“We’re going to begin by breathing”

“We’re going to begin by breathing”

An excerpt from Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman’s Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess

“We’re going to begin by breathing—it’s the simplest movement of energy. It was the first thing you did when you were born from your mothers, and it will be the last thing you do when you pass from this earth. Notice how you’re breathing. Now lengthen your breaths, breathing in slowly, inhaling deeply, and holding it.… One. Two. Three. Now exhale slowly, completely emptying your lungs. And again inhale, expanding the lungs, the diaphragm. Hold it: one, two, three. Exhale and relax. As you continue breathing deeply, feel how light you are becoming, as the pure clean energy of the air enters and fills you with life.” Within minutes, I was feeling buoyant, like a bubble that could float away. I heard Maia speaking, as if from a great distance: “Keep breathing, slowly, and completely. Feel your body relax. Allow your mind to become quiet. Thoughts may float in. Just let them float by and focus upon the sound of my voice guiding you, focus upon your breath. … Feel how the air is filled with light and energy.…” With each breath, the energy flowed through me more powerfully. I rode the current of feeling that her words, and my focused breathing, evoked. I was filled with light and power. It was exhilarating. Everything is energy and everything is connected, I observed myself thinking. I recognized the technique as very similar to yogic breathing. We were working with the universal life force that the Chinese call chi and the yogis call prana. All living creatures share this energy. I was delighted to discover Witches also used this ancient technique, which enables humans to consciously connect with this energy.
“We inhale as one, we exhale as one, we are becoming one, together with each breath, we become one circle, with no beginning and no ending.” Maia’s voice was rhapsodically hypnotic. She was joined by the other priestesses as they intoned a reverberating series of names: “Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna.”
A shiver of recognition ran through me. Gradually, a fourth voice, and then another, and still another joined in, so quietly they were no more than a gossamer breeze. I whispered the names, marveling at how familiar this chant seemed. And then we were all chanting, our timidity vanishing in a swell of gorgeous, full-bodied sound. The chanting rose and fell and rose again, the ambient energy growing as our voices lifted and carried each other. And suddenly, at the same unsignaled moment, we all stopped. We opened our eyes, stunned by a silence as rich in texture and dimension as the sound that had just resonated from the centers of our very souls. Looks of incredulous joy spread across our faces, and suddenly, we were all laughing. Already I could feel the effects of these seemingly simple techniques—enhanced relaxation and concentration, the aligning of the group’s energy, the growth of harmony and trust. I left each circle
empowered and so alive I felt as if I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. This energy sustained me each day at work, where the pressures and tensions required more strength than I’d ever expected. At first the glamour and accomplishment drove me. But the demands of each work day required me to abandon more and more of my personal life and began to leave me feeling drained and exhausted. I used my magical energy to sustain myself, determined to succeed.

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