The Empatharian Peace Arts Curriculum includes several breathing exercises for generating energy and wellness. In addition we teach another practice which is for promoting and developing your compassion.
When I first learned this practice over twenty years ago, which includes visualization as well as breath, it quickly became my favorite meditation practice. Though we included 20 minute periods of meditation on the breath before and after the practice, I’ve since been taught by other teachers whose more simple form I’ve adapted below, and works for meditators and non-meditators alike.
Taking and Sending Breath
This breathing exercise also includes visualization, and can be used as a prayer practice for someone you know, or yourself. Or it can be used in the moment when you are with someone experiencing pain: emotional or physical. They may look at you and not notice anything different about your breathing, but you are breathing completely differently. Let me explain.
When you are “Taking and Sending”, essentially you are taking in pain and negativity, and sending out positivity, lightness, brightness, coolness. The magic of breath transforms the energy through your consciousness, so that you are radiating luminosity and compassion, which is actually your true nature.
It’s essentially a four step process, and I’ll guide you through the steps so that you can do it on your own.
First, find a comfortable seat where your feet touch the ground and your back is straight.
It starts with touching in to your core energy of love. This is experienced as a flash of the deepest love you could experience, like the love of a mother for her only son. With your whole being, you adore. That flash of blinding enlightenment/love that you are familiar with…
Next, you will start to breath in the hot, dark negative energies- a sense of claustrophobia, and breath out the light, bright, coolness- a sense of freshness, just as qualities and color. Breathe in heavy, dark, hot with every pore of your body, and out light, bright, cool with every part of your being. Do this a few times until you have completely synchronized the visualization with the breath in and out.
Then bring your focus to your own suffering, or the person in front of you who is suffering. Breathe in the dark, hot, heaviness of it, and then breath out a broadcast of light, cool, fresh. For instance, if you are feeling inadequate, breathe in all that yucky dark feeling cloud around you, and send out confidence, adequacy, and relief in any form you wish.
Finally, make the taking in and sending out bigger, visualizing bigger circles of people around you. If you are doing this compassion breath for someone you love, extend it out to all those who are in the same situation. If you are doing this practice for someone you see on television or on the street, do it for all the others in the same boat. Expand your visualizing to include others beyond just that one person.
You can do this compassion breath for people you consider to be enemies—those who hurt you or hurt others. Feel and breathe in their stuckness and pain, thinking of them as having the same confusion and stuckness as your friend or yourself. Breathe in their pain and send them relief.
With more practice, the visualization can extend to the whole city, the whole state, and then continent by continent over the whole earth. As you repeat the breathing in and out, your compassion naturally expands as well, and so does your insight that things are less solid than you thought, which is a glimpse of pure wisdom. As you practice, gradually and at your own pace, you will find that you’re more and more able to be there for others, even in what used to seem like impossible situations. It feels good.