It’s a method for cleaning up your emotional attachments. Just about every moment of your life you are picking up emotional attachments. These emotions are not bad in themselves, but after the moment we have no need to keep them; they just become invisible baggage that makes us heavy.
The sweeping breath is a means to clean these attachments. I compare it to brushing your teeth. Eating is necessary but the plaque and bacteria that remain on your teeth after are neither necessary nor necessarily beneficial (some of them are; they remain even after brushing teeth). The food bits are also not useful in the mouth so brushing teeth keeps our teeth and mouths healthy.
In the same way, feeling the emotions of the moment is fine but keeping attached is not so healthy. The attachments are like chains that weigh us down. They cause us to react to future situations in ways that are not healthy or beneficial. They make us feel self important, which is short sighted, and not in our self interest.
Like brushing teeth, the sweeping breath is a way to clean things. By doing the sweeping breath, we can clean up and discard the emotional attachments that have accumulated in our lives. As you do the practice you become more skilled; as you become more skilled you become more aware of the attachments in your life, and you become more aware of the feelings that you feel and some of their causes.
The great thing about the sweeping breath is that it is simple. Don’t let the simplicity fool you; it is tremendously powerful if you do it in a continuous way.,
Make a list of people, events, periods or other things in your life that you think you need to clean up: the list should make sense to you. You can change the list later or remake it but you need a list to start with.
Get a space
Sit in a small space where you won’t be disturbed and start with the first thing on your list. It is much easier if the first thing is the most recent thing. Trying to remember distant events is more difficult and better to do after you have lots of practice and skill.
Turn your head to the right, and start with the first thing on your list. Breathe in while you sweep your head to the left, finishing the in-breath facing over your left shoulder. Then breathe out, sweeping your head to the right, finishing your breath facing over your right shoulder.
As you are sweeping, try to remember the item on your list in as much detail as you can. Remember the setting: the room and furniture, the people around you, the temperature, the weather, anything you can remember. Start with trying to remember the physical things and move on to events in the scene, the things you or others said, and finish with remembering your feelings.
Do not rush this breathing. Do it as slowly as you can. Rushing will only make you tired and it has less effect in cleaning out the attachments. Your breathe does not have to be particularly deep or anything like that; just slow.
Keep doing this until you feel neutral towards the item on the list; then proceed to the next item.
Have you ever read a book more than once? I mean some kind of non-fiction book that aims to teach you something. I have. It is really really good for my learning. The second time I see things that I did not see the first time. The third time I see the importance of things and the connections that I did not see before. RE-reading books is a really valuable technique for deep lasting learning.
The same with the sweeping breath. It is like re-reading the book of your life. Not only can you notice things that you had not noticed before, you will start (slowly) to see patterns that you did not see before. You will slowly come to realize the lies that you have told yourself all along the way (lies always fail under scrutiny); and believe me, you lie to yourself. Everyone does. It is almost impossible to notice without a technique like the sweeping breath.
The slow breath works on your physiology in a tremendous and deep way. It improves your circulation, reduces stress, gives us access to affect the autonomic nervous system and thereby influences stress in our body. It has been connected with feelings of calm, reduced depression, reduced stress. There are lots of references on the internet about this like this page and this page.
By purposefully breathing slowly while you re-experience events in your life, you can ‘reset’ the event to a much calmer and more controlled or neutral state. The state you create in your body by the slow breathing becomes associated with the event and the old associations are broken. This re-association takes many repetitions. That’s why it is a safe practice; you can stop at any moment. If you want to keep the old associations, you can.
This is one of the surprises for me; I felt the sweep was important, and I don’t get the same results without doing the sweep. I wondered why that would be until I came upon a relatively new discovery: EMDR. This is a technique for using eye movements to access memories and re-process them. You can read about it here.
Currently researchers are studying why the technique is effective: the theory is lagging. On the other hand, there is ample research on the effectiveness of the technique and it is becoming more well known as time goes on.
It does not work fast. Like bad teeth, if you start brushing your teeth today they will not become healthy in a month. It is a slow technique. On the other hand, teeth that are damaged are permanently damaged. Enormous amounts of emotional baggage damage can be undone by this practice; all it takes is constant slow practice daily.
I have felt the greatest gains personally over the course of the last year and I have been doing this (more and more) over the past three years. Starting sooner is definitely better!