On a course in California in 2006 I had a profound experience. It was an intense 7-day course, 16 hours a day, where we sat in a sound proof chamber listening to our brain waves. I had a number of electrodes attached to my head which in turn was connected to a computer. Via the electrodes the computer analyzed my brain waves and based on my brain patterns different sounds was sent back to the surround speakers in the chamber. At the end of each 2 minute session I got a score. So the sound that was playing was a direct reflection of how my brain was operating.
We had different tasks to work with in the chamber and one of the main thing we focused on was to forgive – our family and friends, people that have hurt us, ourselves for hurting other people etc. The more I was able to forgive and get in touch with my inner core, the higher the score and the more harmonious the sound became, giving me immediate feedback if I was on the right track or not. In the beginning I found it hard, but the more I practiced the more I was able to forgive whole heartily, not only in my head.
You are Peter. You shall follow me and help me
At one point when I was sitting there in the chamber I suddenly found myself in a large theater. I was sitting at the balcony looking down at the stage. The curtains were closed, but there were someone behind the curtains, hesitating if he or she should dare to withdraw the curtains and come out or not. This went on for some time until suddenly, just like when letting out the genie from the bottle, a huge figure appeared filling the whole stage, reaching all the way to the balcony where I was sitting. The experience was so powerful it felt like I’ve been struck by a lightning bolt. The figure was Jesus, and he had an important message to share with me. He said “You are Peter. You shall follow me and help me.”
Even though it was a very powerful experience I didn’t understand that much of what had just happened. But later when I shared my experience with the course leader, Professor Jim Hardt, he explained that according to the bible Jesus had said to his disciple Peter “You are the rock. Upon this rock I shall build my church.” Jim continued by saying that maybe I was about to start a new spiritual lineage. I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t have the slightest idea of how this new spiritual lineage would come about, but I felt that he was probably right. Since I’ve always felt that my life has an important purpose, it kind of made sense. On a side note, the name of the company I had founded a year earlier, Sorena, actually means tribal leader (in the Persian language), something I wasn’t aware of when I created the name.
Carbon dioxide is our natural tranquilizer
A couple of years later, in 2009, I had discovered the immense power inherited in our breath and formed the Conscious Breathing concept. The full realization of the power of our breath dawned on me in the beginning of 2010, when I did my first “carbon dioxide training” session. Carbon dioxide is usually considered to be a simple byproduct of the metabolism, where our body is converting food to usable energy. It is merely thought of as a waste gas that should be exhaled as soon as possible. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
If you are skeptical, then please consider this: If you are having a panic attack and comes to the hospital you will get a bag to breathe into. The same if you are afraid of flying. The steward or stewardess will also give you a bag to breathe into. In both cases the bag breathing will calm you down. Why? Because of carbon dioxide (CO2). The air we exhale contains about 100 times more CO2 than the air we inhale. Bag breathing means that we re-inhale some of the CO2 we just exhaled.
The main two characteristics of CO2 is that it a) relaxes the muscles surrounding the blood vessels, meaning that the blood will flow more easily and b) lowering the pH so that oxygen is offloaded from the blood (called the Bohr effect) and reach the cells so it can be of use. The net effect of this is that more blood reaches the brain and oxygenates the nerve cells better, and therefore we calm down, which explains why bag breathing works. So carbon dioxide is really our natural tranquilizer.
Carbon dioxide training put me in blissful state
Carbon dioxide is constantly produced in the cells of our body, about one liter in four minutes at rest, and when we breathe, we exhale the carbon dioxide that has been built up in the body. The more active we are, the more carbon dioxide is produced. That’s why we breathe more if we’re out running compared to sitting on the couch and relaxing.
Poor breathing means that we lose too much CO2 and inactivity means that we produce too little CO2, which lower the CO2 pressure in our body. This sets the stage not only for fear and panic, but it also induces stress, tense muscles and poor digestion.
On the other hand, if we reduce our breathing while doing physical activity we increase the carbon dioxide pressure in our body. One day I decided to do what I call carbon dioxide training, which means that I wanted to increase my CO2 pressure as much as possible. I went out for a 60 minutes jog while only breathing through my nose and taking 2-3 steps on the inhale and 5-8 steps on the exhale. It was really, really tough to be able to do this during the whole jog, but I am quite stubborn so I kept hanging in there ☺.
And the reward came afterwards. I sat down at my kitchen table for several hours, just doing nothing, and felt incredible relaxed and harmonious. I was in an amazing blissful state, and I have never ever experienced anything like it before. Since then I’ve done carbon dioxide training many times and the harmony is just fantastic! It’s easy to try for yourself. If works just as well when walking.
Meditation is another example of an activity where we increase the carbon dioxide pressure in our body. This happens because we slow down our breathing when meditating. Slow and low breathing is the essence in meditation. By applying Conscious Breathing in your daily life – while sleeping, exercising, talking, working etc. and breathing low, slow, rhythmical through your nose you are able to reap the many benefits of an optimum carbon dioxide pressure.
Believe in yourself and listen to your heart
So what does the experience from the brain feedback course mean to me? Well, to start with I’m not religious in the sense that I subscribe to any religion. I do not consider myself to be a Christian, Protestant, Buddhist, muslim, hindu etc. To me Jesus is just like Buddha, Muhammed and other spiritual leaders, representing the frequency of love and the ability to be kind and forgiving and inspire others to good actions.
I believe that my experience was my inner wisdom talking to me, helping me to set out on the path of creating the Conscious Breathing concept. The reason why the figure appeared in the form of Jesus is probably because I grew up in a somewhat Christian home. Since our experiences as a child affects us deeply, if I would have been raised within another religion the figure appearing would probably have been from that religion.
My guiding principle is to first and foremost believe in myself and my ability, instead of giving away my power to external authorities. And secondly I believe that there is something that is far bigger than ourselves and the reality that we perceive with our senses. Did you know for example that with our eyes we perceive only a tenth of a billion of the available light spectrum. So if you look around and think that what you see is the reality, think again.
I believe that Conscious Breathing holds the key to help us discover more of this hidden reality, which in its essence is spiritual growth. To me spiritual growth doesn’t have so much to do with religion, but more of getting in touch with inner wisdom, make wiser decisions in our everyday life, understanding our own patterns as well as the patterns of other people, and understanding the bigger picture and the world as a whole.
Anders Olsson is a lecturer, teacher and founder of the Conscious Breathing concept and author of The Power of Your Breath. After living most of his life with a ”hurricane of thoughts” bouncing back and forth in is head, Anders was fortunate enough to come across tools that have helped him relax and find his inner calm. The most powerful of these tools has undoubtedly been to improve his breathing habits, which made Anders decide to become the worlds most prominent expert in breathing. This is almost 10 years ago and since then he has helped tens of thousands of people to a better health and improved quality of life. His vision is “Together we change the world, one breath at a time.”