Breath of Life

In the later years of his life Osteopath William Garner Sutherland began working with what he termed the “Breath of Life” … that is the organising wisdom of the body, or spirit. Spirit has long been referred to as breath, indeed the Hebrew word for spirit “ruach” and the Greek word “pneuma” both mean breath. The Sanskrit work “prana” also means breath, and we recognise that it is the Prana, the Universal Life Force that animates our body when we are alive.  This vital energy however is not itself the Divine Spirit, the Self that dwells in the heart.

When I was a young teenager I went to boarding school in Bathurst. My favourite place was the chapel, where I could sit quietly, pray and reflect. I even hung out with old Canon StJohn who had rooms at the back, and he showed me a neat trick for polishing shoes. He put the black polish on thickly, lit a match, set fire to the polish, and bingo, very shiny shoes! So the point of remembering the chapel: We sang great old hymns to the wheezy voice of the harmonium. I loved “Breathe on me Breath of God, fill me with life anew” even then inviting in the prana I needed for healing. During my childhood I had been very sick for seven years, until life in the country offered me the peace and quiet, and the dry air I needed to grow stronger. As an asthmatic I had often struggled to breathe, no wonder breath was of interest to me!

Another verse of the hymn was close to my heart “ Breathe on me Breath of God, till I am wholly thine, and this earthly part of me, glows with thy fire divine”. Now I find myself a yoga teacher, talking about prana stoking the inner fire, increasing the tapas, the potency, that enables us to continue on our spiritual path.

So the pioneering osteopath William Garner Sutherland developed great respect for the Breath of Life, the universal life force or invisible expression of the divine creative intention. He was spellbound by its wisdom and potency, and realised that the Breath of Life is what truly heals the body. His advice was “Be Still and Know”.

Stillness, quiet, breath, heart = healing.

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of life and death, in ebb and flow.

Rabindranath Tagore

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