Breathing the Spiritual Teacher™: A Contemplation

Copyright © 2011- Mark A. Foster, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.
• Breathing the Spiritual Teacher™: A Contemplation
• Introduction and Instructions

Imagine yourself rhythmically breathing from the heart (focusing on the heart while breathing). If you wish, feel the love of the Prophet filling your being on inhalations, as you are steadily purified on exhalations.

Trying  to make your breath sound like any of the breath thoughts™  listed below would, as I see it, be backwards. Since, in this meditation, these sounds are intended to be  the breath, do not recite them while breathing. Feel, and reflect upon, them in your heart.

Examples of breath thoughts, perhaps among others, are:

  • YHWH, which is known as the “Tetragrámmaton” (“four letter”), is believed to be Hebrew for, “He Who gives the breath of life.”
  • Allāh is Arabic for “the God.”
  • Bahāʾ (Baháʾ), the Greatest Name of God, is Light, Glory, or Splendor.
  • is Arabic for “he” (referring to God).
  • Maranathá is Koinē Greek, from Aramaic, for “our Lord, come.”
  • Abwūn (abwoon) is Aramaic for “our Father” (in the “Lord’s Prayer” of Jesus).
  • Soʾhaṃ is Sanskrit for “I am he” or “I am that.”
  • Reversing the inhalation-exhalation, soʾhaṃ becomes ʾhaṃsa, which is Sanskrit for “he is I” or “it is I.”
  • Mā auṃ, Sanskrit for, in this case, “mother auṃ,” is taught by Śrī Mātā Amṝitanandamayī Devī.
  • Oṃ maṇpadme hūṃ  (the four-breath mantrā) is Sanskrit for, very roughly, “jewel-lotus wisdom” or “lotus-flower-in-hand wisdom”. Oṃ, by itself, may also be used.
  • Buddha and Buddho, which may be repeated as breath mantrās, are, respectively, Pālī or Sanskrit and Thai for “Awakened One.”

In order to become heartful of your breath, lighting scented candles, using the essential oils of aromatherapy, or burning incense is sometimes helpful.

As indicated by some of the following quotations, YHWH (Yāhweh) might have been a kind of onomotopeia (a word intended to mimic a sound):

• YHWH (Jehovah) as Baháʾuʾlláh
• Baháʾuʾlláh quoted by Shoghi Effendi
The World Order of Baháʾuʾlláh, page 104

“He it is,” referring to Himself [Baháʾuʾlláh] He further proclaims, “Who in the Old Testament hath been named Jehovah [a common English-language spelling of the Hebrew, YHWH], Who in the Gospel hath been designated as the Spirit of Truth, and in the Qurʾán acclaimed as the Great Announcement.” “But for Him no Divine Messenger would have been invested with the robe of prophethood, nor would any of the sacred scriptures have been revealed.”

“The voice of the Son of Man is calling aloud from the sacred vale: ‘Here am I, here am I, O God my God!’ ... whilst from the Burning Bush breaketh forth the cry: ‘Lo, the Desire of the world is made manifest in His transcendent glory!’ The Father hath come. That which ye were promised in the Kingdom of God is fulfilled. This is the Word which the Son veiled when He said to those around Him that at that time they could not bear it.... Verily the Spirit of Truth is come to Prophet you unto all truth. He is the One Who glorified the Son and exalted His Cause....” “The Comforter Whose advent all the scriptures have promised is now come that He may reveal unto you all knowledge and wisdom. Seek Him over the entire surface of the earth, haply ye may find Him.”

• 3:16: Bible texts illuminated, page 113
• Donald Ervin Knuth

Today’s Bible scholars almost unanimously prefer the name ‘Yahweh’, which better reflects the ancient Hebrew pronunciation, to ‘Jehovah’, which has been called a “morphological monstrosity.”

Fr. Richard Rohr
• The Yāhweh Prayer

The Jewish name for God – Yāhweh – was not spoken, but breathed. Its correct pronunciation is an attempt to imitate the sound of inhalation and exhalation. We do that every moment: our first and last word as we enter and leave the world.

Fr. Richard Rohr
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
• New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, pages. 25-26

This unspeakability has long been recognised, but we now know it goes even deeper: formally the word was not spoken at all, but breathed! Many are convinced that it’s correct pronunciation is an attempt to replicate and imitate the very sound of inhalation and exhalation. The one thing we do every moment of our lives is therefore to speak the name of God. This makes it our first and our last word as we enter and leave the world....When considered in this way, God is suddenly as available and accessible as the very thing we all do constantly - breathe. Exactly as some teachers of prayer always said, "Stay with the breath, attend to your breath": the same breath that was breathed into Adam's nostrils by this Yāhweh (Genesis 2:7); the very breath that Jesus handed over with trust on the cross (John 19:30) and then breathed on us as shalom, forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit all at once (John 20:21-23). And isn't it wonderful that breath, wind, spirit, and air are precisely nothing - and yet everything?

Just keep breathing conciously in this way and you will know that you are connected to humanity from cavemen to cosmonauts, to the entire animal world, and even to the trees and plants. And we are now told that the atoms we breathe are physically the same as the stardust from the original Big Bang. Oneness is no longer merely a vague mystical notion, but a scientific fact.

• Fr. Richard Rohr
• Yāhweh Prayer

Here is Rohr’s audio explanation.

• Rabbi David Cooper
• Yāhweh Breath

Here is Cooper’s audio explanation

• Daniel Young (Yogī Da)
• Founder, Hansa Yoga Society (2009)
• Initiated into Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM®, 1971.
• Received Gurū Mahārāji’s Knowledge, 1973.
• Breath Mantrā

Although I have actually perused only a tiny fragment of it, kudos for the amazing web site re. all things spiritual/religious etc. There are a finite number of souls on the planet who can truly comprehend these matters, even with your outstanding analyses and explanations. I, too, am an “explainer.” Without going into a ridiculously long personal bio describing my spiritual journey, let's just say that I am, for whatever reason God has (ultimately beyond human comprehension anyway), God has chosen to reveal to me many things, over the last fifty years. One of those things is my reason for contacting you. I have a piece of information for you, something I did not find on your page about God's Sacred Name, YHWH.

This particular item is central to my journey and my life as a yogi. In 1973, one of the Sacred Names of God was revealed to me in a couple of different ways, within a two day period. One was by instruction in Meditation by an Indian Mahatma, as proxy for my Sat-guru [Gurū Mahārāji a.k.a. Prem Rawāt], the Golden Child I had learned of fifteen years earlier, in a prophecy by famed psychic Jean Dixon in 1958. The Knowledge he revealed was a profoundly powerful, four-technique meditation method distilled from the traditions of the yoga masters. One of those techniques was this “Holy Name” technique.

The other way I received this knowledge from God was by what I have experienced many times as “divine coincidence.” One day before receiving Knowledge from Satguru, and anticipating it with great joy, I was sitting in a friend's apartment and noticed a book on the coffee table in front of me that was titled, “Spiritual Dictionary.” I picked up the book and opened it randomly in the middle. The first word my eyes fell upon was this: “Hansa.” It explained that this is the name of the white swan, often depicted as the swan-in-the-lotus, a symbol of The Divine. It is also (drumroll!!!!) the breath mantra.

Today, I am a “master breather,” and a practitioner of “Hansa Yoga,” wherein the use of the breath mantra for constantly focused breath meditation brings about mental clarity and spiritual realization. In recent years I have experienced many new levels of experience and understanding of, for example, the chakras, prana, kundalini, Living Water, the Light of God, and the Lotus in the Heart.

In this yoga practice, also known as the Soaham Sadhana, the breath mantra is synchronized to the breath cycle, so that “Sahhh...” is the silent syllable for inhalation (slow and deep), and “Hannn...” is the silent syllable for exhalation (again, slow and deep). Part of the technique is to trace with awareness the conscious energy as it rises through the body with inhaling and drops back down upon exhaling. Though the cycle is continuous, paradoxically, there are gentle pauses at the top and bottom where the breath “turns around.” In those pauses is silence and stillness, and awareness of the True Self. How is this relevant, you ask, to YHWH? Here's how: It’s exactly the same thing.

It was explained to me many years ago by a young Jewish man who also followed my guru. Written Hebrew has no vowels. The letters that would be equivalent to our Y and W are consonants. Try making a Y or a W without a consonant following it: it’s SILENT! The sound is only in the mind. With H added to each one, it indicates the movement of breath. So calling God's Holy Name in the Judaeo-Christian tradition would be: “Yāhh...” (inhaled) / “Wehhh...” (exhaled).

“Whoever will CALL WITH THE NAME OF YĀHWEH will be delivered...” How does one call to God? By calling his Name, in the secret, mystic, sacred way. True prayer is made THROUGH THE BREATH. What is more fundamental to our existence than breath? The Breath of Life! Our connection to the true God, who breathes life into our bodies every instant we are alive. By practicing breath meditation using His Sacred Name (in any of several variants), we commune directly with our Creator.

How is it that in all the knowledge and wisdom and inquiry into the mystical meanings of key words in ancient, sacred texts, this vital, crucial, essential and inestimably important TRUTH is so widely overlooked? It’s pointless to discuss how YHWH is correctly pronounced, as if it were an ordinary word, spoken entirely on exhalation using the voice. Spoken silently in the mind, one syllable at a time, synchronized to the breath cycle, is the only correct and proper way.

Explaining this matter is, apparently, my “assignment” from God while I’m here. It certainly gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment to do so. Whether others, from various religious traditions or none at all, may disagree with me, it doesn't matter. It’s still true.


yogi da (realmystic)

• Daniel Young (danieldreamwalker)
• Founder, Hansa Yoga Society (2009)
• Initiated into Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM®, 1971.
• Received Gurū Mahārāji’s Knowledge, 1973.
• Simple Meditation

I just found this posting and I want to tell you, good job! I’m an old yogi, a conscious breather, and I teach meditation very much the same way as you have described, with minor variations. The word Spirit originates with a word for breath, and it is through the breath that spiritual experience begins. So few people are aware of this, today; religions used to teach it but they've lost it somehow. Anyway, you’ve omitted one essential element -- the breath MANTRA. Names of God like Yāh-Weh, Allāh, and others (my favorite is Hansa, or Sah-Han) are breath mantras, two syllables to be chanted only in the mind, synchronized with the breath cycle, one syllable with inhaling, and the other while exhaling. In -- (sahhh...) / Out (hahnn...). You are so right about the silence and stillness at the bottom and top of the cycle! That's really one of the most crucial things. The movement up and down, following it with your awareness, your attention, that's IT. Yogis learn to be aware of the chakras and the metaphysical column that links them, the sushumna, that runs vertically through the center of the body, a conscious energy flowing up and down, with the breath cycle.

The breath mantra is employed to allow the mind, the thinking-in-words inner voice, to be stilled and controlled and made quiet, by linking it to the fundamental engine of life: the breath. When people say their minds won’t let them meditate, you can be pretty sure they’re not using a breath mantra. It’s the very essence of a “magic word,” one that opens up perception of the realm of Spirit, within Consciousness (so much more than “mind”). It leads to the vibrant, expansive field of Consciousness that can turn the lights on in the head, when the Prana is flowing and the talkative inner voice is contained in the whispery “sahhh...hahnn...” or “Yāhhh...Wehhh...” or “Ahhh... Lāhhh...” until the silence is louder than our thought-words. So many meditators miss out on this crucial element and don’t quite catch on, because they don’t know, or don’t sufficiently value, this ancient “secret.” If you can meditate on the breath without it and find silence, you’re way ahead of the rest of us. But if your mind won’t be quiet for you, use it. It really works.

A Basic Meditation Technique of the Kabbalah:
  Chanting the Name JHVH

One of Abulafia’s simplest practices, popularized by Aryeh Kaplan, involves a series of head movements and breath, combined with pronouncing the Divine name.

The shortest version works by sounding out different Hebrew vowels together with the tetragrammaton (Y-H-V-H). When you do the practice, you’ll want to sit comfortably in a place where you will not be disturbed, and allow the eyes to close. One begins with the first letter of the Divine name, Yood, and pronounces with the yood the vowels Oh, Ah, Ay, Ee, and Oo. Each vowel has a corresponding head movement, which resembles the way the vowel mark is written in Hebrew: with Oh the head moves up and back to center, Ah to the left and back to center, Ay to the right and back to center, Ee down and back to center, and then Oo forward, backward, and back to center. Move your head with the breath: on each inhale you move away from center, then on the exhale, pronouncing the sound, you move back. So, it looks a bit like this:

Inhale – move head upward

Exhale – move head back to center, pronouncing Yoh

Inhale – move head to the left

Exhale – move head back to center, pronouncing Yah

Inhale – move head to the right

Exhale – move head back to center, pronouncing Yay

Inhale – move head downward

Exhale – move head back to center, pronouncing Yee

Inhale – move head backward

Exhale – move head foreward, backward, center, Yoo

You then repeat that process with the letters Hey, Vav, and then Hey again.

Jeff A. Benner
• Name of the Month – Elijah
• Ancient Hebrew Research Center

This name is written two different ways - אליה, pronounced as “eliy-yāh” or אליהו, pronounced as “eliy-yāhu”. There are three components to this name. The first is אל (el) the Hebrew word for “power” and “authority” and is commonly translated as God or god. The י is a letter added to the end of a noun to mean “my” hence אלי means “my God”. The י also doubles as the first letter of the next part of the name - יה (Yāh) or יהו (yāhu). Both “yāh” and “yāhu” are two different forms of the tetragrammaton יהוה (YHWH), the name of God. The root of YHWH as well as Yāh and Yāhu is היה literally meaning “to breathe”. [Onomotopeia?]

To the ancient Hebrews, only that which can be perceived through the senses (sight, feeling, hearing, smell or taste) is believed to exist. This is why the ancients usually erected statues of a god. When Moses asked God “who should I tell them has sent me?” God said, tell them “ehyeh asher ehyeh” has sent you. While this phrase is commonly translated as “I am who I am” it is better understood as “I breathe and I have breath”. In the Hebrew mind that which “exists” has breath, this can be a god, man, animal or even a mountain. The breath (often translated as spirit) is the character of an individual or object. God may not be seen but he is breath and does exist.

When each of these components are combined the name means “my God is Yāh”. But as the word אל (el) means power and authority יהוה means “to have breath”, we can see the meaning “My authority is the one who has breath”....

Please feel free to use, copy or distribute any material within the “Biblical Hebrew E-Magazine” for non-profit educational purposes only.

Pat Mercer Hutchens
• Bible Codes

After years of study, I believe it is entirely possible that the true name of The Eternal (יהוה) cannot  be spoken, but can only be breathed.

I often prayed fervently for God to show me how to say His name, reasoning that if I were his child, I should know how to say my Father’s name. Through the years fasting was added to my prayers. In other words, “I asked, I sought, I knocked.”

One day in Chicago while finishing up a jog of several miles, I suddenly stopped out of breath and gasping for air. While drawing in heavy, deep breaths, I heard “YH,” and as I forced out the air, I heard a “WH” sound. Immediately, I was stuck by these sounds and felt God’s presence and the understanding that to “live and to breathe is (what it means) to speak His Name.” This revelation added new understanding to the Scripture, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” came alive in my spirit.

I actually looked up and laughed out loud, “That’s it, isn’t it, Lord? I have to speak Your name in order to live! Right? Every time I breathe, I say ‘Yāhweh,’ don’t I! That’s it! Yāhweh, that is so great! Thank you! Thank you!”

It explained something I copied down in a lecture during graduate school, “He who can rightly pronounce it (The Name) causes heaven and earth to tremble, for it is the NAME which rushes through the universe.”

• Meditation Station
• Meditation Society of America

The Bible tells us that in the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. But in the beginning, there were no words, no languages, or even sounds of humans or animals. So what was the Word that was in the beginning. This has been a great mystery, but like the solution to many mysteries, the answer has been right under our nose all along. And that is Soham.

Soham is referred to as the “Mahamantra”, the Greatest Mantra, and is considered along with Om to be the most powerful of all techniques. This was the first meditation technique, both in antiquity and in our own lives. The ancient cavemen, before they had invented language or fire, would sit in their dark caves and have nothing else to focus on but the sound of their breath. Similarly, the first sound we heard when we were in our mothers“ womb was the sound of her breath, and this sound has been with us ever since we drew our first breath. It negates the need to rely on any of the words of the languages of the world to use as a mantra. It has brought people to transcendence of worldly limitations from time immemorial and continues to do so. It can be done even while driving, working, and doing other acts of daily life and thereby offers a continuous experience of being in the present. This is a great present, because Reality takes place now, in the present. Soham is a wonder-full meditation technique and I hope will bring you the experience of Knowledge, Consciousness, and Bliss that is your birthright.

In the Bible, when God was asked what his name is, He answered ‘I Am That I Am’ [YHWH]. In Sanskrit, the most ancient of languages, the sound of the inhalation is termed So, and the exhalation is Ham. Combined, the word Soham is translated as “I Am He/That”. So, whenever you are doing this technique, you are calling on God. Every breath thus becomes a prayer and adoration.