Articles & Essays

Here you will find articles, essays, and interviews related to breathing, healing, consciousness, presence, and awakening. Just click on the title to read the entire piece. Page toward the bottom for breath-related articles.

This material is Copyright © by me, Dennis Lewis. If you are interested in reprinting for commercial purposes anything you find here, please contact me for written permission. For personal sharing, just be sure to include my name and this website address.

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Awakening to the Miracle of Ordinary Life

“We are faced with a profound mystery: the mystery of ourselves here and now, on this earth. Whatever scientific or religious beliefs we may have about this mystery, about how and why we have come to be, most of us are ‘asleep’ to its unfathomable immediacy, its ‘now-ness.’ We move through our lives in a state of waking sleep, a state of psychological, cultural, and spiritual hypnosis. …”

Gurdjieff & the Further Reaches of Self-Observation

“Self-observation is a powerful method not only of self-study but also of self-change. First introduced to the West by G. I. Gurdjieff, the remarkable teacher of psycho-spiritual transformation, as part of his overall system of work on oneself, self-observation is best approached not as a technique but rather as an entirely new relationship to oneself as a living, breathing being. Self-observation as described by Gurdjieff is an intimate pathway into one’s own mind, body, and spirit. It allows us to experience new levels of self-awareness, and by so doing to live more conscious, harmonious lives. …”

Exploring Our Self Image: Opening to the Truth of Our Lives

“We all have a self-image. We all have a subjective identity fashioned over the years from the material of thought, feeling, sensation, posture, and movement. The overall image we have of ourselves, however, seldom bears any resemblance either to how others see us or to our inborn potential. As a result, most of us live stunted, illusory lives expressing only a small part of who we really are and can be. …”

The Alchemy of Consciousness

“In the great spiritual and philosophical traditions of both the East and the West, the idea of consciousness spans a vast continuum of human experience, from the profound “no-thing-ness” of deep sleep, to the faint glimmerings of subjective awareness in ordinary sleep, to the subject/object awareness of the so-called waking state, to the cosmic unity (non-duality) or emptiness of ultimate awakening. …”

The Illusion of Self

“It is no secret that we live our lives under the sway of many illusions—both about ourselves and others. There is one illusion, however, which enslaves us more than any other: the illusion of self, or ‘I.’ …”

Relaxation, Letting Go, Awakening

“For many of us, relaxation has little to do with awakening and self-realization. Instead, we mainly view relaxation, along with the various activities we undertake to achieve it, as a way to reduce fatigue and energize ourselves for what is to come, as a form of stress reduction, or simply to “unwind” and enjoy ourselves. And to be sure, these “therapeutic” views of relaxation are part and parcel of a healthy, creative, and productive life. …”

The Silence at the Heart of Being

“All the great mystical traditions speak of a miraculous silence, or emptiness, that lies at the heart of being, at the heart of the kaleidoscope of life. These traditions refer to this silence not as an absence but rather as a fullness that is beyond description, beyond the reach of human thought, a fullness that, miraculously, is the very substance of our universe. …”

Reading & Silence

“‘Today words no longer arise out of silence, through a creative act of the spirit which gives meaning to language and to the silence, but from other words, from the noise of other words. Neither do they return to the silence but into the noise of other words, to become immersed therein.’ …”

Understanding & Wholeness

“Because of the way in which we constantly identify with one or another aspect of ourselves, we find that our ideas, our knowledge, our feelings, and our sensory perceptions pull us in many different directions, without a real sense, a real understanding, of our wholeness. Nevertheless, the great teachings tell us that this understanding, the global perception of the nature and significance of our own being, is always available to us. All that is required is a kind of self-remembering, the instantaneous experience of the immediacy and openness of our own existence. …”

Real Thinking

“If there is a thread that connects human beings throughout history, it may be the thread of real thinking, the thread of heart-felt questioning about life and death, joy and suffering, and our place and destiny on this earth. Since ancient times we have looked both within and without for answers to the perplexing questions that challenge us at every breath. We have felt, perhaps instinctively, that these questions—and our search for the answers to them—are what give our lives real meaning. …”

Self-Sensing & Effortless Action

“… What is self-sensing? In simplest terms it is the turning of our attention toward our own organism in the midst of whatever we are doing–a kind of “sensory listening.” Though this definition may at first seem vague, it is possible, through simple experiments, to understand what I mean. As you read these words, for example, allow your attention to include not only the words themselves, but also the muscular tensions in your shoulders and neck. Don’t analyze, judge, or try to change these tensions; simply sense them. …”

Transforming Fear

“Fear plays an enormous role in the way we live our lives. From childhood to old age it shapes our behavior and our perceptions by imbuing certain actions, thoughts, and experiences with a “negative” emotional charge. From the fear of “the other,” to the fear of punishment, to the fear of pain, to the fear of illness, to the fear of success or failure, to the fear of censure or controversy, to the fear of our boss or our mate, to the fear of someone passing us on the street, to the fear of intimacy, to the fear of loneliness, to the fear of psychological exposure, to the fear of change and the unknown, to the fear of death, to the fear of damnation—our lives are filled with fears of every conceivable color and form. …”

Taoist Healing & Chi Nei Tsang

“What is Chi Nei Tsang? It is an educational process using various hands-on techniques – such as massage, acupressure, and guided breathing – to help people clear negative or unhealthy energies, as well as various toxins, from their internal organs, tissues, and bones, and to transform and recycle these energies to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual health. CNT also uses meditation techniques involving internal awareness of colors and sounds to aid in the detoxification and transformation process.”

The Power of Grounding: Connecting to the Earth’s Energy

“As human beings there is a part of us that finds its identity and meaning in the heavens above us. Looking up at the stars at night we resonate with the vastness of space and time that is evoked. We sense a great mystery there—a mystery that beckons us beyond the mundane concerns of everyday life. …”

The Prayer of Jesus

“In March 1993, I interviewed Father Alexander Mumrikov, a Deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church, during a visit I made to Moscow. We met at the offices of Inward Path, a magazine devoted to human development. The interview was arranged by the editor of the magazine, and was handled through an interpreter, the deputy editor of the magazine. …”

Personal Problems and Spiritual Growth

“Many of us believe that our personal problems stand in the way of awakening to who we are. Some of us even believe that self-transformation and awakening have to do with getting rid of what we perceive as our problems, of what we most fear or despise or dislike in ourselves. …”

Propaganda in a Democracy

“When Edward Bernays, proclaimed by many as the father of public relations, published his book Propaganda in 1928, few people realized the far‑reaching influence that the new discipline of public relations would have on society. Propaganda, Bernays claims, is not something pernicious that one government or group inflicts on another, but is rather an integral part of democracy itself. …”

The Lost Art of Listening

“It can be said in general that most people no longer know how to listen–either to one another or to themselves. Though most of us have ears that can hear very well, we do not actually know how to use these ears to listen. Listening has indeed become a lost art. And the results are obvious not just in education, society, business, and politics but also in the very fabric of our individual lives. …”

Some Thoughts On Happiness and Suffering

“The purpose of our lives, according to the Dalai Lama, “is to seek happiness.”* Although, most of us will agree that what we want most from our lives is happiness, we seldom think and feel and sense deeply about all that this involves. …”

Taoist Sexual Practices

“Taoist sexual practices are finding their way indiscriminately into the lives of people who have no idea either of their real purpose or of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dangers associated with them. Though these practices originally had mainly to do with the transformation of energy for spiritual development, and required many years of close study with a master, they are often being utilized today both by men and women to increase sexual endurance, pleasure, and power, and by women to reduce or even eliminate menstruation. …”

The Possibility of Self-Knowledge

“People frequently talk about the possibility of self-knowledge. Numerous books have been written on the subject, and one sees it brought up on Internet discussion groups about this or that teaching or teacher. Yet, when you look closely, you see that the subject of self-knowledge is often presented in an abstract, disembodied way, as though thinking about the inner and outer dimensions of one’s being is more important than actually experiencing them. …”

The Desire For Perfection

“Inside each of us there is a kind of experiential measuring stick, a sense of the disparity between how we actually live and the “ideals” we hold so dear. Some of these ideals are part and parcel of our own biology and essence. Some are drummed into us from the outside by family, friends, educators, society, and culture. And some may even come from something higher in ourselves. Whatever their source, however, these ideals are all mixed together with my actual experiences and perceptions and memories in this rather messy being that I call myself. …”

Breath-Related Articles

The First Step To Healthy Breathing

“The first step to healthy breathing is to become conscious of how we actually breathe. From the perspective of the world’s great spiritual traditions, our breath not only brings needed oxygen and other gases to the physical body, but it can also bring, when we are conscious of it, the finer energies (prana, chi, and so on) needed to help nourish our higher bodies–the subtle body, causal body, and so on. Whatever we may believe about our soul and spirit, our breath, and how we breathe, is intimately connected with all aspects of our being. …”

Empty Vessel Interview On Breathing with Dennis Lewis

“This interview on breathing with Dennis Lewis was first published in the Fall 2000 issue of The Empty Vessel, A Journal of Contemporary Taoism. It appeared along with an interview with David Hykes in relation to a five-day retreat (January 28-February 2, 2001) at Breitenbush Hot Springs entitled Harmonic Awareness: Listening, Breath, Sound, and Sensation. …”

Healthy Living through Free, Natural Breathing

“A powerful tool that is often overlooked in our quest to heal ourselves and to live healthier, more-conscious lives is our breathing. The quality of our breathing, of our exhalation and inhalation, reveals a great deal about our self-image, our basic stance toward life. By observing, by sensing, our breathing in the midst of action we can greatly expand our direct knowledge and awareness of ourselves. …”

The Harmony of Conscious Breathing

“Yogis, qigong practitioners, meditators, alternative health practitioners, and others have known for many years that conscious, natural breathing can help reduce stress, increase relaxation, and facilitate healing. In her groundbreaking book Molecules of Emotion, neuroscientist Candace Pert lends scientific support to this view when she tells us that bringing our attention to our breathing during meditation brings many such benefits. According to Pert, mindful breathing helps us ‘enter the mind-body conversation without judgments or opinions, releasing peptide molecules from the hindbrain to regulate breathing while unifying all systems.’ …”

A Misconception About the Diaphragm

“I recently had an unusual exchange with a couple of singers about how the diaphragm functions in relation to singing and the human voice. For whatever reason, these people believed that the diaphragm is basically a passive organ, moved down and up mainly by the movement of the lungs and the viscera. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception among many people, and has ramifications in their lives far beyond singing and speaking. Here is a short, highly simplified description of how the diaphragm actually works. …”

Learning How to Stand for Better Breathing

“Learning how to stand in relation to gravity without unnecessary tension can greatly benefit your breathing and many of the other activities of your life. This is taught in depth in chi kung and tai chi and is very important not just for healthy breathing but also for intelligent living. …”

Some Facts About Deep Breathing

“In general, the human organism was not designed to breathe deeply at all times and in all situations. The depth of our breath, whether it is shallow, medium, or deep depends in large part on what it is we are doing. If we are sitting quietly reading, for example, we do not need to be breathing deeply. If we are working hard and expending a great deal of energy, however, we might well need to breathe deeply. Another situation in which deep breathing can be beneficial is when we are trying to revitalize our energy or for special or healing exercises. …”

Chronic Hyperventilation

“Physiology books tell us that the average rate of breathing while at rest is approximately 12 to 18 times a minute (a rate which qigong and yoga practitioners, breathing therapists, and others have demonstrated is faster than it needs to be). In observing our breath, many of us may notice that we breathe even faster than this so-called average rate. …”

Are You Breathing Too Fast?

You’re walking along a beautiful beach and you find yourself filled with tension and anxiety. You’re sitting at home trying to relax and you find yourself fearful and apprehensive. You’re talking to a friend on the phone and you notice that you’re irritable and out of sorts. You’re at work and you just cannot concentrate. Time to go for psychotherapy? Not necessarily—at least not according to Dennis Lewis, the author of the highly acclaimed books The Tao of Natural Breathing, Free Your Breath, Free Your Life, Breathe Into Being, and the three-CD audio program Natural Breathing. Lewis says, “Maybe you’re breathing too fast.” …”

The Effects of Overbreathing On Health

“Carbon dioxide plays a large role in oxygen transport from the blood to the cells of the brain and body. A reduction in carbon dioxide levels brings with it reduced oxygenation of tissue and vital organs (Verigo-Bohr Effect). This can lead to many health problems. …”

The Importance of the Belly In Natural Breathing

“Though there are some who would have us believe that we should always breathe in a specific way, it is important to understand that there is no one correct depth and speed of breathing. Depending on the specific physical, emotional, and mental demands of the moment, our breathing should be able to fluctuate naturally in varying degrees from deep to shallow, and from slow to fast. Part of the ability of our breath to be able to respond appropriately and efficiently to the changing conditions of our lives depends on the involvement of our belly as we breathe. …”

Holotropic Breathwork

“People often ask me what I think of holotropic breathwork. Since I have not not undergone this work, I cannot answer from direct experience. I do, however, have a some thoughts about it, based both on reading and on discussions with people who have undergone it. I have recounted some of these thoughts in my book The Tao of Natural Breathing. …”

Slow, Rhythmical Breathing Provides Substantial Health Benefits

“I talk in my books books and elsewhere about the importance of slowing down our breathing for increased health and well-being. Though physiology text books tell us that the average breath rate for adults at rest is about 12-18 breaths a minute, serious practitioners of qigong, yoga, tai chi, and so on generally breathe at a much slower rate than this. And research from various quarters has shown that this slower breathing brings with it many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. …”

Why It’s Important to Breathe Through Your Nose

Read this article to learn why it’s so important to breathe through your nose when you can. You may learn some facts of which you are unaware.

Asthma Overview

“In normal breathing, air flows more or less freely into and out of the lungs. During an asthma attack, however, airway linings swell, muscles around the airways tighten and constrict, and the airways of the lungs become clogged with mucus. The end result is episodes of coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness, with a suffocating sense of never being able to get enough air. …”

Exercise and Asthma

“Recent studies have shown that the number of asthma sufferers worldwide is on the increase. Though many people in the medical profession believe that asthma attacks take place when the bronchial airways narrow as a result of inflammation, there are some researchers (Buteyko, among others) who have shown that this narrowing can also take place as a result of faulty breathing–for example chronic hyperventilation, in which too much carbon dioxide is lost too quickly. …”

Acid Reflux (GERD), Heartburn, and Breathing

“If you watch television on a regular basis, you have undoubtedly seen ads for a variety of prescription and non-prescription drugs to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of heartburn, one of the fastest growing medical complaints in today’s fast-food, stress-filled world. Yet many of us are unaware that heartburn, especially chronic heartburn, is often associated with a serious medical problem called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also sometimes called acid reflux disease. …”

Can Breathing Exercises Help You Lose Weight?

“Learning how to breathe more naturally, the way our bodies were designed to breathe, can have a powerful influence on our overall health, including our metabolism. Depending on the kinds of problems we have, better, more authentic breathing can influence the amount of exercise we get, the way we feel about ourselves, the kinds of food we eat, the amount of energy we have, and so on. All of this can result in losing (or even gaining) weight naturally and appropriately. …”

Health Benefits of Humming

Research shows that breathing exercises involving humming can reduce the incidence of sinusitis and infections in the upper respiratory tract.

Psychological Obstacles to Authentic Breathing

According to Magda Proskauer, a psychiatrist and pioneer in breath therapy, one of the main obstacles “to discovering one’s genuine breathing pattern” is the inability that many of us have to exhale fully. Whereas inhalation requires a certain amount of tension, exhalation requires letting go of this tension.  Full inhalation without full exhalation is impossible.

Breathing Tests

Learn about simple, accurate self-tests you can take to see if you’re breathing in a healthy way.

Breathing for Athletes

Written by Perry Louis Fields, a professional track and field athlete.

Breathing Tips for Aerobic Exercise

“Here are some tips on how to breathe when you are doing aerobic exercise–that is, when you are working out by walking, running, jogging, bicycling, dancing, and so on. And here also are some of the scientific reasons for these aerobic breathing tips. …”

Breathing and Stress Management

In today’s fast-faced, anxiety-driven world, stress management has become paramount not just for individuals faced with excessive stress in their daily lives, but also for the owners and managers of businesses of all sizes. Researchers now believe that excessive stress is associated with 60-80 percent of all visits to doctors. Not only are numerous health problems associated with unnecessary tension and stress, problems which are reflected in our growing health-care costs, but businesses of all kinds are faced with the increasing use of “sick time” by employees at all levels and the overall loss of corporate productivity.

And be sure to check out our page Breathing Tips & Research!

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