The Slow Breath

Tony Crisp has taught methods of stress release to hundreds of people internationally. He has been recognised as having developed innovative methods of releasing deeply interior tensions. See Biographical Notes

The aim of the ‘slow breath’ method is to breathe naturally-abdominally-but to breathe as slowly as comfort allows. It must be comfortable, however, as the aim is to induce quiet of mind and emotions, and if you are struggling with the method it defeats its own purpose. So there must be no gasping for breath because you are breathing too slowly. Find a rhythm that is slow but not making you out of breath.

Therefore, slowly breathe in counting to see how long this takes. Then exhale to the same count. There is no need to concentrate on anything except the beautiful slowness of the breath. This takes practice, so do not hope to find the great quietness right away.

You need to use this slow breathing for at least 15 to 20 minutes each day, longer if you can manage it. Keep the practice running daily for three months. This insures real physical and mental changes. It also puts in place new habits, meaning that after that period you will find you will be breathing more slowly as a natural rather than induced pattern.

You must realise that you are gradually changing very deeply seated habits that have been with you a lifetime. Taking hold of the breath and controlling it is like taking hold of your nervous system, or body, and gradually altering the way it responds to events and thoughts. It is a bit like taking a wild animal and gently taming it. There should be no force or conflict involved. Gradually you will see that your way of dealing with, or responding to, difficult emotions, fears and stressful events, is changing. You feel more able to meet difficulties, allowing you to grow as a person, and be more creative.

With practice, one should begin to experience a dropping away of tension, disturbed emotions and thoughts. Sometimes it will feel as if something has literally fallen away from you, or as if the bottom of the spine is opening as the tensions there drop away. Eventually you will glimpse something that can only be described as a void or absence of all personal activity. There is a quiet peace and bliss in this, but it will at first only be flashes, secondary glimpses, growing gradually longer. This is achieved when all efforts and desires drop away – never by striving after it. By surrendering to this quietness you will be cleansed by it first – then it acts upon you producing growth of inner awareness.

The result upon your nervous or emotional conflicts is one of gradual calming, cleansing and leading towards peace. While we may find ease from tensions within months, such personality growths should be hoped for only in the sense of years. Like trees, we grow slowly, but there is beauty in it.

One of the greatest of Chinese methods of personal transformation suggests the slow breath as it basic technique. This is explained in the book The Secret of the Golden Flower. The aim is to gradually return one to the pristine awareness you were born with, free of the encumbering cultural traits and beliefs taken on during culturation and education.

Example: My breathing gradually slowed at this point, and I could experience the changes this made. It felt that by slowing the breathing my awareness sank slowly beneath the frantic chopping waves of thought and feelings that are so much a part of our daily life. A level of my own existence beneath the surface was reached. The experience was also a bit like pulling back from awareness of one part of the body, such as a fingertip, and becoming aware of the whole body. I use this analogy to suggest that through the slow breathing we pull back from focused awareness of our individual self, to become more aware of a more inclusive consciousness.

I experienced a huge ocean of love at this deeper level. Whatever we experience of love personally, I could see that it was a tiny part of this ocean expressed in our life. There seemed no need to worry about whether it was one’s own love, whether one was capable of love. This seemed pointless. We are not capable of love. There is no love of or our own. By trying to claim it, the saying I love you, seemed ridiculous and limiting. The love belongs to life, it is not ours personally. Because we don’t own it, there is no need to be possessive. All we need do is to allow it to flow through us. Blocking it creates pain and sickness. And for goodness sake do not put a price on it. Do not sell it! It isn’t yours. If you sell it you will need to repay the source.

Example: This led to me holding my breath for quite long periods and observing what I felt. In other sessions holding the breath had led to feelings of intense quietness or being merged in the one life. This time it was an experience of lifting my awareness beyond everyday thinking. An experience of expanding, of lifting beyond what had been everyday. But with it there was the feeling perhaps like a lighter than air balloon that rises, but after a short time it hits the ceiling or something preventing it rising or expanding further. So I felt as if I had hit a ceiling. I didn’t want to fall back, but hadn’t yet found a way to rise beyond the present ceiling. I want to break through into the next level.

With this experience came the observation that although the breath holding had brought this expanding or rising sense of myself, like so many other things, once the thing was seen clearly, one could achieve the same end by intention without the physically descriptive act of holding the breath. What I mean by this is that at some time one might have shifted from a mood of depression by dancing. One could believe that one could only make such a move by dancing. But in fact once one realises that a mood shift is possible, one can use other tools, or simply see how the shift occurs and use one’s will or intention to do the same thing.

To carry on from this practice see

The 1-4-2 Method of Breathing

With any method of controlling the breathe and holding it, it causes a build up of carbon dioxide. As can be seen in recent video’s of ways of controlling anxiety and panic attacks, a breathing in and out of a paper or plastic bag is suggested. This is because we breathe out carbon dioxide and so taking in what we breath out we build up our intake of it. As carbon dioxide decreases anxiety and panic it is very useful to be able to do this.

But a much better way of doing this with much deeper results is the held breath. As said above, you must realise that you are gradually changing very deeply seated habits that have been with you a lifetime. Taking hold of the breath and controlling it is like taking hold of your nervous system, or body, and gradually altering the way it responds to events and thoughts. It is a bit like taking a wild animal and gently taming it.

The method is called 1-4-2 because you start with an in-breath that you count. So if you started with an in-breath that took a count of 5 you then hold your breath for a count of 20 – that is four times the length of the in-breath. You then breath out slowly for a count of 10 – which is half the count of the held breath. Therefore a 1-4-2 count. So if your in breath took a count of 10, four times that is 40, and half of that is 20.

To really get the results from this you must start at a low count until you are used to it, and there should be no struggle to hold your breath, only lengthening the count as you find it easy. Start with 10 minutes of the technique and work up to 20 minutes. It will really work if you do this for twenty minutes day. You will need to keep it up for three months then you will notice real change.

This is so far the best way of dealing with stress I have used. In meeting people in the media who face a lot of stress they have told me this is a lifesaver for them.

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