Breath seems to have fascinated Humans for as long as they have been… breathing! In Jin Shin Jyutsu it is of central importance, as we say things like “Breath is the ultimate Healer” and “Everything is in the Breath”.
Here you’ll find some reflections on the breath, both in text you can download and in a video that includes a practical exercise to help experience first hand the sense that the affirmation “Everything is in the Breath” makes.
A brief note on accents to avoid any confusion: Depending on what part of the world we met in, you may have heard me sound more British or more American. Sometimes people who have heard me both ways wonder wich one is the “real me”. Well, both are! When I started learning English at age nine, great attention was fortunately paid to pronunciation, and the accent then was British. Later I spent much time in the US as many of you know, and being a “language chameleon” is just part of who I am. So here we’re going more British.
Everything is in the Breath
One thing about Breath that seems to have intrigued Humans for as long as they have been breathing is that Breath is at once quite concrete and intangible. It happens to the body, it is essential to its life and survival. It varies with our every impulse and activity. It responds to the tiniest change in the moment. What we are really saying is that the movement that revolves around the Breath – breathing – can be felt and observed.
Breath itself, however, is elusive; it is not a thing. The description of the air we breathe that most of us will have learned in school – a gaseous mix of 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxigen and a tiny proportion of steam, noble gases and CO2 – would have been of little interest to the Ancients. Not breathing, not the air we breathe, but Breath itself: what is it!
In all cultures we know of, Breath seems to have been synonymous with the invisible Life Force that animates the Human Being. Only after a mechanical view equating the Human Being with the body had taken over did it no longer seem possible to refer to Breath as something that is ”inspired into us“. The body is, therefore it breathes. When it no longer does, it is dead. Period, right?
In order to make Mary Burmeister’s sentence ”Everything is in the Breath“ come alive for us, we are interested in the Breath as movement. Jin Shin Jyutsu talks of Breath as two things, the big ”Breath of Life“ and the little ”breath of life“. So we’ll be interested in two kinds of movement as well: physical movement generated in the body in many ways by breath and by breathing, and movement of energy. Both descend and ascend.
The downward movement gives things their weight. It helps us land and settle down. The more we do, the more we inhabit the space inside our body. The exhalation accompanies the downward motion and makes it progressively more tangible and sensible. Once the body is deeply familiar with this sensation, we start recognizing the quality of natural ”weightedness” in other areas of life as well: in words that carry weight, in actions that simply carry their natural weight.
The upward movement gives things their lightness. The upward movement can be increasingly effortless and complete if we have settled into natural weight in the Breath’s first movement. Exhaling frees things only from their heaviness, while it leaves them their weight. Ascending energy, borne and guided by the inhalation, permeates everything solid and dense with a new, delicate aliveness, thus carrying transformation and renewal into all that has taken form.
When we grasp how the Breath represents the two fundamental principles of Forming and Transforming, Mary’s sentence makes sense. Once we take it a step further and have our sensory awareness focussed on the Breath anchor these principles as our own bodily experience, as we land more and more fully in the body itself and become more and more permeable there, the sentence becomes a reality for us! It begins to show transformational results in our own lives.