Years ago I got really into guided somatic meditation. It was so exciting to experience a deeper felt sense of embodiment! I practiced it nearly every day, dropping my mind deep into my body. I was captivated by this deeper connection to my physical form and all it had to teach me. I felt fear and joy, numbness and surges of sensation, yet it all seemed to be rooted in an emotional response to a sensation or a memory stored deep in my cells. I was sold! ...and...disoriented!
This process uncovered a lot of new information but I had no map or container to process it. This practice left me with great tools for diving into my interior, yet the tools alone were not enough. Catharsis is fleeting, I was searching for insights. I was craving a well trodden map to guide me into myself, that connected to something more universal than my personal stories. I had no idea how perfectly situated I was to walk into my first Katonah class that very same year!
I quickly learned that good techniques for embodiment don’t just go deeply into the physical form, they also spark the imagination, so that we can simultaneously access a universal archetype! In short we are reconciling a polarity: personal embodiment with the patterns of Great Nature. When we use archetypes and maps we are moving into the practice of embodiment from the standpoint of referencing the universal, the cosmic, the celestial. This gives us a way to dive into the material of the body, have a sensate experience, and link it to Great Nature which exists within and all around us.
Breath sweeps are a technique for tracing an imagined route around the body on the ebb and flow of the breath, often ending up creating a pathway similar to a Mobius Strip. When we practice them we are taking a defined pattern, a set of predetermined pathways based in the dialogue of polarities and weaving them through each other and by extension, ourselves.
If we look through the template of The Magic Square (above) we see that the numbers are not in sequential order. This is because there is a need for reconciliation of polarities. Polarities are Great Nature. So when you go down and reference one, by virtue of polarities you must also reference 9. When you move up to two, you must also move down to 8, 3 references 7, 4 references 6, 5 is self referential, 6 references 4, 7 references 3, 8 references 2, and 9 references 1. When this path is followed in one’s imagination, there is an undeniable felt sense of a turn through a sphere.
Each of these sets adds up to 10. 10 is the archetype of polarity. When looking at The Magic Square you will see that all of these numbers encircle 5. So each polarity is reconciled by 5, equaling 15.
15 = 1 + 5 = 6
6 is a number of perfect harmony, the hexagon, the star of David, two intersecting worlds calling forth the existence of a third. This third space is the cross roads, the interstitial space, the liminal. This is where personal consciousness braids together with the universal, thus creating the
greatest form of potential. The placement of the human will in conversation with the patterns of the universe to allow for skillful manipulation of physical reality. In some traditions this is the very definition of magic.
Within this liminal space we have the ability to situate ourselves as the triangulator, the mediator, the magician. Meaning, we can seat our consciousness within the vehicle of the breath to ride through the physical form. Yet again, marrying the personal (consciousness) with the universal (the body breathing). We take the fact of Great Nature, we must breathe, couple it with our personal intellect and imagination, and use the two together to create a new experience of the corporeal form. Within this practice we are simultaneously tethering our intellect to the physicality of the body whilst braiding it with the patterns of Great Nature. So, there is an aspect of disembodiment within the embodiment, holding the polarities and creating the third space, containing an experience of humanity between the cosmological and the chthonic.
These sweeps can take countless forms. I have been practicing and teaching them by inhaling up a yin aspect and exhaling down a yang aspect. That may be too abstract so let's put it in very tangible terms.
The pieces of you that are soft and vulnerable, receptive, are yin. Those parts of you that have an aspect of a hard shell, yang. So if you think of your legs the back of the leg is yin, the front yang. The torso: front yin, back yang. The arms inside yin, outside yang. The head face yin, back of skull yang. If we follow the above mentioned pattern through the entire body, we inhale and guide our consciousness up the back of the legs, and then up the front of the body and face. Then taking the exhalation down the back of the head, the back and the front of the legs. We form a large figure 8 in our imagination. When this is practiced in a forward fold students stay longer, are less fidgety, and are able to maintain the formality of the position by virtue of the tenacity of the intellect versus a demand of the muscle.
When this practice is taken into more dynamic standing poses and we traverse the yin and yang aspects of the legs or the arms by virtue of a figure 8, or a Mobius strip, the same result is also found. Practitioners can truly find a sensation of riding a pose instead of the heaviness of doing a pose. The corporeal form becomes enlivened by the fresh surge of consciousness as it is met with the dialogue of the universal principles of polarities and their reconciliation. Through these breath sweeps we have yet another way to braid ourselves cultivating our third nature, that which exists within the knowledge of trinity. This allows us to open to the individual power of choice, which leads us to the new game, fourth nature.