Our task must be to free ourselves . . . by widening our circle of
compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
I used these photos to illustrate this post because the animals are all engaged in play with obvious breath actions. Felines do it really well. The mama lion is playing with her cubs, the gibbon baby is playing with his father, and two baby snow leopards are rough-housing. Breath is about movement, laughter and play. In can also be about crying, release of stress, and sorrow. Breath is all manner of living and life!
When chanting, experiment with different breath patterns.
- Are you breathing into your diaphragm?
- Your upper chest?
- Your pelvic area?
- Your toes?
- Are you breathing with your mouth?
- Your nose?
- Do you draw the syllables out in one breath?
- Or many?
- Do you chant on the breath in?
- The breath out?
Hazrat Inayat Khan was a Sufi mystic who lived from 1882 until 1927. His mission in life was to bring together or “harmonize” the traditions of East and West through the agency of music. In his book, The Music of Life (Omega Publications, 2005; 206) he discusses why a musical meditation using sacred symbols is so powerful; “Breath runs through all three: body, mind and soul. Seeing from this point of view, one will realize that man has never been separated from God that with every breath man touches God. He is linked with God by the current of breath.”
Below, I re-state Khan’s quote, substituting the spiritual concepts of “humanity” for “man” and “YHVH (Ya-hu-ah)” for “God.” The pronunciation I use for YHVH (Ya-hu-ah) is based on the spiritual knowledge of using prominent power syllables to form the name of divinity. Cross-culturally and throughout the ancient world, names of the divine were created by using power syllables. The pronunciation I use is not correct according to rules of Hebrew grammar. Although there is much argument about the correct pronunciation of YHVH, it is generally agreed that according to Hebrew rules it would be something akin to Yah-weh. This is a good example of how manifest earthly knowledge and spiritual knowledge can appear different and yet both be correct.
Here is my restatement, a divergent translation of his words; Breath runs through all three; body, mind and soul. Seeing from this point of view, one will realize that humanity has never been separated from YHVH (Ya-hu-ah) that with every breath humanity touches YHVH (Ya-hu-ah). Humanity is intertwined with YHVH (Ya-hu-ah) through the current of breath.
A Kabbalist axiom expresses this same concept using different expression:
י ח ו ח“He who can rightly pronounce it, causeth heaven and earth to tremble, for it is the NAME which rusheth through the universe.”
In my book One Gods: The Mystic Pagan’s Guide to the Bible I go deeper into these concepts and discuss more chants. You can help me in getting in this published at my indiegogo link at the side of my home page.
(Quote appears on the title page of The Hebraic Tongue Restored by Fabre d’Olivet, Samuel Weiser, Inc. first printed, 1921, reprinted 1976)
As pointed out by David Tame who has written extensively about music; “Life and matter was created through a sacred word or words spoken by the first god or gods in the myths of the Hebrews, the Celts, the Chinese, the Egyptians, the American Indians and the Quechua Maya.”[i]
In Genesis:the LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth.
He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7-8
In the Rig Veda:“The One [tad ekam] breathed windlessly and self-sustaining. There was one then, and there was no other.”[ii]
In Egypt:“Ra emerged from the Watery Abyss and then all things came into being out of the words of his mouth.”[iii]
In Norse mythology, Ymir is a primordial giant, born when Mist World and Fire World come together. Ymir is known as the “roarer.” In other words, he is one who breathes (and so speaks) really loudly.
In Hawaiian mythos, the world is “chanted into being.” Breath, as the essence of life, is so important to Hawaiian culture that power sounds are incorporated into everyday speech; most prominently in their word of greeting, Aloha. “Alo” means “in the presence of” and “Ha” is the breath of life, that sacred breath we all share.
[i] Tame, David, The Secret Power of Music, Destiny Books, 1984; 206.
[ii] Eliade, Primitives; 110. The translation is by A.L. Basham. Tad ekam is noted as ‘That One’ who ‘breathes without air.
[iii] Bierlein, JF, Parallel Myths, NY: Ballantine Books, 1994; 51.
What are the essentials one needs to live? Most people would answer food, shelter and clothing. All true, but a person can go for a long time without shelter or clothing (depending on the environment), weeks without food, less without water. But the time one can go without breath is measured in minutes. The element needed to create sentient life is breath which is the vibratory animating essence. Breath is equated with the wind and with speech. In order to speak, our breath needs to vibrate the air across our vocal chords. Indeed breath and words are inexorably connected. Unless we draw a breath, we cannot speak.
In the act of creation, god sends a great wind or in the King James Bible, “the Spirit of God moved.” Other translations speak about God’s spirit as hovering or fluttering and then god speaks:
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Genesis 1:2-3
The wind is “elohim’s breath” or more familiarly “god’s spoken word” that stirs the waters. My favorite way to think about it is that “god is singing” life into being. Breath and sacred word come together as song (or chant) and vibration.
Job and nature teaches us, “Ask the fowls and they shall tell thee.”
I used this photo with this material because of the importance of breath. As the quote from Job that I’ve been using states: “Ask now the beasts . . .” This lion (also used in my header) is exhibiting excellent breath.
I had material leading up to this Biblical Chant which I will have to rebuild. I had discussed the importance of breath and how sacred syllables form the basis of the names of divinity and offer us an opportunity to connect within our bodies to these same energies. In the meantime, though, for those following this blog I will redo this chant.
The sacred syllables of power I discussed were ah, ha, el, al, la, hu and ya. To review: The western term Hallelujah in its original form is AL-LA-HU-YA which literally means “praise Ya.” Ya is a shorthand of YVHV. Different Bibles translate this differently. It is often seen as “Praise the LORD” or “praise God.” Here Hallelujah as praise is used in Psalm 150:1, the King James Bible:Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
Ha-lu-ya, Ha-lu-el, Ha-lu-hu
This creates a wonderful and very powerful chant, which I might add, comes directly from the Bible. When doing this chant be sure to sit or stand in a comfortable position with a straight spine. Take deep breaths.
- Breath in
- Breath out: Ha-lu-ya
- Breath in
- Breath out: Ha-lu-el
- Breath in
- Breath out: Ha-lu-hu
Repeat at least 5-10 times. ENJOY!