Seven Octaves of Enlightenment: Integral Deep Listening Pranayama by Joseph Dillard
From the book preface, used by permission of the author.
You take approximately 20,000 breaths a day. IDL Pranayama is about using as few as seven of them to transform your life.
How is it that we so routinely ignore something that accompanies us wherever we go, whatever we do, throughout the entirety of our lives?
Isn't it amazing that we rarely make use of something we do some twenty thousand times a day?
How is it that a transformative presence, so simple and easily taken for granted, is not only novel, but rarely respected?
How is it that we take for granted, know so little about, and make such cursory use of our most profound, reliable, supportive, instructive and positive companion?
Despite the common knowledge that Gautama used observation of breath to attain enlightenment, its nature and power is rarely recognized or used. Your breath is your most misunderstood, under-appreciated and misused resource, particularly when we consider its profound benefits, amazing powe, proven efficacy, ease of use, lack of negative side effects and transformative capabilities.
You can use your breath to expand your consciousness and speed your development. Integral Deep Listening (IDL) pranayama is designed to open new, important and exciting possibilities for you.
Your ability to become aware of the stages of each breath you take and the octaves of the evolution of consciousness that it personifies is a revolutionary and profound competency that has always been available to you, lying just under your nose. IDL Pranayama is an enjoyable and effective way to turn your breath into both your guru and intimate confident.
Pranayama, the Sanskrit word for 'Yoga of Breath Control,' is generally associated with both hatha, or body yoga, and control of breathing. Breath control is often associted with purification and access to altered states of consciousness such as higher meditative jnanas, peak and mystical experiences and deep sleep.
However, there are broader meanings for both yoga and pranayama. For IDL, 'yoga' refers to any discipline that encompasses the transpersonal as well as the personal and prepersonal dimensions of experience. The key concept emphasized by yoga is discipline, implying clear intention, dediction and persistence.
IDL supports and encourages all three of these important qualities. It also emphasizes slow, solid and balanced developmental evolution rather than exciting but evanescent and difficult to duplicate access to altered and mystical states. These will come, and may occur more frequently as your consciousness clarifies, but they are notoriously unpredictable and extremely difficult to duplicate.
At their best, yogas attempt to embrace the growing edge of human potential, meaning and development in order to pull you up and beyond your current definition of who you are and what it means to be whole and live a fulfilling life. Such yogas embrace both control and observation in order to transcend both.
IDL is a form of dream yoga that views waking, dream and mystical events as wake-up calls to be used to help you outgrow scripting, drama and cognitive distortions that have slowed and blocked your development for years. It also uses meditation and the interviewing of wake-up calls, whether they take the form of your waking life issues or the characters in your dreams, in order to generate lucidity, enlightenment and higher-order wakefulness, whether you are awake or dreaming.
To this end, IDL uses pranayama to support both goals — the reduction of filtering that generates delusion, drama and misery, on the one hand, and on the other, growth into a life-centered, rather than self-centered, orientation in your daily life.
IDL uses breath to anchor awareness in the here and now with three basic tools: naming, recognition and objectification of the five skandas adapted from Buddhism, and becoming the seven octaves of breathing.
While approaching breathing in terms of a developmental spiral echoes the 'spectrum of consciousness,' or the developmental progress of awakening laid out in all or in part by Plotinus, Aurobindo, Maslow, Kohlberg, Piaget and many others, and synthesized by Wilbur, that was not the formative intention behind IDL Pranayama.
Although the author had been familiar with many develomental models since the late 1960s, the relationship between breathing and those models was an afterthought, based largely on years of observation and practice with the first three stages of the breathing process. Its roots involved much practice observing breath as a function not only of meditation but walking and running during the 1990s, and realizing that every breath could be easily and reasonably subdivided into six component stages.
With the recognition that these stages were echoed in the macrocosmic processes of a day, the seasons and cycles of a lifetime, the idea of associated processes was born. When it was understood that each of these stages and processes were closly associated with certain values, the six core qualities, which became part of every IDL interview, came into existence.
These three aspects of every breath were not considered 'octaves' or otherwise related to the evolutionary and involutionary arc of life until 2016, when three core values of IDL — abundance, cosmic humor and luminosity, which include and transcend processes and qualities associated with the round of breth, were assigned to states in a higher, more refined cycle of breath, called 'transformational affect.' These were joined by joy, awareness and trans-rationality. At this point the idea of writing a book about the approach to pranayama taught by IDL occurred.
In the process of writing and thinking all of these through, still higher, ineffable cycles opened up, and these became Transcendent Awarenesses, emptiness and breathing from the perspective of life. It was only at this point that it became clear that these various approaches to the cycle of breathing could be considered octaves and associated with the develomental progression of enlightenment.
It came as a surprise to discover potent relationships between the microcosmic experience and the vast macrocosm of human evolution. The idea that one could recapitulate the entire evolutionary and involutionary arcs in seven breaths offered fascinating possibilities for the incubation of Grand Design in a very personal, intimate and immediate way.
IDL will show you how to grow into a dynamic, transformative and practical relationship with your breath that will turn it into your best friend. Whether you are new to pranayama or are a seasoned practitioner of advanced techniques, Seven Octaves of Enlightenment is intended to help you deepen and broaden your practice so that your breath will not only take you to your next level of development, but will be there supporting you, every step of the way.