Have you ever seen a West Coast Sunset? Well Hugh and I never had so we decided to make a road trip to California. I got in touch with my friend Beatrice Wood and asked if she knew of a good place to stay. But she said: You will stay with me, of course! Beatrice live in Ojai (only a 30 min drive to the sea), a town largely inhabited by those seeking an alternative lifestyle. And alternative was definitely a good way to describe Beatrice. During her extravagant life, she’d been an actress, Mama of Dada, Duchamp’s lover, and much much more before deciding to focus on pottery. When asked how she maintained her good looks, she’d reply: I owe it all to chocolate and young men.
In the late 1940s, Beatrice moved to Ojai to be near the Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti, who as a boy had been known as “vague and dreamy” (or, according to others, dim-witted) had been discovered in India by a high-ranking Theosophist who saw him on the beach and said “Hey, that kid’s got aura!”. So the Theosophists took him under their wings and subjected him to a kind of Hollywood Makeover. They were hoping to transform the ugly duckling into a swan who one day would become their new World Teacher.
Things went well until Krishnamurti and his brother went to California. Well I guess California has changed the lives of many people and Krishnamurti turned out to be one of them. Here, not long after a “mystical” experience, he left the Theosophists. Krishnamurti said his only concern now was to set man free. And to be free, men had to be released from their cages including those of organized belief. Boy, weren’t the Theosophists livid. Their major investment had dumped them.
With his friend and fellow ex-Theosophists, Deskiacharya Rajagopal, Krishnamurti organized speaking tours and publications. He attracted many fans including the physicist, David Bohm. Spiritual quantum.
Beatrice had organized a little garden party in our honor and that’s how I met Krishnamurti. Well let me be perfectly honest, I am not into those guru types with big cow eyes who speak in a low voice and ask questions like: Does god exist? Where does time go? Do you want to talk about death? I wanted to say: No I don’t want to talk about death. I want to dance the cumbia! But, instead, I asked him questions about himself and how he spent his days. Krisnamurti said he liked to walk, was a vegetarian, did two hours of yoga every day, and regularly practiced pranayama breathing exercises.
Well the pranayama breathing interested me and I asked him to elaborate. Everyone knows that breathing keeps us alive but few of us know that controlled breathing can help us fall asleep, inhibit pain, control blood flow, lower blood pressure, and so much more. I was quite enthralled by the idea of changing my life simply by using my lungs so when he invited to teach me a few techniques, I eagerly accepted. The next morning I showed up wearing a saree Beatrice had lent me. When I got there Rosalind, Rajagopal’s wife, opened the door and led me to the garden. Here we sat cross legged under an orange tree and started inhaling away. All that fresh air inside of me kinda made me dizzy. But I did feel really full of myself afterwards and decided to continue doing the exercises from then on.
When we breathe, we interrelated with our environment. What’s outside goes inside. That’s why the quality of air is so important. Because breathing in sicken air sickens us.
So in The Age of Reconfiguration, attentions needs to be given to breathing properly. And I’m starting off with these three exercises:
Diaphram breathing…many of us practice shallow breathing and/or breathe through our mouths. Breathing is bad for us as the nose warms and filters the air we breathe. Breathing with the mouth lets in more toxins and can give us a sore throat. Inhale for 5 seconds then exhale for 5 seconds.
As you breathe in, your diaphragm expands. Breathe out thru pursed lips and gently press your belly to help push air out of your diaphragm.
Sometimes emotions can disrupt our breathing pattern. When we are nervous we tend to hold our breath whereas when we are down, we sigh.
Rhythmic Breathing… Many of us have irregular breathing patterns and don’t even know it. Practicing rhythmic breathing techniques can help. It’s all about giving our breathing a fixed rhythm. For beginners such as myself it can be broken down into four parts:
pause after inhaling 5-6
pause after exhaling 5-6
Alternative Nostril Breathing…. Alternate Nostril Breathing can help synchronize the two brain hemispheres. It can also give us energy, wake up the brain, clear the lungs, and calm our nerves.
Alternate Nostril Breathing,
Sit comfortably then, using the right thumb, softly close the right nostril, and inhale as slowly as you can through the left nostril, then close it with your ring finger. Pause. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril.
With the right nostril open, inhale slowly, then close it with the thumb. Pause. Exhale through the left nostril. Once your exhalation is complete, inhale through the left. Pause before moving to the right.
Repeat this pattern five to ten times, and then release the right hand to the right knee. Ease back into normal breathing.
Try practicing to arrive at 15 minutes a day.
The quickest way to achieve mental clarity is via controlled breathing. We cannot live without oxygen for more than 20 minutes otherwise the brain dies.
Inspired literally means “breathe in”. The breath unites the inner and outer realm. The brain’s oxygen level is directly related to serotonin. Serotonin helps us be awake and alert. You can regulate your level of serotonoin by controlling your breath. Too much serotonin in the brain causes irritation, tension and stress. Thus lowering its level can relax us.
Apnea…Holding your breath can be beneficial because it raises the level of carbon dioxide in the body and the brain and, for a short period of time, can refresh the brain and help clarity thought. The kind of air that your breath is also important. The electrical quality of air you breathe also has an effect on serototin. The number of positive or negative ions present measures electric air quality. Negative ions are displaced electrons, which attach themselves to nearby molecules. These molecules become negatively charged. We are most influenced by the negative ion. For example, the normal ion count in fresh country air is c. 3,000 ions per cubic centimeters. Whereas a typical ion count on a big city freeway is below 100 x cubic centimetres. The highest count comes from standing near a waterfall. The more ions we can breathe in, the better. The higher the ion count, the better it is for the brain.
Deep breathing promotes alpha brain waves and thus relaxation.
Related: this most used this book as reference “Science of Breath, A Complete Manual of The Oriental Breathing Philosophy” by Yogi Ramacharaka + internet article Rhythmic Breathing Ideal Breathing Practice For Beginners + The Shadow Side of Krishnamurti +
Ramacharaka, Yogi. Science of Breath. The Book Tree. San Diego. 2007.
Sloss, Radha Rajagopal. Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti. Bloomsbury. London. 1991
“It is No Measure of Health to Be Well Adjusted to a Profoundly Sick Society” Jiddu Krishnamurti
Years later I came across a review about a book written by Rajagopal’s daughter, Radha. Polemics upon polemics. Some complimented Radha and others said the book was a pack of lies. Basically, what’s created the controversy is that Radha claims her mother and Krishnamurta had been lovers for over 25 years. But Krishnamurta claimed to be celibate…..
(from Cool Breeze, aka The Age of Reconfiguration ©)