Breath, brain and the nostrils

Most people are familiar with how the right brain hemisphere is associated with the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere is associated with the right side of the body. The left nostril is related to the right hemisphere, and right nostril to the left per the adepts. The adepts were clear about the importance of these relationships and how they related to meditation, long before science began to consider questions of brain laterality.

Some of the contested theory that circulates around hemisphere dominance is that left brain activity is related to analytical thinking, reasoning. The right brain activity is related to more temporal spatial, artistic, feeling oriented activity. The left is more masculine, the right more feminine. The analogies here are generalizations, but the adepts observed that hemispheric activity changed during the course of a 24 hour period, and it did so in regular intervals, every one to two hours. They also observed that they could alter their hemisphere dominance at will. They did this by understanding their breath and their nostrils.

We may think that it is only since the advent of science that we know of this relationship between the nostrils and the brain. The adepts understood that when both nostrils were flowing equally they experienced a state they termed “happy mind”. Both nostrils flowing equally indicating that both hemispheres of the brain are activated.

Everyone has had this “happy mind” experience, but we have never paid attention to its relationship to our breath or nostrils. We have all had the experience of being someplace and all of a sudden, for no reason associated with the events surrounding us, or maybe in conjunction with those events, we experience a quiet joy, a happy mind. The next time this phenomenon happens to you stop, and notice your nostril dominance; you may find that both nostrils are completely open.

The adepts say this phenomenon is a prerequisite for the practice of meditation. They understood that (and this is controversial to the scientific psychologists) when the practitioner was breathing mostly from the left nostril the attention was drawn to the thoughts just below the surface of the conscious mind – Freud’s preconscious. When the practitioner was involved with breathing mostly from the right nostril the concerns were mostly with the physical body. When breathing through both nostrils neither of these concerns were relevant, the mind had gone beyond them, and the process of deepening the subtlety of our awareness could then ‘begin’ to take place.

If we are modeling the adepts, seeking to know how they have achieved the states that they speak and write about we have to pay attention. Meditation being a premiere tool to elevate human consciousness requires that we do the experiments in the laboratory of our own body to validate what those before us, the adepts, have discovered.


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