When searching for sustainable happiness in modern society, we can encounter so many obstacles that for most people, it appears impossible to accomplish. Interestingly enough, for indigenous societies that are still in touch with their cultural heritage, happiness is a prevailing component of their daily lives. For the past fifteen years living amongst the native tribes of the Amazon and the Andes, I have come across some of the most materially poor people, and yet these were some of the happiest people I have ever met. This observation inspired me to want to learn from the way of life these people embody. It also significantly changed my own perspective of what true happiness really is.
While the modern world has devoted a tremendous amount of effort, time and resources to the empirical exploration of the universe at large, the indigenous traditions focus on the inner science of happiness. They have dedicated many generations to learning how to live life to its fullest while cultivating the greatest potential of well being that a human is capable of.
Today, I would like to share a teaching known as the Wave of Breath. In the Amazon, this is thought to be an essential life-giving vessel of transformation. Within many archaic languages, including Andean Quechua, Amazonian Quechua, Tibetan, Aramaic, Latin, Greek, Hawaiian and others, the word for “breath” is the same word that is used to describe life, spirit, and soul. Breath is something we may often take for granted and yet it is acknowledged in all ancient traditions for its magical and healing properties that bridge together the physical and spiritual realms of existence.
It is intangible and yet without it, life in our physical organism would not be possible. From the Western perspective, breath can be both conscious during the waking life and unconscious during sleep. In that way, it is a vital link that can help tap into the subconscious – and ultimately, the superconscious. Even a simple act such as taking a deep breath in a stressful or overwhelming moment can make a big difference in one’s ability to gracefully handle all those situations of wear and tear in daily life. The ancestors learned to appreciate breath so much that it allowed them to enhance the quality of their existence in ways that we today may not even begin to conceive.
As a vehicle of consciousness, breath is irreplaceable in its ability to ride the waves of emotions, sensations, feelings and thoughts without being overwhelmed by them. Rather than trying to find the essence of who one is in the barrage of mental conditioning, or the impermanence of emotional turmoil, the indigenous people establish a heart-centered presence of peaceful being in the breath of life.
Some of the breath workshops and practices that we, at Paititi Institute share, have been instrumental for many westerners, in resolving chronic pains, healing dis-eases, and also simply finding the potential for brilliantly compassionate and blissful states of being.
Here’s a living example. The Yanomami indigenous people of the lower Amazonian basin observed what happens when a deer is chased by a jaguar. If the deer is able to escape from that very stressful and anxious life-threatening situation, it goes through some very interesting breathing and movement patterns. After completing a particular rhythmic breath-work pattern accompanyied by vibrational movements, the deer can go about its happy deer life without being scarred by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The indigenous people thus recognized that memory is not only something that is stored in the brain – there is actually a much greater memory bank in our organism. This is the cellular memory that is absorbed throughout the body.
While animals release accumulated stress and trauma using this innate breathing protocol, modern man is a different story altogether. Many of us have become so distanced from the psychosomatic wisdom of the organism that we need to be urged into such exercises for the healing to take place.
The first and the most essential step in conscious breathing does not require a specific technique. Simply become more aware of your breath throughout life as often as possible. Rather than avoiding tensions, pains, uncomfortable sensations and disturbing emotions, breathing calmly into these challenges can usher in greater well-being and restful presence. Avoiding, denying and negating the issues in life only brings about greater tension and prohibits the organism from healing. While pushing something away on the psychological level, the body also stops supplying essential oxygen, blood circulation and healing agents that are needed to help heal and reintegrate the issue into the greater whole. This same state of separation and denial is seen as the cause of all suffering in the ancient cultures we work with. The breath that weaves the heart-centered presence into life is the primordial key to happiness.
In our previous article about the Wave of Remembrance, the homework involved remembering and anchoring yourself in the happiest memories of life. If you have had the opportunity to practice and recreate these original states of well being in the present moment of your life, it is time for phase two.
Start writing down all the challenging, difficult and traumatic memories from your past in a special notebook you dedicate to the Sacred Science of Remembrance. Especially outline the situations from your life where you feel there may still be a negative emotional charge that has not been fully processed, integrated, forgiven and released.
From those outlines, pick one that you are most ready to begin working with. Find a quiet place, get comfortable and start the practice. Breathing in, remember all the details of that situation. Breathing out, allow yourself to feel everything you felt at that time. Let that negative emotional charge be reabsorbed into the original heart-centered happy state of empathy and compassion for yourself and others.
Where in the past the difficult situations were experienced from a victim state, it is now possible to experience those situations once again from a state of active compassion, forgiving yourself and forgiving others. This allows for a much more empowered state of being to resurface in one’s life with the recognition that it is the same ignorance, present within everyone, that is the cause of harmful actions and suffering. This perspective allows for a deep breath of forgiveness and the wish for happiness within oneself and others.
I hope you receive benefit from this inner skill.
We are very inspired to share these immersive healing practices in our healing center in Peru, during our as well as through DVDs and online media for people to practice in the comfort of their own homes.