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.

Meditation and Essential Oils

(extract from forth coming book – EFT and Meditation)

Essential oils are the aromatic, volatile liquids found in plants. They are found in shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes, and seeds. Essential oils have been used since time immemorial. They work at a cellular level and help purify, mend, and restore cells to optimal functioning. Their fragrances also help balance our mood, lift spirits, dispel negative emotions, and make our minds clear.

Ancient writings indicate that aromatics were used for religious rituals, for the treatment of illness, for personal use, and for other physical and spiritual needs. The Egyptians were among the first to use them, using them for embalming as well as for the above purposes. They were used in the Middle East (the Bible contains over 200 references to aromatics, incense, and ointments), India, China, and by Native Americans.

Once fire was discovered, scents took on sacred meaning. Dried herbs were added to the fire and their smells traveled upward in the smoke along with the prayers of those making the offerings. There is much evidence of essential oils and herbs being used in the form of incense. Incense burners dating to ancient times have been found in Egypt and the Indus Valley. Depictions of people using incense have been found in ancient Egyptian carvings. The incense was used in religious ceremonies, for meditation, worship, to purify an area, and to help change a mood to facilitate religious and spiritual practices. The primary constituent of the incense was essential oils.

The Egyptians were fond of frankincense and myrrh as well as cinnamon, cassia, galbanum, lotus, and rose. The Chinese favored cassia, cinnamon, and sandalwood essential oils. The Native Americans favored local plants such as sage and cedar, and used them in their smudge sticks. Essential oils contain hundreds of chemical constituents, such as phenols, terpenes, ethers, aldehydes, ketones, esters, and coumarins. Some of these constituents are calming, some boost the immune system, some reduce physical discomfort and inflammation, some are very antiseptic and antibacterial, some help improve our breathing, digestion, sleep, confidence, clarity of mind, or energy level.

When you inhale an essential oil, the odor molecules travel up the nose and get trapped by the olfactory membranes. When stimulated by odor molecules, this lining of nerve cells triggers electrical impulses to the olfactory bulb in the brain. The olfactory bulb then transmits the impulses to the amygdala, where emotional memories are stored, and to other parts of the limbic system as well. Because the limbic system is directly connected to the parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance, the oils can have profound physiological and psychological effects.

The sense of smell is the only one of the five senses that is directly linked to the limbic system, our emotional control center. Emotions like anxiety, fear, anger, and joy all emanate from this region. When used regularly, essential oils, affecting the limbic system, can help us enjoy better physical and mental health. Essential oils can support the work of meditation leading to a more peaceful and purposeful life, as the ancient meditation masters seemed to have discovered.

Practitioners of meditation have traditionally used fragrance as a part of their process. Certain scents quieted the mind, and every time they used that scent it brought them back more easily to that quiet state. Here are some of the popular fragrances (via the plants essential oils) that have been used down through the ages to help with meditation, and some of the possible benefits associated with them:

Frankincense: Has been used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years, and is good to diffuse during meditation. It is said to increase feelings of spirituality and inner strength, and is good for mental acuity.
Jasmine: Known for its beautiful fragrance, helps induce feelings of calmness, is uplifting, counteracts feelings of hopelessness and indifference, and improves concentration.
Lavender: Has a sweet, floral aroma that is soothing and refreshing. It promotes feelings of calmness and comfort, supports nervous system functioning, and aids relaxation
Patchouli: Calming and relaxing physically and mentally.
Rose: Relaxing, calming, and elevates the mind
Sandalwood: Calming, grounding. Sandalwood may help remove negative programming from the cells, and encourages deep relaxation.
Ylang Ylang: Calming, enhances spiritual attunement, combats low self-esteem, filters out negative energy, and boosts feelings of confidence and peace.

When considering the use of essential oils for meditation make sure you have an excellent source for essential oils. You want to avoid synthetic fragrances which can harm your health and hinder meditation.