When I was young, my grandmother taught me a practice called “breathing color” as a tool for healing and settling in. She was my first spiritual teacher, from whom I learned to meditate and to attend to the spiritual side of reality as a part of daily living and color breathing became one of the tools I called on regularly in those early years. The practice had to do with imagining a particular color, say turquoise, and then breathing it into the part of the body that was having difficulty. That was the whole practice—choosing the color that resonated with whatever needed to be healed. There was also a book called “Color Healing” that I read as a young person and I notice that on Amazon there is now a book called “Colour Healing Manual: The Complete Colour Healing Therapy Programme Revised Edition, by Pauline Wills. This may be an update of the original book, although the one I read was published sometime in the 1950’s or earlier, I believe. I was reminded of “breathing color” as I read a book called “Heart Intelligence: Connecting With the Intuitive Guidance of the Heart”, by Doc Childre and Howard Martin. They represent the HeartMath Institute, which is worth exploring if you haven’t heard of it before.
One of the practices that Doc Childre describes in “Heart Intelligence” is “breathing ease”. In this practice, you breathe the essence of ease into yourself by breathing in and out through your heart. It’s not unlike the practice of Tonglen that I’ve described a number of times, only with “breathing ease” you focus solely on ease with both the in-breath and the out-breath. With Tonglen, you begin with some aspect of suffering on the in-breath, and allow the fire of love in your heart to transform the suffering into compassion, ease, peace, or some other comforting and settling quality which you then breathe out into yourself and the world.
For this week’s experiment, I invite you to bring a process of “breathing ease” into your day in whatever way it makes sense to you. You might tap into an image that elicits a sense of ease in you and breathe in the essence of that image. You might imagine a color that represents ease and breathe the color into your whole body-mind being. You might touch into the felt-sense of ease and breathe that in, or whatever way “breathing ease” makes sense to you. A key element of this practice is to breathe in and out through your heart. When you breathe through your heart, you’ll find that you may automatically begin to settle. Then, as you breathe the ease into your whole body-mind being on the out-breath, you can settle even more.
“Breathing ease” can become one way to manage everyday stresses. Also, there are many qualities you can “breathe”, just as there were many colors I learned about in color breathing. What makes the difference in this particular practice is to remember to focus on your heart as you breathe. In my own practice, I have developed a habit of automatically focusing on my heart whenever I breathe consciously, as I’ve found it so reliably settling that it has become a true companion for me as part of my everyday life.
As with all these experiments, remember that there are no right ways to do any of them. They are each an invitation to explore how to engage an internal quality of life that best supports you. Remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to watch judgments arise, move through, and move on without your having to do anything about them.