Breathing is the basis of our lives. Most of the time we are not conscious of this miracle. The very thing that keeps us here on earth, energising every cell and every muscle, we fail to notice. We all breathe the same air but very few of us offer our breath the awareness it deserves. The impulse to breathe is so natural and spontaneous that we forget our inner connection to the breath. We seldom pay it any attention. At times, we even forget we are breathing at all. And yet, unconsciously, we often refer to the act of breathing in our day-to-day language. When someone is upset, we urge them to take a few deep breaths. When someone is not listening to us, we feel that we are wasting our breath. When we feel a wave of new energy and inspiration, we say that we have a second breath. When someone expresses a new and uplifting idea, we say that it is like a breath of fresh air.
The more we meditate, the more we come to realise that we are deeply connected to our breath. Anxiety makes us breathe in a shallow, rapid and ineffective way, while the mere act of sitting in silent reflection transforms our breath into deep and calming action.
From ancient times, seekers have realised the benefits of focusing on the breath and using breath awareness. It calms our minds, silences thoughts, relaxes the body, soothes emotions and opens our hearts. On a spiritual level it can help us to know ourselves on a deeper level, and even attain some of the higher goals of yoga. By performing regular breathing exercises, we prepare ourselves for a deep state of meditation. The following two exercises are based on the writing of Sri Chinmoy.
How to focus on the breath
There are many ways to become conscious of our breath. In the beginning, it is good to find a quiet spot at home to practise some breathing exercises. Sit upright and keep your spine straight and your body relaxed. Begin by breathing in and out as slowly and quietly as possible. Even if you put a small thread right in front of your nose, the thread would not move to and fro. You can use a real thread or a feather to examine your breathing. If it does not move, that means your breathing is correct. Then, after three or four minutes, feel that peace has descended and entered into your whole being. From head to foot, it is circulating. Feel that all your nerves are getting nourishment.
While breathing in as slowly as possible, try to feel that you are breathing in not just air but cosmic energy. Feel that tremendous energy is entering into you, and that you are going to use it to purify yourself: your body, vital, mind and heart. Feel that there is not a single place in your body that is not being occupied by the flow of cosmic energy. It is flowing like a river inside you. When you feel that your whole being has been washed or purified by cosmic energy, then try to imagine that you are breathing out all the rubbish inside you — all your negative thoughts and emotions. Anything inside your system that you no longer want to identify with, consciously exhale it.
If you would like to be gently guided through these breathing exercises with peaceful musical accompaniment, please go to our guided meditation audio. The recording lasts for 19 minutes and is a perfect way to start and end each day.
The Sri Chinmoy Centre regularly conducts free meditation classes and workshops in and around Perth. Kindly visit our calendar page for more information on our forthcoming courses or phone 61614156.