Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Telling life: Sacred breath

In just a moment I'm going to ask you to stop reading this post. I'm going to ask you to sit up a little straighter, to relax your hands in your lap, to close your eyes and to take in a slow deep breath. As you do, feel your lungs expand and contract. Feel the warmth of the air you expel, the rush of it through your nostrils or lips. Let go of the stress and tension you may have been holding. After you've done this two or three times, come back to this post. There's more I'd like to share with you.

Okay. It's time. Stop reading, close your eyes, relax and breathe. I'll wait.

Now do it again.

Welcome back. How do you feel? A little more grounded, I hope?

My mentor and friend, Brother Blue, used to start each of his storytelling sessions with a collective breath. He said it was calling the muse. It was. With that great sigh we, those assembled, became a community and blessed the room with our breath. We took that moment to allow creativity to flow through us. It gave us a sacred pause.

There is a commonly touted belief that, with each breath, we breath air shared by Julius Caesar and maybe even dinosaurs. That isn't precisely true, but the truth is even more amazing. Every breath we take, every time we inhale, we are breathing in atoms that have been here (functionally) forever. Our bodies break apart those air molecules and take what they need, then we exhale the waste. The oxygen we breath is a byproduct of life: When the planet was young there was very little oxygen, it developed thanks to photosynthetic organisms, so the oxygen we breath is life giving to life. The carbon dioxide we exhale may go on to nourish a tree that will emit oxygen and, in time, decompose to carbon that will nourish other organisms, some of which your grandchildren may eat.

Every time we speak our bodies shape our thoughts, into vibrations in our vocal cords. What is quite literally an image of the electrical activity directed in our brains is then pushed by breath and creates sound vibrations that ripple through the air and directly impacts the tympanic membranes of our listeners. The vibration we feel in our own bodies as we tell stories is felt by our listeners.

So what does breath have to do with storytelling? Everything. It helps us connect to our listeners in real, physical ways - the electric spark of thought becoming vibration, powered by breath to become sound. Each breath contains some element of the birth of life.

When Brother Blue would ask us all to sigh together it was more than creating community, more than imploring the Muse for assistance, more even than gathering thoughts to tell stories, it was blessing each other with life. With hope. With story.

Breath is sacred. Breathe deep.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Nice post. I always invite the audience to take a deep breath with me, now that I know I'm following in Brother Blue's footsteps I'll appreciate it even more.

    1. Thanks. And I'm glad you invite the audience to breathe, that's wonderful!


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