Happy Breathing by William Bloom

Happy Breathing by William Bloom

02.1.2019 vicky 99

Please don’t be shocked by this question: what is the connection between poo and nirvana? Or to put it another way, what is the connection between the state of your gut and spiritual wisdom?

If you are up-to-speed with developments in medicine you will know that there is substantial evidence now for the health connection between the lower intestine and the brain. This is so well evidenced that some hospitals are performing poo transplants, replacing unhealthy with healthy faeces. The condition of the gut is implicated in so many illnesses. Some of them are obvious, such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and cancer. Some are more unexpected such as autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other mental health conditions.

Spiritual traditions have known about the gut’s importance for millennia. You can see it expressed in drawings and sculptures of many goddess figures and Buddhas. These images show a contented being with a large but very comfortable belly.

In most traditions of meditation,
self-healing and internal martial
arts, there is clear guidance to be at
ease in our abdomens – to ground,
centre and earth our bodies. When
we do this, our stomachs relax and
sink. There is a shift in our physical
and mental states. We become calm
in our bodies. Our centre of gravity
drops down into our abdomen and
is no longer in the chest or head.
The feeling is good and comfortable.
From this stable and agreeable state
we can then meditate and do our
spiritual practices more effectively.

The teaching is always the same.
Be centred and at ease in your body.
In martial arts and classical Japanese
medicine there is a single word for this
state – hara. To be in hara means to be
grounded down in your body and at
the same time kind and mindful.

All of this points to a very clear
traditional understanding of mind-
body-spirit integration.

This connection between the gut
and our psychological state is so clearly
demonstrated in anxiety and tension.
When we are anxious our gut is tense,
acidic and its microbes unbalanced.
Our heartbeat is not integrated. Our
breath is uncomfortable. Our brains
are over-stimulated and it is difficult to
think straight. We may sweat or shake
or feel nauseous.

Most spiritual traditions teach the same quick and efficient way to manage that horrible state. It is very simple: belly breaths. These are soft, slow and calm breaths down into the abdomen. Just two or three soft breaths
can work wonders.

These gentle abdominal breaths
send reassuring messages through
our neuro-endocrinal system. They
are a signal that we are in control
and consciously self-managing. Get
your abdomen to be at ease – and it
will ripple through your whole body,
calming your heart, breath and brain.

But for me there is more to it than just the physical and mental wellbeing. There is also an important spiritual dimension. This is the crucial concept that the spiritual purpose of being human is to manifest love and compassion, and to become fully mindful and conscious. I am sure that many readers align with this philosophy: we are here to embody love.

And one thing is certain. If we are a
bag of nerves, dealing with the frantic
arousals of survival and anxiety, we
cannot fulfil this spiritual purpose.
On the contrary, we need a calm
foundation, a gut that is at peace.

Our bodies need to be at ease so
that we are oases of calm and blessing
in a wounded world. So whenever
you can and whenever you need,
remember the universal strategy
taught for millennia across the world:
Gentle, slow, soft breaths down into
the belly. Just two or three soft breaths
can shift the mood. This is good for
your health, your spiritual growth and
everyone around you.

Happy breathing.


This article was featured in the Summer 2018 Cygnus Review

Happy Breathing by William Bloom