‘It seems clear to us today that long-term processes of evolution have gradually given rise to the increasing complexity of our physical being. Our bodies function as they do through a variety of complex systems working in conjunction with one another – respiratory, muscular, digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems, to name just a few. These particular systems permit us to process oxygen, move through space, digest nutrients, and centralize control of our lives through conscious awareness.
To live as a human being requires that these systems and others (skeletal, epidermal, glandular, and so on) function effectively and in conjunction with each other. The achievement of excellence in any domain beyond the physical is fully dependent on a high level of function in bodily systems. High levels of physical vitality make optimal mental function possible.
All processes contribute to this vitality, but it might be important to learn from Buddhists to pay particular attention to the respiratory system, the system that makes oxygen available to every part of our bodies, especially the brain, where human awareness is centralized and controlled. Here we notice the conjunction of two different perfections, the perfections of energy and meditation, because it is in the processes of meditation that we come to recognize the enhanced quantity of energy that is made available through practices of conscious breathing that are mastered in Buddhist meditation. Oxygen wakes us up in every sense, and all of us know this intuitively even if not consciously. Bringing this fact to mind and learning ways to take advantage of it is perhaps half of what there is to learn in meditation.
Deeper, calmer, and more conscious breathing gives rise to deeper, calmer, more conscious life, from processes of thinking and perception through all dimensions of immediate experience.’ (The Six Perfections)
In teaching meditation, I am always banging on about the breath, and its role in regulating the nervous system, but I have not been so vocal about how it nourishes the brain as well.