The year in review
I began the Breath and Water Club last year, as we left town for the winter for the first time, our 5th wheel trailer in tow. And now it’s come around again, time to leave town for the winter. Wow. Seems like a good time for a review.
Here’s how it all began
I’d been writing a newsletter, Signal Fire, for some years. Once I knew that my home would be a traveling trailer, I thought I’d send shorter and more frequent newsletters, which I named Firefly. It was in Firefly #5, which was sent in December 2004, that I first suggested the Breath and Water Club.
Here’s what I said:
“Some of you may remember the following suggestion I gave in my classes. Drink 8 glasses of water a day and breathe for 15 minutes twice a day. Do that for 6 months and your life will change in ways you never dreamed of.
“In all the years I suggested that, only 3 people took me up on it and completed the entire six months. Each of them experienced amazing changes is their life. In employment, in attitude, in relationships, in income – everything. I myself never managed to complete 6 months of the regimen. But I’ve started again, and I’m hopeful I can make breathing for 15 minutes twice a day and drinking 8 glasses of water a part of my daily routine.
“Would you care to join me? We can have a club.”
You did join me, and we do have a club.
Here’s a review of what we’ve done and what we’ve said during the past year. As usual, notes from you are marked with and asterisk * and are in italic. Everything else (except some of the headings) is pulled directly from the newsletters.
What is the Breath and Water Club?
The Breath and Water Club is a support group of sorts for people who want to:
drink 8 glasses of water per day
breathe for 15 minutes twice a day
do so for 6 months
How do you begin the practice?
First of all, if you don't have a kitchen timer, get one. It is way easier to breathe for 15 minutes if you don't have to think about how long you've been doing it or how many minutes you have left.
Then begin slowly. No need to begin with 15 minutes of Intentional Breathing if you haven't been doing any. Start with 3 minutes, or 6, or any number. Add one minute a day or every other day until you're up to 15. Same with water. If you've been only drinking a glass or two a day, just add a glass every day or two until you're up to 8-10.
Here's what happens to me. I sit down to breathe and pretty soon I'm making a mental list of what I have to do that day or for the rest of my life. Then I think of a great idea for a newsletter. Then I remember that my mother's birthday is coming up. And so on. Each time I find my mind busy with something, I just return to the feeling of my body, the feeling that breathing brings. Usually after a minute or two, my mind settles down and I can just breathe.
We used awareness
Usually, our habitual patterns of breathing have us using only part of our lung capacity. Do you have an anatomy book? Look at the lungs. Our lungs are quite large, they are meant to fill our entire chest cavity. Do you know that your lungs reach all the way up to your collarbone? On the right, our lungs have three lobes (like sacks, waiting to be filled with breath). We have two lobes on the left because our heart takes up some space there.
During the day, try to notice how you breathe. Do you use just the top of your lungs? The bottom? What part of your chest expands when you breathe? Just the front? Does your chest expand to the back? The sides? Pay attention and notice how you breathe. When you sit twice a day to breathe, you can practice using more and more of your lung capacity.
We practiced several techniques
This was the first one. Remember?
The Hug Your Heart Breath
Your heart (which is contained within its own sack, the pericardium) is nestled within the lobes of your left lung and is also touched by the lobes of your right lung. When you inflate your lungs completely, they press on your heart. Your heart is surrounded by the touch of your lungs. I think of this as hugging your heart, and it feels good. When you don't breathe completely, your heart is left alone, unhugged.
For the first 5 minutes of your daily practice, try the Hug Your Heart Breath. Fill your lungs completely. See if you can get a sense of your lungs pressing around your heart. The heart knows the touch of the lungs, and knows when it is not present. Which it too seldom is. Little shallow breaths do not allow your lungs to touch your heart.
Many of us have experienced a yearning to be connected, to be known, to be received. That yearning is a thing of the heart. It is a multi-leveled yearning, and it has a physical component—the heart yearning for the touch of the lungs. The Hug Your Heart Breath will teach you that connection is possible and that your yearning can be met.
This is a particularly useful breath for people who struggle with feelings of abandonment, neglect, or aloneness.
Then we reversed it
Here's a breath to try. Typically, we think of our breathing as beginning with inhalation, followed by exhalation. Try reversing the order. During your 15 minutes of breathing, but not necessarily during the entire time, begin the cycle of breath with exhaling. Exhale inhale, exhale inhale, exhale inhale.
Breathing in this new way can be tiring. Don't force it. Do it only for as long as it is comfortable.
And we switched it…
Consider this. You have a dominant hand. In other words, you're either left-handed or right-handed. You also have a dominant eye. You tend to use one eye more than the other, to look first with one eye before the other. You probably have a dominant step. When you start off walking, you most often begin with the same foot.
…with awareness And you have a dominant nostril. This particular dominance, however, can change with the time of day. So, notice. Several times during the day, notice which nostril is most open. When you wake up, notice. As you fall asleep, notice. When you're relaxed and when you're tense, notice. See if you can discern a pattern.
Then try this during your 15 minutes of breathing, morning and evening. Switch nostrils. Exhale then inhale through your right nostril. Then exhale and inhale through your left nostril. Back to your right for the next breath, then again to the left. Exhale completely. Breathe in this way until you can do it easily.
Try this without using your fingers. Do this breathing with your awareness and your intent. No effort, be at ease. Keep your face relaxed, try not to scrunch up one side or the other. Of course, use your fingers to block one nostril at a time if you prefer.
We added gratitude
You're breathing for 15 minutes twice a day. Just breathing, just enjoying the benefits of your breath—Intentional Breathing. Sometimes you may be practicing the Hug Your Heart Breath, sometimes alternating nostril breathing, sometimes reverse breathing. So far so good.
Now here's something new to try. Divide your breathing minutes into three segments. If you're breathing for 15 minutes, divide the time into three five minutes segments.
Use your timer. For the first two segments of minutes, or 10 minutes, just breathe as you have been. Then for the last segment, 5 minutes, practice feeling gratitude. Do this both morning and evening.
Now, I know you're not all breathing for 15 minutes twice a day every day. Just add this gratitude piece to your practice as it is. Then reset your intent to breathe 15 minutes twice a day. Reset your intent and your determination.
We had a much wider discussion of gratitude. Do you remember 360º of Gratitude and Abundance knocks on Gratitude’s door?
See newsletter #11.
Then we added something else
You’ve divided your breathing time into three segments, and you're using the final third to practice gratitude. Here's what I want you to do with the first third of your morning minutes. Set your tone for the coming day. Decide what you want to experience in the coming hours, decide what energy you want to do your day in.
Once you've chosen the energy you want to experience in the coming hours, make a statement of intent, out-loud is useful. Then see if you can fill yourself with that energy while you breathe for 5 minutes. Set your timer.
You can also do this tone setting at night, set the tone for what you want to learn while you’re sleeping.
Add now we’ve added generosity
Here's my augmented dictionary definition of generosity "showing a readiness to give more of something, such as money or time [or attention or space or interest or kindness], than is strictly necessary or expected."
Gratitude opens your heart. An open heart allows generosity. An open heart results in generosity. An open heart delights in generosity.
Pay attention to generosity as you move through your day. Your generosity and others. Also pay attention to any inclination to be stingy, any inclination to be greedy or to hoard, any inclination to be rude. In every interaction we have an opportunity to be generous.
Think of generosity as a celebration of gratitude. Certainly you can be generous with your money. Donate to hurricane relief. Help a friend who's had some bad luck. But you can also be generous with your spirit, with your actions, with your emotions. Give the crabby clerk at the grocery store the benefit of the doubt. Drive generously. Give a buck to the guy on the corner with a sign asking for help. Listen with your heart and your attention when your kids/spouse/neighbor/friend is talking. Be generous towards yourself in your thinking. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Be generous with your love, for yourself and all others.
Practice generosity every day.
We discussed some miscellaneous concepts
There are two reasons I'm suggesting these different breathing techniques. One, we are all working to change our habitual patterns of thinking and acting. We want to let go of those patterns that no longer serve us, and create new patterns that more closely reflect the truth of who we can be. A fundamental pattern of our life is the pattern of our breath. Become aware of your habitual way of breathing, interrupt that pattern, and replace it with a way of breathing that allows for expansion. Change the pattern of your breathing, and you'll change other patterns with more ease.
There's another benefit to reverse nostril breathing. Your first attention will be occupied with keeping the reversed cycle flowing. That, accompanied with the expansion breathing brings, will allow your second attention to come forward. Your second attention can be shy, so don't go looking for it. If you do, you'll lose the reversed rhythm of breathing, and you'll chase your second attention away. It's like getting a wild bird to eat from your hand. Stand still with your hand out, breathe, and don't pay attention to the bird. Eventually, she'll come to your hand.
Your second attention is both the wellspring of your creativity and the repository of your unresolved energy. Use this reversed breath regularly for a while and you may find yourself having new insights. Give it a try and let me know how you like it.
With part of my awareness on my breath, I notice when my thinking wants to take over, and I release it by returning to my breath. With my thinking (my first attention) at ease, my insight (my second attention) has more freedom to expand.
By the way, someone asked me about the terms first and second attention. I learned them from Don Juan and Don Carlos. That’s Carlos Casteneda, author of the many Don Juan books. The first, The Teachings of Don Juan, A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, was published in the late 1960’s.
Here's another tip for staying balanced in stressful situations—keep part of your awareness on your feet. It'll keep you connected to your body, connected to Earth, and in present time.
I think omnipresence is a human trait. Actually, I think all the traits we ascribe to "God" are human traits, unclaimed human traits projected onto a being we believe can carry them.
You informed and you inspired. Read your comments and be inspired again.
*I try to add in a few minutes more breathing from time to time during the day when I’m feeling anxious. I was feeling nerved up about [something] last Monday, and the breathing helped me so much.
*Thanks for having the breath and water club! I like being a part of it. Remembering I am part of things bigger than I am reminds me that I am not alone, and helps me feel connected and supported.
*Thank you for all that you are doing. The breath, gratitude, and generosity are continuing to transform me. What joy to be in a space of wanting what you have.
*I did try the alternate nostril breathing (sans fingers), and I completely agree with you regarding how helpful it is in quieting what I call my little gerbil mind (running around the wheel).
*My breathing became much fuller with Hug Your Heart. Then I had a period of accelerated insights and associations. Also, days when 76 year-old joints are unusually fluid and ache-free even before moving around.
*I am particularly interested in observing/experiencing effects of alternate breathing, since wanting to relieve sinus and eye problems on right side. Took only a few breaths to be pleased with being able to breathe in right nostril without use of finger holding.
*It's working for me! Especially asking for a specific quality in my day, like communication. I stopped doing it for a while, but your newsletters got me back on the wagon.
*Your consistent checking in and keeping us all connected has been a very good thing. Your messages have helped me to move along the path I'm following. If you decide to continue this it would be a welcome thing in my life.
*I feel more positive about life than I have in a very long time.
Breath and Water helped you at work
*My job, which was driving me crazy, which I didn't think I could stand for another day, is now okay. Not perfect, but good enough. Nothing has changed but me, and that change I attribute to my daily practice of breathing and drinking water.
*Much to my surprise, instead of retiring, I've decided to change careers.
Breath and Water helped our bodies
*My joints don't ache nearly so much as they used to.
*I had no idea this would make such a significant difference in my life. When I was a teenager I had terrible acne. It continued to crop up from time to time. It is the water? Is it the breath? I don't know, but my face is clearer now than it has been in 25 years.
*I'm much less cranky and my joints are way less stiff since I've been drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day.
*I've always been more or less constipated. My entire adult life. Now I have regular bowel movements and good stools, soft but well-formed. Not the little deer pellets I'm used to pushing out! (God, be sure you don't use my name!) And a third thing, I'm happier. Maybe that's from the breathing, maybe from not being constipated. Who knows? All I know is I'm going to keep doing this and I want you to continue the newsletters. And thank you, Nancy.
Breath and Water and Life
*Serendipity has entered my life! There's a way that things are happening, seemingly without any effort on my part. When I look back I recognize that I'm achieving a lot of what I've desired for a long time. Sometimes I didn't know I'd desired it until I achieve it.
*Being cranky has been my curse in life. I have never been able to shake it, even though it has destroyed relationships. Drinking plenty of water and breathing twice a day seems to be the charm. When I neglect my practice, I get cranky with everyone all over again. When I'm consistent with my practice, I can't imagine what I was ever so crabby about. Nancy, I want you to know that this has changed my life.
*What can I say? I'm so in the middle of being on another level. Yeah, I haven't wanted to admit it to myself or to you that the seemingly simple addition of this Breath and Water practice to my living has transfused it. There are many specific changes and ongoing there's a kind heightening of all I've been knowing/doing/being. I do not have any sense of what next step this group might take. I'd like to be included. Thanks so much, Nancy for initiating and guiding these 6 months.
*It is GREAT to get another issue of the breath and water club. I love it all--the concept and the periodic reminders to breathe and drink water and the connection it makes me feel with other compatible souls. I have strayed from the path of the recommended practice, but I am so grateful for the reminders and it helps me do a little bit, and be grateful more and pissy less.
*The Breath and Water practice has been so helpful. In the last year I have worked at "giving birth to myself." This breathing has helped me to deliver! Thank you for the support of the newsletters and reminders to get back on the road.
*Nancy, I’m just writing to say that I really value Breath and Water #11 and the excerpt from Signal Fire of Feb. 2003. I keep a paper copy of it (them) in my journal so I can re-read frequently the important parts about gratitude.
*Dear Nancy, the practice of gratitude has had a profound impact on my life. In more ways than I can even tell you. The changes have been huge, and they've all been within me. Thank you for your wise teaching.
*Thanks for your invaluable Breath and Water messages. They are so timely with all the instability in the world at the moment. Thanks for all you do in the world, Nancy. May you have many blessings this fall.
*I'm continually struck by the simplicity and power of it. Thank you, Nancy.
We even have Breath and Water Babies!!
*I'm finally pregnant!
*I've taken two big steps in my life--I'm in graduate school and I'm pregnant. I've wanted both of these for years. Finally I took the leap. I know this practice helped me do it.
*I got pregnant right away, then I had a miscarriage. Then I spent a month during my twice a day breathing undoing the preconditions I had placed on the pregnancy--that the baby be healthy, that s/he look like me, and many others. I made my desire for a child unconditional. Now I'm pregnant again. And now I'm using my breathing time to look at the preconditions I put on all my relationships. I am determined to be open to whatever life presents. Thanks for being so available when I needed help.
Breath and Water works in mysterious ways
*"I'm breathing and drinking lots of water (green tea, too). I am feeling better in many ways and probably in ways I don't even know. Thank you for your help!"
That phrase, "and probably in ways I don't even know" brings to mind a question. I found this Yoga studio, Casa de Yoga, just down the street from the State Park where we're staying. I found it by wandering into a pottery store, which I normally wouldn't do. After all, what use is pottery to us in a 240 sq. ft. trailer where anything breakable breaks? For some reason I didn't understand, it was important to me to go into that store. That's where I found a flyer for Casa de Yoga.
Not only did I find their flyer, but they had drop-in classes for beginners. And, will wonders never cease, I actually called them up and went to a class. I love it.
Here's the question: what is the connection between my Breath and Water practice and finding the Yoga class? If I hadn't been breathing and drinking water, would I have found Casa de Yoga? Would I have gone into that pottery store? Would I have called them up and gone to that first Yoga class?
I suspect, actually I feel quite confident, that there is a direct cause and effect relationship between my Breath and Water practice and finding this particular Yoga, which, as it turns out, is just what I wanted. Now I have even more incentive to keep breathing and drinking water. Who knows what else I'll find?
Some of us, me included, got off and on the wagon plenty of times
*I keep falling off the Breath and Water wagon, but I keep getting back on. Even with my sporadic practice I can see the difference in my life, especially at work.
Me too. Some days are great – I start the day with breathing, I drink plenty of water, and I end the day with breathing. I feel good.
Some days I forget there ever was such a thing as Breath and Water.
But my uneven progression has taught me something – I feel better and my days go better when I do my breathing and drink my water. I can tell the difference.
I told a true story about time travel
It was a lovely day, many years ago. The house was clean, sun was shining, my clients had come and gone, my chores were done, and I had some free time. I was sitting on the couch in my living room, reading an article in The New Yorker, sipping a cup of tea, and feeling happy and content. Then seemingly out of nowhere, a young child shows up. Not in the flesh, but real nonetheless. “Come with me,” she says, “hurry!”
I’m glad to say that I didn’t argue, didn’t return to my reading, didn’t dismiss her as a figment of my imagination. I simply closed my eyes and followed. She led me to the playground of Holy Childhood School, where I attended first and second grades. (The irony of the name is not lost on me!)
I looked around, and there against the fence, all by herself, was a sad little girl – six year old me. I went over to her/me, and I knew right away that she was getting ready to die. Her despair was so complete that she could not continue to live. I knelt down next to her and whispered to her. She didn’t look at me as I told her that I knew it was true, her life was awful. I knew, and I was sorry. “But listen,” I said, “it’ll get better. I know that, too. You will grow up. You will survive. You will find people who love you.” She looked at me. “Yes,” I said, “it’s true. Get through this time as best as you can. Hold fast to the knowledge that you can get through it. I will be watching you – and you can talk to me.” I touched her hand, “I love you. I know you and I love you. You are a wonderful girl.”
Just then a nun came out, ringing a big hand bell. Recess was over, time to go. She/I looked at me with wide, frightened eyes. “Go on,” I said, “you can make it. Use all your strength, and always remember – you’ll grow up. It’ll get better.” Oops, here comes the nun, hands on hips, “Nancy, are you deaf? I rang the bell. Get moving. Now!”
I opened my eyes and I was back on the couch in my living room.
To this day I have no doubt that I saved my life. I traveled back in time and affected the past. If I hadn’t gone back with the child guide, if I had been too attached to my comfort to rouse myself, if I had told myself that I was just imagining – well, then I wouldn’t be here writing this. I traveled in time back to myself to give myself what I needed in order to survive my childhood.
Someone responded with her own true story
*Nancy, I just read your account of “time travel” and healing and feel compelled to share my own similar experience. I’ve kept this to myself because I didn’t think anyone else could understand it.
Over twenty years ago I was 19, alone, practically penniless, just moved to Hawaii, and just learned I was pregnant from my ex-boyfriend in Minnesota. I felt utter despair and confusion over what to do, whether to end the pregnancy. I walked along a concrete riverway and looked deep into the water. Somehow I had the intuition to connect with a future self, ten years older, to find answers. I meditated and truly felt connected to a me from another time, who assured me things would work out. It was a knowing I can’t describe. Ten years later, happily mothering two beautiful daughters, I remembered this strange communication and felt compelled to communicate the reassuring message backwards to my earlier self. Since then I have occasionally tapped into this powerful resource for guidance and have held a reverence for this timeless, mysterious self.
I’d never thought of it as time travel, though, like you, I’ve always been convinced it was real and not merely imagination. Thank you for your sharing — it helps me remember to be open to life’s Mystery.
Which brought us another concept: Travel forward in time
Thanks for the lovely story. This is a valuable tool, and I recommend it to you. Several years ago I was deciding whether or not to quit my private practice as a psychic and get a job as a heavy equipment operator. It was a tough decision. Being a psychic is my life's work, I had no doubt about that. Doing psychic readings for people always fills me with a deep sense of gratitude and a lovely serenity. On the other hand, I'd always wanted to learn how to run a backhoe. So I found my 85-year-old self and asked her. She was unequivocal. Of course take the job as a heavy equipment operator! So I did. And that’s another story!
Your daily practice
You are practicing Intentional Breathing for 15 minutes twice a day. You are drinking 8 glasses of water daily. Your 15 minutes of breathing includes 5 minutes of gratitude and 5 minutes of some other quality of energy you'd like to have in your day.
Sometimes you reverse your breath, sometimes hug your heart, and sometimes alternate nostrils.
And now you are practicing generosity in all your relationships and interactions.
And that's the year in review!