Daoist Breathing: Commentary by Dr. Alan Peatfield
The last time Bruce taught a seminar on breathing as extensive as he plans to this year, was in 2010 on Crete. For all of us who were there, it was one of the most memorable of all Bruce’s workshops since he began them more than 30 years ago. Bruce’s teaching was lucid and comprehensive. And as time has gone by, I have found myself more and more recalling and using the techniques, because in the intervening years those practices have become enriched by the experiential foundation that Bruce laid for us all back then. Daoism is famously said to be about change, and adapting to the flow of change. There is nothing more able to help you adapt to change than breath.
It might be enough to leave this here as a simple testimonial, but there is much more. One of the stories Bruce tells of completing his PhD in Health Science was that an examiner (an adviser on health to the White House) asked him if there was one thing in the thesis that could be developed into a programme to benefit the health of the greatest part of the population. Bruce answered: breathing.
That was many years ago, but Bruce’s prescience was remarkable. Even before the crisis of Covid, back in 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) recognised that world-wide the third leading cause of death was COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), that is diseases of the lungs and compromised breathing. This was reiterated on the WHO website in an article this month. This criminal tragedy of the crisis of human breath is that it arises from what we have done to ourselves, climate change, destruction of the environment, and pollution. And that was BEFORE Covid.
Covid or some similar respiratory disease has been a major fear of Health Authorities for decades. If we can’t even cure the common cold, what chance do we have against more virulent respiratory diseases? There are more Covids coming.
Amidst all this doom and gloom, Daoist breathing does offer a ray of hope. It was fascinating how at the height of Covid, hospitals and doctors were “discovering” so many of the breath and related bodywork techniques that Bruce teaches. They were finding them randomly; Bruce’s programme has them systematically – which means that we/you have them too.
If you are thinking of attending Bruce’s Breath Workshop this summer, don’t just do it for yourself. Take that knowledge and experience, which through Bruce we inherit from the old Daoists, master it for yourself, but then offer it to all your communities. My next door neighbour is a neurologist, head of the graduate medical programme at the University of Limerick. He joked with me the other day; in life there are just three inevitable things: birth, breath, and death. That’s a serious joke. If enough of us learn the Daoist breathing techniques, we might just bring about Bruce’s prescient point to his examiner: the future of world-wide health is breath.