I’d like to share about an interesting experience I had around a month ago, and then again about a week ago.
The basics of the story are fairly simple. To begin, I had been experiencing quite intense levels and states of anxiety. It was something that had been with me, and more or less steadily building, for at least a week. I was able, eventually, to work with it somewhat effectively, taking some “external” steps to deal with some circumstances in the outer world, as well as some “internal” mental steps. In these latter, by the way, I was helped in part by Sayadaw U Tejaniya’s When Awareness Becomes Natural.
Despite this, I remained in an intensely anxious state. There was some relief from having plans, both outer and inner, and from having taken some outer steps. And yet a rather intense state remained. I’m not sure how best to put this, but one might say my nervous system was still highly anxious and was still very primed for continuing anxious reactions. It was very bodily and very basic emotions, which in turn unsettled the mind and tended to produce anxious cognitions. Not a preferable state.
It felt, and again I’m not quite sure how to put this, but it felt as if I needed a powerful or deep “reset” of sorts. And, I recalled some of the effects of Wim Hof’s basic breathing exercise being described in that sort of way. Actually I had been increasingly thinking of Wim Hof breathing, so maybe that’s where the “reset” notion came from. And there’s a couple things to keep in mind in this connection. One is that I had not done this breathing, to the best of my recollection, for at least half a year. The other is that, previously, I had practiced this breathing almost daily for what I believe was at least four months. So I had experience with it, but also had not done it in a long time.
Determined to take some further step to help myself, while also trying not to expect too much, I sat down and did four full rounds of basic Wim Hof breathing. In terms of getting myself to do it and to see though all four rounds, it wasn’t easy, but I got a little momentum from each one and kept renewing my commitment. By the end of the second I was noticing some change in affective state. After finishing the fourth, the change was shocking. I’ve experienced good and significant effects from this breathing before, but the difference in mental, emotional, and bodily state in this case was incredible. Anxiety, of an intense bodily variety, had gone from very high level to a very low level, and I felt surprisingly relaxed and at ease. The changed state continued the next day as well, and for a while after.
That happened maybe about a month ago, and then a week or so ago, I had a close repeat of the same experience, if perhaps not quite as dramatic. There isn’t really a thesis to this, and I’m not making any claims about Wim Hof breathing. The experience made such an impression on me that I wanted to share it. However if I look for a thesis or lesson, one might be that this sort of experience indicates the possibilities of breathing and breathwork. And it also, I think, helps show that breathing has important roles to play in philosophy, and that we should include it as complement to awareness and cognitive meditations.
Here is Wim Hof explaining how the basic breath method works: Wim Hof breathing tutorial by Wim Hof
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