I light a few leaves of sage and put them into a small ceramic bowl. I cup the smoke in my hands and draw it into my face, over the crown of my head and into my chest. I imagine the smoke dragging slowly through my energy field like a delicate fishing net, capturing and pulling away any muck or funk I may have picked up along the way. The smell, wild and ancient, cuts through the humdrum air of my room like a sharp stone arrowhead and immediately carves out a new texture to the space I am in, both my room and my awareness. A second awareness is awakened in my being, one garmented in ceremonial memories and heartfelt connection to the great spirit; the awareness that seems to lie mostly dormant, or sealed in armor, throughout the BUZZING of harried daily activity. The smoke tells my body that it is okay to begin the process of letting my boundaries dissolve. My diaphragm loosens, my shoulders resist gravity a little less, the bones in my feet incrementally spread to the floor and my attention closes out the fray of the world and turns inward.
I focus on my breath. I focus my inner vision on the point between my eyebrows and see a faint circular glow. My muscles remember the breathing exercise, so it just begins to happen. There is a tight waveband of electrical current that buzzes through my chest area when I begin. The intensity of the current is directly linked to the frequency of thoughts firing through my consciousness, which is linked to my ability to remain focused on the circular glow at the point between my eyebrows. The more intense the current, the more frenetic the onslaught of thoughts. The more thoughts, the less I can hold my focus on the spot, or on anything. When I achieve a satisfactory ability to focus, or CLARITY, I notice that ability is accompanied by a felt-sense of peacefulness, contentment, sometimes bliss, tapped in creativity, and a confidence in my ability to contact my environment with organized intent. The breathing exercise reduces the intensity of the current in my chest, which slows down the pinballing thought activity, and brings me to a place where my sense of aliveness in relation to the world shifts from intimidating, to exciting and enjoyable. I can best describe this transformation through breath as a slow release of chaotic energy as well as a gathering of harmonious energy. As I fill my energetic body with fresh breath, infused with the intent to achieve clarity, I let go of the chaotic energy that I have consumed from the environment, or manufactured through some unknown process of my own, leaving me clear, calm and ready to act.
When I have thinned out the bullrush of thoughts. My focus can come to longer periods of undisturbed rest on the breath itself. Here the experiencing of breath both becomes clearer and more elusive at the same time. I am intermittently, NOT manufacturing the sublime energy of the breath into patterns of fixed thought, so I just experience it. Contours of meaning blur and fade. Each breath seems to take on a color. The color somehow resembles sweetness. The kind of sweetness only evoked by a song or an ancient hymn. The hymn has an expansiveness that settles into my cells and implants a sensation. The sensation is a gentle pulsing rhythm with faint undertones of bliss. The rhythm seems to be created by me stepping in and out of the unfathomable, even for just a moment. The unfathomable is the place where words and meaning have no shape, but a place that I KNOW I must go to to make meaning out of my life. Breath is a vehicle that can take me there.
Alex Stickler is a high school teacher and a student of Somatic Psychology at CIIS in San Francisco. He also enjoys getting wildly high and purging repeatedly in sacred plant meditation ceremonies.