Purring – Tracheal Resonance
Ramón Sender Barayón
Dear Planetary Friends and Sojourners:
Is your body going through life feeling truly delicious? When you talk, does your voice resonate with tingles all the way out to your fingers and toes? If not, here is something to try. It’s very easy to do, with additional back-up exercises if it doesn’t work right away. Nothing to buy, no commitments to make, just enjoy a few short moments daily to dissolve all physical stress. And I should mention that a puff or two of ganja helps!
Most paths to what is variously referred to as ‘enlightenment’, ‘satori’ or ‘attaining nirvana’ or ‘awakening’ or ‘flow’ or ‘peak experiences’ focus either on the mind (even ‘no-mind’ is mind) or the emotional sheath (psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, etc.). If they directly address the physical (somatic, embodied) level, then the body seems to require arduous training in one of a variety of disciplines: yoga, t’ai chi, qi gong, dance, extreme sports, the arts. But I asked myself over the years, “Isn’t there an easier way for a dedicated hippie?”
The great 20th Century freedom fighter-yogi-philosopher Sri Aurobindo claimed to have brought down to the physical form something he named “Overmind,” and for further development put his disciples in the care of his partner Mirra Alfassa, known as The Mother. The Mother recommended training in various sports and calisthenics as well as a surrender to her that would trigger an even higher ‘supramental descent’ from above one’s head, that manifested as a remarkable tingling, minty sensation. This palpable ‘Mother Presence’ is something I experienced in 1967, and I knew at that moment she was gazing at my photo from the other side of the planet, quite a remarkable event in my life. But the sensation evoked a feeling of being totally present, completely awake in that great ocean of awareness we all share as one being that I call “the Great Beast Allofus.”
A year later I experienced the ecstatic results of tracheal resonance while OM-ing with a poet friend for about an hour. This led us to a kind of snoring in-and-out while motor-boating our lips (for horses,
the latter is called a ‘bluster’ – listen to it here
I repeated this experience by myself and realized that it was putting my body into a very pleasant state. Over the ensuing years I became convinced that purring – tracheal resonance – snoring while awake – is the easiest entry to a full-body experience of that Mother Presence, and my most rewarding exercise. When my body is saturated with bliss by this practice, my emotions and my mind trot along after it like happy puppies. Inasmuch as anyone can do it, old or young, bedridden or in top shape, I am sharing this information. If you can feel anytime of day or night as refreshed as when you first awaken after a full night of sleep or when you step out of a shower or just had good sex, what’s wrong with that?
Researching tracheal resonance, I discovered a breathing exercise in yoga known as Ujjayi Pranayama ('The Victorious Breath' or 'The Oceanic Breath') that produces somewhat similar results. It's described as follows: say "AH" with your mouth open and then, holding that same "Ah" position, shut the mouth, partially close the epiglottis (the flap at the back of your throat that keeps food out of your windpipe) and make a subtle hissing/sighing sound. This technique becomes useful as you will read later on..
How to measure:
Before going any further, we need to establish a yardstick by which to gauge the body's wellbeing levels. After searching for a widely shared bliss state, I selected the genital-centered orgasm as the setpoint. I write 'genital-centered' because I also have experienced another physical discharge state not centered on the genitals, but again I will reserve that topic for later (see footnote 2). Genital orgasm I name "O" – either the capital letter "O" or the number "0" – because orgasm is where we temporarily disappear or 'zero out,' the small death experience that for a moment dissolves our sense of self as a separate entity.
"Why not just enjoy an orgasm?" you ask?
Nothing wrong with that, except that the male of the species is limited to just a few a day at best. Women are luckier, but I don’t know if any of them have figured out how to stay at "O+5"(how we feel five minutes after orgasm) all day long. Maybe there are sex toys that can help one stay at "O+5" all day long, but add-on gadgets involve batteries and wires, which inevitably become complicated.
Meanwhile, I can hover at pretty near "O+5" anytime I want just by letting loose six or so good snores with my lips motor-boating away. Yeehaa! I just did it and I’m there! Truly! I wish there was some sort a metering device that could record this! However I did upload a 3-minute sample to Youtube, "Purring to Nirvana," that you may want to view
Let's also ask ourselves, "Just when, in our 24-hour day, do we encounter our longest abiding and most easily accessible bliss state?"
Of course the answer is in deep sleep. Deep sleep is basically equivalent to 'samadhi' in yoga, 'nirvana' in Buddhism, except of course that we are not awake. Thus we remain unaware of the rush of positive energies we experience when our body, once our higher brain functions are put to bed and out of the way, sets about its important housekeeping chores. These trigger cascades of blissful sensations – or I believe they do because of how good I feel upon awakening. Also, a few times in my life I was able to stay awake via meditation just slightly longer than normal and experienced that first rush of those overwhelming currents as my body, assuming I was asleep, started about its appointed tasks.
"Okay, so what do we do in deep sleep that we can duplicate while awake?” I ask.
The obvious answer is the resonant sleep breath that some sleepers develop into the snore. These days snoring has fallen into disrepute via what’s termed 'sleep apnea' and, in extreme cases, delivered the snorer into the eager hands of the surgeons. See more information about obstructive sleep apnea in the footnotes section at the end of this article (see footnote 3).
To understand the sleep breath, watch a dog when it lies down to rest. It first sighs deeply (perhaps to blow away any loose dust or dirt in front of its nostrils). Then as it relaxes more deeply, it begins a resonant exhale. This resonant breath is something we all do when asleep -- in fact it's the last sound we hear before losing consciousness, as the breath resonates against the dropped soft palate. Also the trachea may vibrate, that stiff, hollow tube that brings air into the lungs. At its most relaxed, the resonant breath produces the snore and, in most cats and various other species, the purr. This also vibrates the upper aorta and vena cava where they snuggle close to the trachea and also the heart.(see footnote 1)
Through this contact, the vibration is transmitted to the bloodstream . That is why, after three or four good purrs (or snores), my fingers and feet begin to tingle pleasantly as the vibration reaches my extremities. I identify these tingling sensations as positive feedback telling me that all lateral tensions in my body have been dissolved (duplicating what occurs when I am asleep).
How to Practice:
The easiest way to start is to practice snoring while awake. I find that 'sky-pointing' –- tilting the head back, nose in the air -- opens the throat and improves the effect. It should sound something like this:
Inhale (through the nose if possible): HONGGGG (rattle the septum)
Exhale (through the mouth): KREEEH (gargle a French 'R' in the back of the throat)
Do this five or six times and observe the results. If you do not feel a positive rush of vibrational energy tingling through your arms and legs, try another round. If still no result, don’t give up. This indicates that you have stored up enough lateral tension to block the energy flow. To dissolve the blockage, I suggest what worked for me the first time I "broke through:" OM-ing, humming for about an hour, even singing until you dissolve the tension. Why do folks sing in the shower? You can of course OM-hum in shorter segments more often, but at some point, things should begin to improve. Your body tension should melt away and once, melted, even normal conversation will resonate out to your fingers and toes. That's the way we're s'posed to work, folks!
Professional singers, who spend many hours a day resonating their chests, I think are very familiar with the body rush that occurs. So are those fun-loving Italians who sing in the streets! From working with various singers over the years, I can attest to their being much more body-oriented than the average person who remains stuffed up into their heads.
Do it Anywhere:
What I like best about the tracheal resonance exercise is that anyone can do it, young or old, frail or robust. You can do it in bed, you can do it on public transportation (under the noise of the engine), you can do it at your desk at work (distant echoes of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham
) – anywhere where you won’t annoy anyone. I should add that the dear person with whom I share my bedroom does find my snoring exercise irritating when we’re falling asleep, so this has encouraged me to develop a subvocal version similar to Ujjayi Pranayama mentioned earlier, or even a subtle purr that goes undetected -– most of the time.
If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where my friend Bonnie Barnett sets up one of her Tunnel Hum events, a group tracheal resonance experience, make sure to participate!
Universal Panacea Time?
It's too early for me to imagine that we've struck the mother lode. Too many people with whom I share this just don't share the experience, so I've got to figure out some simple adjustments for these folks – or convince them to join a choir or take bel canto
If you hold a wide smile throughout, you can make the same sound in-and-out without changing mouth position! More like a happy snarl! For another silent technique, try sucking on your uvula/soft palate, something that nursing babies do naturally. Laughter also triggers tracheal resonance and endorphins.
I have a theory (unproven), or at least an intuition, that people who snore are 'tracheal resonance-deprived.' If they snored more while awake, they would snore less asleep. Just how this can be tested I haven’t figured out.
It's all about soothing energy. I can access soothing energy on various levels of being -– spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, but the main thing is not to forget to include the body –- that good old body, it just trundles along doing its best. When I relax into awareness, I check the body, and often find there's a tense muscle in one hip, or some other armoring — lateral tension — that needs soothing. Of all the ways I've found to deal with these lateral tensions, the resonant breath works best because it duplicates the total relaxation of the sleep state – but while I'm still awake to 'enjoy' it.
Sometimes I also add open focus -– which I physically interpret as a widening of the eyes, even raising the eyebrows, so that I’m not concentrating one-pointedly on something but releasing the eye-muscle tensions that a tight focus creates, and gazing at empty space halfway to the opposite wall of the room.
5-28-14: My most recent thoughts on purring/snoring/tracheal resonance.
After sharing theses exercises widely online and with friends, I have come to realize that these tracheal resonance exercises just don't seem to work for most people. (And here I thought I'd discovered the universal panacea!) This has me looking again at very early traumas during my toddler years during which I tantrum'd a great deal because of the sudden disappearance of my mother, my baby sister and my teenage nanny.
Thinking about these childhood raging and tantrums, I can see how they are the body's way of stimulating a bliss state in the child (and for this reason a tantrum should be allowed to discharge naturally) — and it also resonates the trachea until subsiding into sobs and then into sighs. I think this is why I'm able to use the purring/snoring exercise so successfully (one's wounds develop into one's gifts).
However I'm now trying out the end result of the full tantrum discharge — sobbing — as follows:
Pick a comfortable pitch that works both on the in and outbreaths
Inhale: unh-unh Exhale: hunhhh
Finish with a series of deep sighs.
I'm finding this also very pleasurable — and a whole lot quieter than purring, which means I can practice it anywhere sotto voce.
When I say 'very pleasurable,' perhaps not quite up to the intense bliss of purring/snoring, but I'm getting there! Also I'm reminded of Divine Mother devotee Ramakrishna's saying something like (paraphrased):
"Just cry for Her and She’ll pick you up." YEE-HA!
1. Blood being as good a conductor of vibration as water, the resonance will fill your whole body.
2. The only other way I achieved non-genital orgasm was in my early twenties via Reichian Therapy (founded by Dr. Wilhelm Reich) where a combination of head and chest massage plus deep breathing triggered a very intense full-body tingle that began in my toes and moved like a wave throughout my body.
3. Snoring issues: The American medical community currently seems to be experiencing a love affair with obstructive sleep apnea. Patients are outfitted with Darth Vader continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks to maintain what is called ‘positive air flow,’ or else having their soft palate surgically reconstructed or their the uvula removed (that little bud hanging from the back of the mouth). Far be it from me to argue with the professionals, but a biofeedback practitioner in Texas believes that some day there’s going to be a class action lawsuit because of all these surgeries: “I believe that it [these surgeries] will be found in the long run to damage the health, specifically the heart. Why? Because I believe that snoring serves to accelerate blood flow while we are asleep very much as Coherent Breathing accelerates blood flow while we are awake. Please note that this is at present a hypothesis.”
One article sounding the alarm includes a final comment: "Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea so talk to your doctor if you are feeling fatigued, sleepy and irritable."
4.“0+5” also could be referred to as ‘The Big Glow.’ And if I can spend the day feeling the way I feel at even Oh-plus-ten minutes (O+10), I consider myself a happy-go-lucky guy.