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The vital breath

Through the ages, the big civilizations in Egypt, India and China, among others, have talked about breathing as a fundamental core not only from the obvious physiological point of view but also as an essential nutrition and a connection of our existence with the Universe.

Everything that exists: All worlds, all men, animals, plants and minerals, all atoms and molecules are immersed in a vast ocean of life, eternal and infinite life.

Now, we can consider each being, be it tiny as a molecule or vast as a universe, as taking something from this Universal Life as its own.
Breath is part of our nature and it allows our organism the permanent communication of our interior with the setting and with the “universal breath”.
According to the Hindu philosophy these are the basic principles of energy and the subtle faculties of an individual which hold the physiological processes.

Life is universal, omnipresent, eternal, indestructible and the portion of this universal Life individualized or assimilated to our body is known in India as Prâna and in China as Vital Breath or Qi.
When we die, the Prâna, Breath or Qi go back to the ocean of the cosmic Life.
That external-internal energy frame or network expresses through an individual's intangible faculties which hold the physiological processes.
In the Chinese traditional culture, the Qi (simplified Chinese: 气, traditional Chinese: 氣, Pinyin: , literally «air, breath, mood», pronounced "chi" [tɕʰi˥˩] in standard Mandarin Chinese, is an active principle that is part of any living being and that could be translated as “flow of vital energy”.
Within this eastern vision of the microcosm-macrocosm that we are, our body is conceived as a place where the different energies or “breaths” meet.
Although Chinese have had a wide anatomic knowledge from ancient times, these structural elements only were a mere support integrated into their temporal and spatial scheme of world.
The idea that life is due to the “vital breath” is a deeply rooted concept in Chinese culture.
As it is related to breathing, it is the nutritional function of this breath what is included in the notion of breath.
The vital breath or Qi (chi) is not only the air we breathe but also that which allows as to communicate, to relate with the exterior-interior, with the universe through that vital flow. Its circulation creates the link and connection among the different parts of the human body, and between the human body and the universe.
Unity in movement. Impulse and rhythm. Return and continuity. Continuing present.
One of the first records about this was made by the great Taoist philosopher Zhangzi (IVth Century BC). He wrote: “man's life is due to the accumulation of «vital breath». If the breath accumulates, there is life. If breath disperses, death ensues”.
Breath is the thread that sets everything. That is why the breath that gives and carries life is so valued in the Taoist philosophy and practices.
The objective of these practices is immortality and longevity as an inner alchemy, but it is also wealth, fortune, happiness and joy in the men's world and this is a behavior that, in a certain way, opposes to that of the Buddhist monks who withdraw from active life.
An ancient Taoist concept says:
“The way is breath. He who keeps breath as a treasure will reach the way. He who reaches the way will survive for a long time”.
In the human body, that unique and universal breath takes the shape of two complementary ways: Ying-Yang, that mutually generate each other and where the heyday of one of them makes the other one appear. They cyclically evolve and provide guidelines for the pace of life and the circulation of our Qi .
Through the Taoist and Qi gong practices which include, for example, visualizations and breathing, the meridians and points in our organism are activated by means of such a vital breath.
This is also made up of five phases or movements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. These phases are in direct correspondence with the four seasons (to which the dog days are added, the end of Summer related to the element Earth) to the five colors, five flavors, five directions (the four cardinal points plus the center), the five organs (Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung and Kidney).
Once more, it is about a temporal and spatial scheme contained in a closed evolution cycle. The five phases mutually create each other through transformation or, on the contrary, they are dominated, damaged or destroyed each other.

The idea that the body is a microcosm, organized according to the fundamental laws of macrocosm and in a permanent correspondence, harbor the principle that the interior and exterior are just the same thing showing particular characteristics.
Thus as in the human body there are 360 joints there are also 360 degrees in the Sky, if we look at the firmament from Earth.
Gazing the Sky and the stars invites us to turn our look to the knowledge of the invisible and the interior of our body.
The so-called Circuit of the Small Heavenly Circulation that makes up the Renmai (or Conception Vessel, located at the body front middle meridian) together with the Dumai (Governing Vessel, located at the body back middle meridian) develops energy like a big wheel and makes it circulate generating a process of regeneration and polishing our essence.
That is to say: with its activation the state of “immanent breathing” appears: That natural flow of the vital breath circulation through Dumai and Renmai which flowed before the Qi acquired in the intrauterine stage went into the system with the first breath of the newborn.
But these two worlds: exterior-interior are not separate entities because for the Chinese medicine and the Taoist philosophy the main objective is to express the unity and to reach it. That correspondence becomes a dynamic support of the being.

The vitality doors

The body has orifices through which the substances leak and interchange.
The philosophers from the past talked about the seven orifices in the face corresponding to the eyes, nose, ears and mouth and two lower orifices.
The seven orifices correspond to the seven stars of the Big Dipper and for some Taoist texts, the light and breath of these seven stars are those that during the fetus development “open” the embryo orifices and let the vital breath come in through them.
When the seven orifices are unlocked the individual does not grow old. The opening of those orifices is an essential condition to be able to establish a communication between the divine, superior world and the human world.
These openings of communication and interchange include the skin orifices.
The pores and the acupuncture points are true entrance or exit doors of an individual's vitality.

The light of your eyes

The body orifices are concentration places of vital breath and emission of light, particularly in the case of the eyes.
If the eyes have the capacity to see it is because they emit light. That is why the Taoists practice methods of inner vision.
When reversing the direction of the eyesight light the adept lights up the interior of his body and then he can clearly distinguish his essence.
Then, the body is a true inner landscape where water, wind and mountain live together in harmony. Where the internal world and the heavenly world find a perfect order. And there the vital breath blooms.

El alimento vital

Dr. Cecilia Y. Cáceres