A great mystic of Russia, George Gurdjieff has written a memoir of his spiritual adventures known as Meetings with Remarkable Men. In the book he says that he was much impressed by a discussion with a Sufi dervish on yogic pranayam and asanas. The dervish had warned him against all kinds of breathing exercises, because any change in the natural breathing system brings about disorder in life with disastrous results. What do you say about this?
There is some truth in what he says about pranayam and other breathing exercises. In fact, there is no falsehood which does not contain a grain of truth; it cannot be otherwise. Every lie has a little of truth in it. And it is this small element of truth that impresses one. But the lie goes along with it and finds credibility; otherwise you would not know about it.
Now it is true that if possible we should not interfere with, and obstruct, the natural ways of our life; otherwise there will be trouble. It would be good if we didn’t impede the natural functioning of our bodies; we should not interfere with the way we breathe, the way we walk, stand or sit, because as soon as we place hindrances in their way, changes begin to happen.
Remember that any kind of loss means change, and gain also means change. Both loss and gain are changes. So if you want to remain as you are, then it is right that you don’t interfere with your breathing. But if you have somewhere to go, if you want to bring about a change, a transformation in your life, then you will have to take the risk. The risk is, if you bring about a change in your breathing pattern, it will change your whole lifestyle. If you are satisfied with being as you are, if you think it is okay as you are, then you need not do anything. But if you feel that as you are is not enough, then you will have to make a change.
And then a change in our breathing becomes important to us, most important. As soon as you make a difference in your way of breathing, many things in you will begin to fall apart, and many other things will start to come together. Now, after thousands of experiments, what will drop away from you and what will be put together and added to you has been discovered. It is now as good as settled – a veritable science.
A few things we all know from everyday experience. For instance, when you are angry, your breathing changes, it does not remain the same. And breathing changes even when you are quiet and silent; it will not stay as it was. And if you know how you breathe when you are in silence, then you can create that state by regulating your breathing in a way that corresponds with silence.
Both mind and breathing are interconnected.
When the mind is sexually aroused, the pattern of breathing immediately changes. So if in a state of sexual arousal you don’t allow your breathing to change, sexuality will disappear instantly. The desire for sex will cease; it cannot continue. For anything to happen, everything in the body mechanism needs to be in a particular alignment with everything else. So if you begin to breathe slowly when a strong wave of anger assails you, anger will evaporate, because it will have no way to stay as it is with slow breathing.