your lungs. The more oxygen, the more life. And if you can fill your entire lungs with oxygen, you will be at the zenith of life. Any activity that adds to your stock of oxygen is conducive to your health. And what depletes your reserve of oxygen is injurious to your health; it will cause sickness.
     But the fact remains that you never breathe to the full capacity of your lungs; you never take in even as much oxygen as you are capable of taking in. So the question of taking more than what is necessary simply does not arise. You cannot take more than what the lungs can hold; you cannot take more than its fill. It is such a difficult thing to do.

Along with oxygen, we take in other gases like nitrogen and hydrogen. How are all these gases conducive to meditation?

     These are absolutely conducive to meditation. Whatever there is in the air – it is not only oxygen but also many other things – is conducive to life. It is because of them that you are alive. There is no life on a planet or satellite planet where these gases are not available in the right proportions. It is they who make life possible. Therefore you need not worry on this score.
     And the more intensely and briskly you breathe, the more you will benefit. In a state of deep and fast breathing only oxygen can enter your system in maximum quantity; everything else will be left out. And even these other gases are useful ingredients of life; they are not harmful.

Why does the body begin to feel light after deep and fast breathing?

Deep,fast,chaotic breathing      It is true that the body will feel light after this meditation. It will be so because our consciousness of body is one of heaviness. What we call heaviness is nothing more than our awareness of the body. The body weighs heavy on a sick person even if he is skinny and wiry. But a healthy person, even if he is a heavyweight, carries his body very lightly. So it is really our body-consciousness that feels like a weight on us.
     We become conscious of our body only when it is in pain, when it is suffering. We become conscious of our feet when they are hurting. We become aware of our head when it is aching. If there is no body pain, we are never aware of our body. This consciousness is the measure of our suffering.
     We define a healthy person as one who feels as if he is bodiless. He who does not feel that he is a body, who has a feeling of bodilessness, is really a healthy person. And if he is identified with a particular part of his body it can be said that this part of his body is sick.

     As the amount of oxygen increases and as the kundalini awakens, you will begin to have experiences that are not of the body; they belong to the soul or the atman. And on account of these subtle experiences you will simultaneously feel lightness, an extraordinary kind of weightlessness. Many people will feel as if they are levitating. Not that they really levitate – an event of actual levitation takes place only once in a long while. But because of the feeling of utter weightlessness, you feel that you are levitating. If you open your eyes and see, you will find that you are sitting on the ground. Once in a great while the body actually levitates in a state of extreme weightlessness.

At times in meditation it seems that something within has snapped, and this experience is frightening.

     It is possible, it is absolutely possible.
     Fear is unnecessary, although it is natural that you feel afraid.

It creates a lot of heat, as well.

     That, too, is possible. It is possible because your whole inner mechanism undergoes a change. All your connections with the body begin to get loose, and new connections begin to form in their places. Old bridges are broken and new ones are formed. Old doors close and new ones open. So the whole house is being altered. That is why you think that many things within you are breaking down, and then you feel scared. It is natural, because the whole system goes through a state of disarray and disorder. It happens in times of transition.
     When a new order arises out of this chaos it will be altogether different from the old; it will be incomparably unique. Then you will forget that some thing like an old order ever existed. And even when you remember it you will wonder how on earth you could put up with it.
     All this is possible.

At times the body relaxes and breathing slackens. Should one continue to make efforts during such intervals?

     It would be good if you do. It is not a question of whether breathing continues or slackens. It does not matter much if breathing comes to a stop. The question is whether you have put in enough effort or not. What is significant is your effort, not the fruit of your efforts. What matters is that you have done your best, that you have staked your all.

     The mind is very cunning in finding avenues of escape.
It does everything to protect itself. It says, "Now that nothing is happening, it is time we give up efforts." The mind is so skillful that in the course of a day it can suggest hundreds of ways of escape and hundreds of excuses and rationalizations. It can go to the length of telling you that you will suffocate, you will die if you pursue in your efforts any longer.
     Don't listen to the mind. Tell your mind, "It is blissful to suffocate and to die." It is another thing if breathing stops on its own, but you on your part should continue to strive. You should spare nothing from your side. Don't spare even a little bit, because sometimes even that little bit can be decisive and fateful.
     Try to understand it this way. You are trying to break a padlock with a hammer. You have applied 99 powerful strokes and the lock refuses to break. And now, being tired, you apply the 100th stroke very mildly. But the lock breaks down with this mild stroke. So sometimes very small things prove to be the deciding factor; sometimes only a straw becomes decisive. Let it not be said that you did everything and yet missed the target by an inch. Whether you miss it by an inch or by a mile, it is the same. If you miss it, you miss it wholly.
     It is always the last straw that makes the difference between those who make it and those who don't.

     When your mind senses imminent danger and panics, know that it is the most decisive and the precious moment of meditation – the moment of fulfillment. As long as there is no danger, the mind will ask you to carry on, but as soon as you come close to danger– which is the boiling point – your mind will ask you to stop immediately. The mind will say you have already exerted your utmost, now there is no energy left to proceed any further.
     Beware of your mind when this decisive moment arrives. It is precisely the moment when you have to bring all your energy into action. If you miss that moment you may miss for years. Sometimes it takes years to reach the 99th degree temperature. And sometimes you miss it almost when you have touched the hundredth degree mark. And you miss it for very petty things.
     So do not spare yourself; otherwise you will miss.

What if the blood vessels are damaged because of too much strain?

     If you worry about your blood vessels, know for sure that you are going to die in a state of ignorance. What will you do after you have saved your blood vessels? Our difficulty is that we are always worrying about things that are of no consequence to us.

In fact, if we have only a little, how can we afford to lose it?

     I wonder if you have even that little which is worth saving. If you really had, you would not be afraid of losing it. You don't have even that much. You are like a naked man who is afraid of losing his clothes. Get rid of such fears.
     I don't mean to say that your blood vessels are going to be actually damaged. And if they are going to be damaged it will be because of your fear and not because of meditation. Fear will certainly destroy them; it is really fear that damages your blood vessels and many other things. But we are not afraid on that score; we do not fear our fear.

     If you are afraid, if you are anxious, if you are tense, your blood vessels along with many other things will be damaged for this very reason. But we are not afraid on account of it. We are afraid of meditation, which does not damage a thing. On the contrary, it will repair all damages that have already happened to you.
Deep,fast,chaotic breathing      We cling to our fears, and we take refuge in them. And we go on saying: What if this or that happens? So we do everything to run away from meditation. If it is so, I will say: Why go at all? This fear, this hesitancy, this conflict is dangerous. Then don't go near it, be finished with it for good.
     But we are ambivalent; we want to do both . We want to meditate and at the same time we want to run away from it. And then this conflict really destroys us. Then we are unnecessarily in a mess. Thousands of people are unnecessarily in a mess; they want to find God and at the same time they are afraid lest he should confront them any day. This double bind, this split mind is the problem. All our difficulty is that one part of our mind wants to do a thing and another part does not want to do it. Doubt and conflict have become our very breath. It never happens that what we want to do, we want absolutely. The day it will be so, there will be nothing that will come in your way. That day your life will acquire a dynamism that you have never known.
     Blood vessels are not going to be really damaged. It has never happened in the past. It will be an extraordinary event if you make it happen. You will set a new record!

Osho: "In Search of the Miraculous"

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