I have been working on this blog post for months. It’s been rather difficult to find a way to communicate these ideas clearly. But I think that I have finally figured it out.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am coming to feel that developing proper breath control is one of the most important skills for any somaferan who wants to develop their practice as much as they can.
In order to present my ideas on breath control, though, I need to first go into some background.
One of the most important things to realize about the somafera state, whether it is expressed as the berserker battle trance or anything else, is that it is limited by Shadow and false thoughts. Shadow should be an idea familiar to anyone who has studied Jung. It is that part of the self that contains all of the things the personality is not. It is a sort of dark reflection of the personality, the negative space the self evolves into. Well, to generalize that concept a bit, every concept has its own Shadow. Sorrow is the Shadow of joy. And fragmented, disunified thinking is the Shadow of the unitary state of somafera.
The subconscious is a simple thing, associative rather than reasonable. So whenever you focus on something for too long, your subconscious mind starts to become aware of all the stuff associated with the thing you are focusing on. That awareness includes the Shadow of that thing. With a powerful enough focus, the Shadow thoughts become strong enough to start breaking into your awareness, creating ideas and images that Buddhist yogis call “false thoughts.” These false thoughts distract and interrupt, ruining your focus.
And there’s the dilemma for any somaferan, but particularly for berserkers: the somafera change is effected through powerful, sustained focus on the kinds of thoughts that lead to elevation. In a fight, the greater the focus is, the greater the gains in strength and speed. And so the very things that make a powerful gangr possible are the things that, shortly later, ruin the state of mind you need for the gangr.
One way to handle that is to simply get the job done quickly, so that by the time false thoughts ruin your state, you don’t need it anymore. However, because the gangr is often used in fighting and hard physical labor, that strategy may not always work. If you use the somafera state for more spiritual purposes, you may not have accomplished them in the limited time you have, either. So what else is to be done?
Well, you can learn to extend your state through proper breath work. You see, the breath is the key to the mind. As the breath moves, so your mind moves. On the physical level, the breath carries oxygen to your brain, which it needs, so the breath supports the mind that way. On a more esoteric level, breath (or ond, in the Old Norse) raises wod, which fires up and inspires the mind. Here are the basics of how it works:
- When you inhale, you build up your mental power.
- When you exhale, you spend whatever mental force you have mustered, strengthening your focus and whatever it is you are doing at the moment.
- When you do not breathe in or out, as happens for a moment between inhalation and exhalation and between exhalation and inhalation, mental activity drops to a minimum. Your focus winds down when this happens.
So, knowing these three facts, you can time your breathing with your mental and physical activity to effortlessly manipulate the interplay between focus and Shadow so that the effect of focus is maximized and the effects of false thoughts are minimized.
Inhale on thoughts you wish to strengthen, such as the object of ritual focus.
When your attention begins to waver, exhale forcefully. If you are fighting, this is the moment to make your move, and time the exhalation with the move. The act of exhalation will strengthen the move.
If you have timed this right, when you finish exhaling will be about the moment when your mind starts to be overwhelmed or distracted by Shadow and false thoughts. If you hesitate before inhaling, or shift to light, slow, shallow breathing (which has much the same effect), these false thoughts will be weakened, and have little effect.
Practicing timing your breathing with your ritual focus, when doing ritual, and timing it with your movements and intents if fighting, will eventually produce a far more effective form of elevation, one which is not as prone to running down and scattering.
Rrrgh. I am still dissatisfied with this description. I feel I am only hinting at what I really mean. But really explaining it is like trying to explain to someone how to wiggle their ears. This is as close as I can get for now.