Tales from the Dao

Every Breath A Prayer

by Solala Towler

We talk a lot about breath in Daoist meditation and qigong practice. It is the breath that anchors our practice. It is the breath that is the doorway between realms. It is the breath that keeps us grounded and connected to our inner core. It is the breath that, in deep meditation, breathes us.

We use breath when we recite invocations or Daoist texts such as the Dao de Jing or other religious texts. In this way, the practice of recitation becomes a form of qigong. Indeed, Daoism is wonderful in its ability to interweave various practices such as movement, visualization, breath work, and chant into one seamless whole. Most internal alchemical practices use breath —both symbolically, as a bellows for firing up the inner cauldron—and as a way to calm and center our own energy system.

Prayer Wheels at Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet Photo Courtesy Rebecca Kali

So then, to begin this practice of turning each breath into a prayer set your intention. This means that each time you breathe in or breathe out, decide what you want to send out into the world and what you want to take in. This can be things like sending out peace and healing into the world, and taking in the sorrows and the sufferings of the world in order to transform them into peace and healing. Really spend some time setting this intent; because it is from this that your whole practice will arise. You can always change it at a later date but at first it is important to really lay a strong foundation for your practice.

Prayer Wheels at Drepung Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet Photo Courtesy Rebecca Kali

Take some deep, gentle breaths and send out the message, intent, vibration or whatever it is you have decided upon. See that intent really spreading out into the world, from deep inside you. Then, concentrating on the inhale, really feel in your energy body whatever it is that you are breathing in. Feel it fill your energy body once again, where it can be transformed and sent back out again. Or, you may decide to breathe peace and healing both on the out-breath as well as the in-breath. This is entirely up to you. The next step is to pay attention. As you go about your day, pay attention to your breath and what the prayer is that you are sending out into the world and breathing back in into your inner world.

From here, it is all a matter of gently bringing yourself back to your breath at various times and remembering that you are also sending out a prayer with each breath. You don’t need to think of the message itself but just remind yourself that each of your breaths is a prayer going out into the world. As we breathe thousands of times a day, our prayers go out continually over and over again. In this way, we have become a living prayer wheel, turning for the highest good of all!

[Solala Towler is the editor and publisher of The Empty Vessel: The Journal of Daoist Philosophy and Practice, now in its 20 year of publication. See it online at www.CommunityAwake.com. Mr. Towler has written a number of books on Daoist thought and practice, including Cha Dao: the Way of Tea and the Inner Chapters of Chuang Tzu, and has been leading tours to China to study Qigong and other Daoist practices in the sacred mountains of China since 1997. In addition, he has recorded four CDs of meditation, relaxation, and movement music, using Tibetan singing bowls, both Chinese and Native flute with harmonic overtone singing. Solala Towler You can find more information about Solala Towler on his website, http://www.abodetao.com]


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