Imagine that you are lying to your boss: “I am sorry I wasn’t able to finish this work because I had a family emergency,” you say. Or, envision that while you are planning on spending a wonderfully relaxing evening on the couch watching an old comedy, you tell your spouse, “I cannot go with you to the party tonight because I have diarrhea.” Or, instead of imagining a lie, try to remember a time you did lie to someone. While doing this exercise, pay close attention to your breathing.
If you know that you are lying, your breathing rate will increase. This is a well-known fact that has been used in polygraph machines as one of the parameters for detecting a lie. It signifies that our deceits come with a high price: they trigger hyperventilation and lower CO2 concentration in the lungs (also known as vital energy, prana, chi, or breath of life). The lack of CO2 negatively impacts our sense of wellbeing and can lead to the development of various health disorders. Isn’t it amazing? It suggests that our bodies and minds are designed to make us better, more honest, and more ethical individuals. When we choose another direction, we suffer.
The book The Way of Integrity, which I recently devoured, is built around this concept. Its author, Martha Beck, is a revered life coach and fearless inner explorer who observed that lying to others or ourselves (whether our lies are black, grey, or even white) has serious consequences. One of them is that we become unhappy, but there is more. Martha writes: “It isn’t just our brains that struggle when we lie; our bodies weaken and falter as well. One study showed that people who present “an idealized image of themselves” had higher blood pressure and heart rates; greater hormonal reactions to stress; elevated cortisol, glucose, and cholesterols level; and reduced immune system functioning. Lying and keeping secrets have been linked to heart disease, certain cancers, and a host of emotional symptoms like depression, anxiety, and free-floating hostility.” Martha shares that when she stopped telling fibs, her chronic pain, other autoimmune disease symptoms, stomach aches, and memory improved, and she felt fabulous.
Dr. Buteyko was one of the first doctors who pointed out the connection between the status of a person’s inner world and their health. They are inseparable! This connection has been evident to spiritual traditions since the dawn of time but denied by modern scientists and health professionals. Fortunately, now we have scientific evidence that being honest improves health. Anita Kelly, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, conducted an experiment by tracking the health of 110 individuals when some of them were lying and others were making an effort to be honest. “When they told more lies, their health went down. And when they told the truth, it improved,” the professor concluded. At the end of her ten-week experiment, she found out that the group that lied less often had 54% fewer mental complaints (like stress or anxiety) and 56% fewer physical health issues (like headaches or digestive issues).
According to another scientific study, on average, people tell lies 11 times a week or more, which means one or two lies each day. Therefore, I believe, most of us need self-analysis exercises suggested by Martha Beck. They help to detect our lies to others and become aware of our self-betrayal, which are the least noticeable and the most treacherous lies of all. If you do these exercises wholeheartedly, their outcome will be indicated by calmer, slower, and, possibly, more harmonious breathing.
If you are a Buteyko student, chances are that you are on a constant watch for your breathing patterns, determining what factors make you hyperventilate or pacify your breathing. Add lies to your collection of hyperventilation triggers such as antibiotics, sedentary lifestyle, excessive eating, etc. Place honesty into your treasure chest among Buteyko breathing exercises, moderate workouts, fasting, and other factors that make you breathe less. Using your breath as your personal lie detector, start noticing what statements and thoughts make you inhale more air and which ones reduce your air consumption.
The presence of hyperventilation can be a valuable pointer to an inner conflict triggered by deceit, whether to yourself or others. To locate this deceit and use it for self-improvement isn’t always easy. The inner journey to honesty can be scary, threatening to your established way of life, and also dark, tangled, and full of obstacles. Don’t be discouraged! Martha’s book can act as a guardian angel, holding your hand and keeping you moving forward on this exciting journey. She writes: “Wherever you may be and however you may feel right now, the way of integrity will take you from this very spot to a life filled with meaning, enchantment and fascination. I’ve helped hundreds of people experience this. I’ve also lived the whole process myself – and believe me, I was not an easy case. But after all that misery, the way of integrity took even me to a life that feels ridiculously blessed. This is not because I’m anything special. It’s just because I know the way.”
And she does! Inspired by The Way of Integrity, I immediately began applying Martha’s recommendations and was amazed by the result. I discovered many lies I wasn’t aware of: when I was trying to manipulate others or when I was trying to force myself to do something that did not ring true to me. After these shocking findings, I became my own priest and confessed my wrong actions and thoughts, liberating myself from the mental conditioning that had invited them into my life. Right away, I felt lighter, more energetic, and more confident. This feeling of improved wellbeing was confirmed by my breathing measurements, which indicated an increased level of CO2. Bingo! After this experience, I enthusiastically confirm that the following statement by Martha Beck is not a lie: “Integrity is the cure for unhappiness. Period.”