In the first instalment of this series, Hazrat Inayat Khan paid special attention to the role of the breath in the physical aspect of our being. Now, he widens the frame to consider the connection of the breath with the mind, and also with nature. The word ‘consumption’ in the second paragraph is a now obsolete term for tuberculosis.
Then when we consider the mind, we find that breath has to do with mind also. The mystic knows that the breath which we perceive by exhaling and inhaling through the nostrils is not the essential breath, but only the result of a current, which runs not only through the body, but also through all the planes of man’s existence. That which the nostrils feel is the result of the activity of breath. Were it not so, we could not explain how the mind, which is so much vaster and finer than the body, and is a separate element, can possibly exert an effect on the body, and the body on the mind.
Every passion, every emotion has its effect upon the mind; and every change of mind, however slight, has its effect upon a man’s body. Physicians in all ages have realized that consumption is often the outcome of constant worry.
What keeps mind and body connected? What keeps the mind always active? What gives the mind its vigor to create imaginations, to create thoughts, and not only to create them but to retain them by the faculty we call memory? To keep the knowledge gained by the faculty we call reason, to possess emotions which can sometimes be felt and sometimes not felt? Where does the mind keep all these things? What force can it be that is behind them all? Is it not the breath? That is why the mystic studies and realizes and masters the breath, in order to master not only the physical body but also the mind.
From the mystical point of view, it is evident that there is some strength, some current, some affinity which runs through and binds together all the trees and plants in a forest, and which also causes the desert to be without them; which causes the coal-mine to have coal, the gold-mine to have gold, the sulphur-mine to have sulphur. This strength, or force, draws all these elements together.
So it is, too, with the tides of the sea. It accounts for the waters running in the same direction, whether at first they tended towards the south, the east, the west, or the north; it accounts for the surface of the waves keeping a rhythm. Wherever we look, be it the changes of the seasons, the changes of the weather, or even the constant circles which the earth describes on its journey, all these show the same underlying current, the current of the whole of nature, which is the real breath. The whole universe is going on with a certain rhythm; there is a current which keeps the whole universe going. It is one breath, and yet it is many breaths.
There is a tide which has a cycle of forty days, and a tide which has a cycle of seven days, and another of thirty days; and yet at every moment waves are rising and falling. There is a wave under the wave, and a wave over the wave. There is a tide that turns twice a day, and also a tide that turns once a month. So is it with breath: one breath, and yet many breaths.
Then consider how the trees keep together. One tree, and yet its branches and its fruits and its flowers all turn in different directions. Every branch takes a different direction, and yet all keep together. What is it that directs the vigor and the strength of one branch and not the others in that direction, for they are all attached to the same tree-stem? Is it not that life-current which runs through it that directs their ways? As long as it runs through a tree, it produces fruit and flowers.
So it is with animals and birds and man. The same current of life runs through all. Man is the ideal being, as the scripture says. He is ideal because intelligence is given to him to perceive the secret of this breath, whereas from animals and birds it is hidden. The life of all creatures is mysterious and full of wonder, but man alone is blessed with the intelligence that conveys the power of understanding the secret of the breath. If there is anything more lasting than our transitory life it, is this, the secret of our being. It is by this that man is able to master life both here and in the hereafter.
To be continued…