Breathing. Something we don’t think about during our day because it is an involuntary action. We must breathe as long as we are alive. Breath comes in many forms, fast, slow, deep, shallow – it even comes from one nostril or the other depending on the time of the day.
In meditation practice we are taught to begin with the breath. Some guided meditations call for three deep breaths which are held and then exhaled. This is to promote a state of relaxation – not complete relaxation because three breaths will not get us there.
If we do nothing else in meditation but become aware of our breath – it is a good meditation. Being aware of your breath leads you deeper into yourself. It is simple and can be done sitting on a cushion or in a chair. You can even do this lying down. The position is secondary to your comfort. No one can reach a state of deep relaxation if they are in pain.
The normal cycle of breathing can be counted and measured. These range from 12 to 24 breathes per minute. In all of these minutes we can be aware of our breath. We can be aware.
When you sit meditation the mudra that is formed by making a zero out of your thumbs and forefingers and allowing them to rest on your knees is called chin mudra. This is a mudra which directs your diaphragm to assist your breathing. It makes a circuit between your mind and your body.
Ujjayi breathing also develops strength in your upper abdomen and diaphragm. The Wikipedia entry states:
Ujjayi breathing is a breath technique employed in a variety of Taoist and Yoga practices. In relation to Yoga, it is sometimes called “the ocean breath”. Unlike some other forms of pranayama, the ujjayi breath is typically done in association with asana practice.
Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath, which first fills the lower belly (activating the first and second chakras), rises to the lower rib cage (the third and fourth chakras), and finally moves into the upper chest and throat. The technique is very similar to the three-part Tu-Na breathing found in Taoist Qigong practice.
Inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose. The “ocean sound” is created by moving the glottis as air passes in and out. As the throat passage is narrowed so, too, is the airway, the passage of air through which creates a “rushing” sound. The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm, the strengthening of which is, in part, the purpose of ujjayi. The inhalations and exhalations are equal in duration, and are controlled in a manner that causes no distress to the practitioner.
This is a beautiful breathing technique and one which I find leads me into a deep state of meditation quite easily. I highly recommend Dr. Saraswati’s guided meditation Ajapa Japa and also the Chakra Meditations for this breathing technique and for practices which open the chakras and strengthen them.
From my own experience, I found that meditation was something I struggled to do. I had false expectations of what meditation would be like. I expected flashes of white light and complete intuitive knowledge of the Universe. I expected to reap the benefits of meditation in every area of my life – immediately.
There is no immediate in meditation – we cannot achieve a true meditative state by practicing haphazardly a couple of times a month or even once a week. Meditation must be a part of your daily schedule – preferably a couple of times per day. You needn’t do this for hours – although I would gladly do this – you can start with two 15 minute meditation periods and extend them as your time allows.
Meditation is not a competitive sport. You don’t need to struggle to be a good meditator. You need only stop. Trying to stop your thoughts puts a brake on being in meditation. We become so stressed trying to get our mind to shut up that we lose any chance of reaching deep relaxation and meditation.
Meditation is not concentration. Meditation is a lack of concentration. As a thought arises in your mind, step back to the back of your head and look at it. Watch it scroll to the edge of your mind and disappear. With each thought do this. See your thoughts dispassionately. Just let them come and go. We you notice that your mind is wandering – which is totally natural – just bring it back to the practice. And be the Witness, not the actor.
Some things in our world become fads. I think meditation has become a fad in our time. It is good that meditation is recognized as the best and most wonderful practice. It is not the only practice. There are many practices that can lead you to a state of enlightenment. With meditation being a fad, those of us who want to be considered “hip” or with it end up pretending to meditate just to be with the crowd. The Witness knows this. You won’t be able to step back and be the Observer if you are more concerned with others observing YOU. When doing something that is just a fad – you remain stuck in Maya – illusion – and are creating an illusion for yourself and others that is unreal. Meditation is real and must be done without any notions at all.
No notions – meditate without any pre-existing benefit that you want to gain from it – whether it is enlightenment or peace of mind or relaxation – throw those away. Just do meditation for meditation. If devotion to God is your focus you can spend your time in meditation adoring God, just opening your heart to the Cosmic Consciousness.
There is a parable or saying from the Bible that you must ask Jesus to enter your life. You must open the door. I was told at some point that you must know there is no knob on the other side of that door – only you can open it. Jesus or God or Krishna or Brahma or Buddha cannot open this door in your heart for you. You must do it.
Allow yourself to meditate every day without stress and anxiety for doing it “right” because there is no right. Just sitting and watching your breath will bring you to a deep state of meditation. Do not try to control it or the outcome. Just let it be.