A secular banishing and eucharistic sacrament of breakfast
Designed for daily use
“forasmuch as meat and drink are transmuted in us daily into spiritual substance, I believe in the Miracle of the Mass.” — Aleister Crowley, Liber XV : The Gnostic Mass
This is a short piece designed as a secular method to enhance breathing, posture, health, mood and memory. Why should those pesky occultists get all the fun! Its broken into this short summary, followed by a longer and more detailed commentary.
1. Prepare the room: tidy up, prepare a small table, a music player and a cushion/chair.
2. Prepare yourself: Get 8 hours sleep, wake up.
3. Cleanse yourself: Have a shower or bath.
4. Prepare breakfast: Cool water or juice, fruit, yogurt, tea. that kind of thing.
5. Warm up: neck rolls, stretching. Warm up the back, neck, limbs
5.1-5.6 Warm up your lungs and breathing, intone the vowels, each one a full exhalation I-E-A-O-U-O-A-E-I vibrating them to give the feeling of resonating from your head to the base of your spine and back up again (head, throat, chest, abdomen, perineum = I,E,A,O,U) it may be easier to do it in reverse instead (UOAEIEAOU) starting with the low sound.
6. Stretches: Walk in a gentle circle to each wall of the room. At each wall pause and take a breath. Inhale then exhale as you touch your toes. Inhale then exhale as you stretch upward and out, arms above your head to form a Y.
7. Sitting: Return to the centre, sit on your cushion/chair and make sure your spine is straight.
8.1 Slow breathing. 4 second chunks for breath in, hold, breath out
8.2 Mindfulness and breath counting (see commentary)
8.3 Fast breathing. Slightly forceful out breath, pumping the lungs with the abdominal muscles.
9. Enjoy breakfast: slowly, mindfully, quietly. Just eating.
10. Appreciate Beauty: relax and recline, listen to music, look out the window, look at a sleeping SO, contemplate the joy of the moon landings or look at great portraits.
Then go out and face the day, stop day dreaming and get stuff done.
In depth commentary:
0. What is the point of daily exercise?
This collection of exercises is modelled after a number of non-secular sources, cherry picked to have the best effect on without a requirement for a belief in anything.
If you examine it you’ll find a collection of sensible advice, sleeping well, refreshing yourself, stretching, breathing and calming the mind before eating a light meal and letting it digest instead of rushing off.
Humans are naturally composed of a mix of habit and spontaneous behaviour, a short daily activity like this will give structure but not eat your whole morning. The whole thing will probably take about 20-25 minutes more from your morning but the idea of structuring your time like this will aid your digestion (slower eating), mood (regular sleep, clean room, breathing and calming exercises) and productivity (improved breathing helps deep thought of all kinds) and so hopefully you’ll find it worth while. The only way to know for sure is to do it for a month or two (it’ll take a while to build up affect as you’ll need practice for section 8.2) and record the results daily, or find someone to do it for you.
If you plan on doing this set of exercises and miss one due to waking up late then don’t panic, you can do breathing and calming exercises on a bus or mindfulness whilst walking. If you just forget then its not really the end of the world, but you’ll get better results from regular practise.
1. Prepare the room
This work requires a room in which to perform, ideally it needs enough space to sit, to walk a handful of places, some kind of music player and a small table. A window is also useful as day light usually helps most people.
The room should be prepared by tidying it at least basically. Putting books on shelves, rubbish in bins, laundry in a hamper and removing washing up. Give the place a hoover, open the window and door to get some fresh air in. Do this the day before you start this work, and try and do it regularly, but don’t obsess over it, a quick tidy up once a week will probably do.
2. Prepare yourself
Get a good nights sleep on fresh sheets, aim for about 8 hours.
If you have disturbed sleep this can be due to clogged airways. Make sure the room is tidied, aired and hoovered. Place lavender oil on your pillow (this will help you breath) or use a Vicks inhaler before sleep. Either way blow your nose properly.
If you have trouble going off to sleep use abdominal breathing. Lay back in a comfortable position, optionally rest the hands on the hips so the fingertips can judge the abdomens position and breath in and out slowly and gently, your aiming to breath using your full lung capacity, breath down into your belly, this will cause it to raise slightly (don’t force it), and as you continue to breath the top part of your lungs will fill causing the normal raising of the diaphragm and ribs. On the exhale move your abdomen in and up slightly to push the last of the air from your lungs.
Do this and concentrate on your breathing and you’ll fall asleep.
Set an alarm to wake yourself at a sensible time, try and make it reasonably regular. Use an alarm that will actually wake you up at a rate your comfortable with, so if your okay use a loud/sharp one, if not try one thats quieter or more gentle.
3. Cleanse yourself
When you wake in the morning perform your ablutions as normal, return to your prepared room, once there wear light comfortable clothes suitable to the room and season. Underwear and a dressing gown or less is perfectly acceptable.
4. Prepare the breakfast
Go to the kitchen and find a suitable breakfast, you may have arranged it the night before. A glass of cool water or fresh juice, fruit (apples, oranges or bananas, optionally refrigerated for extra refreshment) or perhaps a yogurt. Return to your room and place these on the small table.
5. Warm up (3 minutes)
Start in the centre of the space in your room, perform whatever warm up exercises you feel comfortable with. Neck rolls, cat-cow stretches, touching your toes and circling your hips, flexing the knees and gently swinging your arms are traditional methods.
Then warm up your voice, stand in the centre of the space and take a few deep breaths, then do the following, each step being a complete breath.
5.1. Inhale fully, exhale slowly creating the sound of ‘I’ (high pitched ‘ieeeeee!’) the aim is to create a sound that feels like its resonating with the top of your head/brain/just between your eyes.
5.2. Repeat but with ‘E’ (lower ‘eeeeeeeeeeh!’ sound), resonate feeling with your throat.
5.3. Repeat with ‘A’ (deep ‘aaaaaaaah!’) resonating with your chest, heart and lungs
5.4. Repeat with ‘O’ (‘oooooooh!’) to resonate the abdomen.
5.5. Repeat with ‘U’ (very deep ‘uuuuuuuur!’) to resonate with the perineum, the area between genitals and anus.
5.6 Perform 4.4, 4.3, 4.2, 4.1 to bring the sound back upwards towards the head.
Alternatively if its easier for you start at U (perineum) and doing UOAEIEAOU instead, going up the body (perineum, abdomen, chest, throat, head) then back down again (throat, chest, abdomen, perineum).
6. The stretches (3 minutes)
The goal of this is partially moving and stretching and partially situating you in the space you’re in and feeling out the boundaries of it. Move to each wall of your room in a circle, i.e. do a few steps walking. At each perform the following
6.1 Breath in, pause, breath out.
6.2 Breath in, pause then as you breath out stretch to touch your toes, or at least reach downwards, then slowly straighten up. Be very careful of your back!
6.2 Breath in. Reach up and out with the arms, arching your back slightly, then breath out.
7. Sitting (1 minute)
Return to the middle of your space and sit somewhere. The edge of a bed is a bad choice as the softness will mess up your posture.
Spreading a blanket on the floor and sitting cross legged or in seiza (kneeling) is probably best. If cross legged use a pillow under your arse to raise your hips, this will help the circulation probably, if kneeling you may want a pillow between the ankles on its side to give support. Experiment and find something comfortable.
A chair is also fine, the idea is just to give you a position where you can sit straight backed without leaning back or slumping.
Sway gently from left to right, then back and forwards in your seat, the aim is to settle in a straight upright position, keep the chin in gently to straighten the head on the neck. Imagine your supporting a mountain balanced on top of your head.
Don’t strain it, try and relax in a good upright stance.
8. Breathing (7:30 minutes)
Once settled in your seated position try these exercises.
8.1 Slow breathing: (2 minutes)
Close your eyes and let your hands rest on your knees, if cross legged they can grip the ankles if that helps the posture.
Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for four seconds, breath out for 4 seconds. Use abdominal breathing (see above under Section 2). Don’t force it, breath deep and gently, start slow and shallow and deepen the breath.
When you breath, feel the abdomen expand, then the diaphragm then the chest and finally the shoulders should open up a fraction
Repeat this for a minute or two (6-12 sets of breaths)
8.2 Mindfulness (5-10 minutes)
The aim of this exercise is to increase mindfulness, i.e. paying attention without letting your mind drift, the way I tend to think of it is to be present and able to exist in the world (not just observing it but feeling part of it), letting your thoughts come up and drift off, not focusing on something in the external world to the point of losing focus on the internal one, nor focusing on the internal world so much that you lose track of the external one. Omnidirectional focus as a part of the wider world both inner and outer, and without agenda is perhaps one way of writing about it.
Open the eyes let them close fractionally and lower them to look about a metre in front of you, adjust the posture if required. There are a number of useful tricks to help keep you focused here: Firstly raise the tip of the tongue to touch the roof of the mouth, this will decrease (apparent) salivation. Secondly fold the hands to rest in the lap, traditionally the left hand sits in the open palm of the right hand, the two thumbs raise up to touch “as if holding a piece of paper between them”, this will help keep you paying attention to your posture and body and not drifting off in a day dream.
You may well find this exercise easier if you sit facing a wall about a foot away, if your eyes have objects to rest on it’ll spur your mind to drift off and think. A patch of wall or clear floor is probably the best.
It may help to use your breathing as a focus. So breath in (count 1), breath out (count 2). Focus on your breathing but pay attention to the outside world. If you find your attention has wandered and you’ve lost track of your breathing or are imagining something to the point of not paying attention to the outside world then reset the count to 0, and breath in counting 1.
Go up to 10 (5 breaths, counting in and out) then back down to 1. Once you can do this without losing track then change it to only count once for each breath (breath in 1, breath out 1, breath in 2, breath out 2, etc).
Once you’ve gone to 10 then back to 1 that should be long enough, failing that extend and keep concentrating and counting your breaths until about 5-10 minutes have expired.
Don’t worry about how many times you reset back to 0, just keep going and pay attention to the world without drifting away.
8.3 Fast breathing (30 seconds)
Adjust your posture until its comfortable again. You can lower your tongue and rest your hands on your knees/ankles/where ever.
Breath as in 7.1 taking a single breath in to your maximum capacity. Pause for about a second then begin to use the stomach muscles to help “pump” out a short, sharp breath through the nostrils. Pump and relax (and your lungs should draw more air in), pump and relax. Your aiming to produce a noise a little like a steam train.
Do this for around 30 seconds.
9. The sacrament of breakfast. (3 minutes)
Stand if you want, or just sit and relax. Now you can lean back if you wish. Take the fruit, yogurt, juice, tea or whatever it is you chose as your breakfast.
In silence and with as much mindfulness as you can muster (not thinking “I am mindful of eating” but instead just eating with absorption in the act of eating) eat the food, concentrating on the sensation of eating in the here and now. Don’t think ahead to the day, don’t think of the next or last thing to eat. Consume the food, concentrate on chewing, drinking and swallowing. Savour it.
10. Appreciate Beauty (5 minutes)
The point of this step is to learn to stop and appreciate the beauty in the world.
Relax and recline, listen to music, look out the window, look at a sleeping SO, contemplate the joy of the moon landings or look at great portraits. You can vary this daily or work through a program (all the works of a composer, all the pictures of an artist, all the theories of a scientist, all the windows you could look out from your position). The example is for music.
Using the music playing device procured in Section 1 put on something stirring and filled with quality, you may want a random playlist. Examples include:
Or anything that you enjoy really. Try to avoid melancholic things.
During this feel free to let your mind wander, that’s part of the point of music. Contemplate the fact that your warm, in a room with a roof over your head, you’ve eaten, washed and are about to cloth yourself and get on with the day.