breathing is a very important door for learning meditation. your mental state is very deeply related with your breathing pattern. whatever is your mental state, it will have a corresponding breathing pattern. when you are angry, then your breathing is different. when you are sad your breathing is different and so on. each emotional state has a particular breathing pattern.
if you can change the pattern of breathing then you can alter your mental state. so, mystics down the ages have devised many meditation techniques around the breath. the meditation technique discussed here is breath watching.
breath watching meditation can be done any where and at any time. suppose you are standing in a queue and waiting for your turn to come, then you can simply do this breath watching meditation. breath watching is a very simple and effective meditation. best part is that no one will come to know that you are practicing meditation.
breath watching meditation can be divided into 5 parts:
- watch the incoming breath. close your eyes and start watching your incoming and outgoing breath. first, start with the inhalation. watch from where the breath enters your nostrils and follow it right down into your lungs.
- when inhalation is complete and exhalation has not started there is always a gap. watch this gap that follows at the end of the inhalation and before the exhalation. watching this gap is of immense value because mind stops for a while in this gap. breathing and thinking are very much related. if you stop your breath completely then you can not think. watching this gap helps in developing the knack of awareness. between two thoughts also there is a gap but normally you are not aware of it. when you start witnessing your thoughts then you become aware of this subtle gap. as your witnessing deepens then this gap between two thoughts also increases.. so watch the incoming and outgoing breath and also the gap between two breaths.
- watch the outgoing breath. now watch whole process of exhalation from lungs to nostrils.
- again when you have exhaled and not inhaled, there is a gap. watch this second gap too. do these four steps for 2 to 3 times – just watching the breathing cycle, not changing it in anyway, just watching the natural rhythm. you don’t need to alter the breathing pattern. remember, breathing happens on its own. it does not need your cooperation or any effort from your side. so, allow the breathing to be normal and do not interfere in any way. just watch the cycle of breath. i must mention my experience here. when i started watching my breath then despite knowing that i have to just watch the breath and not interfere with it…. then also my breathing was altered. slowly, with practice you will be able to just watch the breathing.
- now start counting the incoming breaths. inhalation – count 1 (don’t count the exhalation, only inhalation need to be counted), inhalation – 2, and so on, up to 10. then count from 10 back to 1. sometimes you may forget to watch the breath or you may count beyond 10 or you may forget to count. when this happen then start the counting again, at 1. never feel guilty for losing awareness. instead just watch this guilt feeling and come back to witnessing immediately.
two things which are important to be remembered is watching the breath and particularly the gaps at the top and the bottom. in this gap, mind is not there but our innermost core or being is there. this innermost being is always there. it is always calm, still, relax and watching.
second important thing to remember is to go on counting, but not more than 10. count up to 10; and then start the counting back to 1 and only count the inhalation. these things help awareness. in this meditation, if you are not aware, then you will start counting the exhalation or forgot to count or you will count beyond 10. so, you have to be aware of the inhalation, exhalation, counting etc. this helps tremendously in awareness. if you enjoy this meditation, continue it. regularity and sincerity in meditation is must. you can’t go deep in meditation unless you are total, regular and sincere in your meditation.
my notes on breath watching meditation:
1. there could be other variations of watching the breath meditation technique. techniques don’t matter, what is essential is to learn the knack of witnessing or become aware. so find the meditation technique which suits you and learn the knack of witnessing. once you know how to witness then you can drop the technique and start witnessing your thoughts, emotions and actions. always remember witnessing is the method and the key.
2. when i was practicing breath watching meditation then i don’t used to count. i was more focused on witnessing and was very sincere in it. i practiced it a lot during my office days when my friends are discussing office problem and i am silently watching my breath or the thoughts which comes in my mind. but i agree, that counting is another step in becoming aware.
3. since breath watching is a passive meditation technique. it will suit you more, if you keep your body active. if you are doing sedentary office work all day then breath watching meditation might make you sleepy. so add some physical exercise in your life like walking, jogging or yoga asana. the physical exercise should not tire you. so be moderate in exercise. this is to save energy for going deep into meditation. meditation needs excess (over flowing) energy to flower. lastly this rules applies to beginners only.
4. enjoy the meditation. don’t have any expectation. taking bath before sitting for meditation always helps.
5. mind will always resist the meditation and will always find a good excuse for not doing meditation. mind will do its job well of resisting meditation and your job is to watch/witness these excuses of mind. witnessing the excuses of mind is itself a meditation. as instead of watching breath you are watching your thoughts.