Monday, August 23, 2010

A Simple Technique for Empowerment – Mindful Breathing

 Music of the Spheres
While various debates on spirituality, life, nature and everything else are enlightening and needed, quite often, there is something else that is needed even more. Most humans in the modern world have to deal with a host of negative influences on a daily basis while trying to get on with their lives. All of us are in need of simple techniques that can empower us to deal with and remove these negativities so that we can do, whatever we have to do, most effectively and joyously.

So here it is, the ancient technique that I have learned from ancient Buddhist sources - interpreted with further information and personal experience. The technique is mindful breathing. It is free of any philosophical baggage and very easy to practice. It is available from many sources on the Internet today with slight variations including an inspiring variation by Trish called the White Tornado (A link to it is in the comments section of the previous post).

Just observe your breathing, the inward breath brings with it life and energy that is carried to every cell of your body, energizing and cleaning every cell. The same blood that carries this breath to every corner of the body from head to toe is like a good friend of the cells. - A friend that comes in with a gift and leaves with the waste to be released into the atmosphere for recycling.

Watch the outward breath as it carries away the waste and the negativiy from your body. While observing the breathing process try not to think of anything at all, just observe, but if you must think of something, think of the empowering role of this inward and outward life force.

After inhalation, stop for a moment, locking the in-drawn air inside to prevent the two roles of breathing from getting confused with each other. After exhalation, stop again for just a moment so that the stale air goes away and is replaced by fresh air for the next inhalation and so that you can identify distinctly the inward and outward portions of the cycle.

Observe the movements of your body as you breathe. If your thoughts tend to wander away as they will, gently bring them back. Your breathing will soon become deeper, slower and more even, increasing the beneficial affect.

Please do ensure that the entire process is gentle and natural. Exert no special strain to control  breathing and stops (inhale-stop-exhale-stop-inhale - - - -)

You may do this mindful breathing exercise at any time of the day as often as you wish. It is best done when you are not doing anything else and the body is still, sitting or lying down in bed. It will change your idle moments with empowering ones and fill your heart with joy.

If you can accept the inward breath in an attitude of gratefulness to nature and the universe that provides this air, the benefits will be greater. And nature too will accept your waste outward breath with thankfulness carrying it to the fields, forest and oceans as gifts for other parts of nature, where it becomes in combination with light, the life force of the green side of life, so that the fields, bushes and trees are lush green and gentle bees and butterflies can play amongst the flowers. You shall then hear the music of the spheres that reverberates through the universe of which we all are an integral part.
"If the only prayer you ever said was, Thank You, that would be enough." Meister Eckhart

That very air is recycled over and over again for all eternity even as our inherent eternal self is.

Our perishable physical part can survive without food for a few weeks, without water for a few days and without air for a few minutes. Mindful consumption of food empowers. Mindful drinking of water empowers more and mindful breathing empowers the most.

UPDATE April 25, 2013: Mindful breathing may be regarded as the original form of what has been described as Pranayama in ancient Sanskrit literature. However the latter word has also been used to describe many modern versions that are not in conformity with the original, therefore the new term is preferred, While mindful breathing and its advantages are described here, it is only a step towards even more advanced spiritual practices. The next step is to combine this breathing with Mantra Jap i.e the repetition of divine words focused on the Universal Consciousness or the Supreme Being. The present post is too brief to include that here. The text on Yoga by Patanjali is the recommended reference for associated details by advanced seekers since it is a difficult text not easily understood by most readers, or for those who would like to hear about it through stories look for my book - The Babaji Affair - at amazon or elsewhere.

Also see: Mindful breathing by Patanjali

UPDATE, MARCH 2014 : Here is a new and useful summary form the Harvard Medical school about this topic and associated practices http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/mindfulness.htm?fb_action_ids=639948859373601&fb_action_types=og.likes

UPDATE December 2014: For mindful breathing technique by Patanjali, Father of Yoga see http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/12/mindful-breathing-by-patanjali-father.html 

10 comments:

Hayden said...

lovely!

ashok said...

Thanks Hayden

Trish said...

Oh Ashok, I'm so glad you found my White Tornado inspiring and have posted your own beautiful mindful breathing technique here. I'm incorporating some of this for myself. Thanks.

ashok said...

Thank you trish. Looking forward to more visits by you to the blog. I guess the blog awaits a little more controversial sort of post for others to start debating actively. Perhaps in a few days --

ashok said...

The following comment was sent on mindful breathing by a dear friend - Professor P L Dhar a leading modern expert on mindful breathing. It adds the authoritative dimension to the topic:

'Mindfulness of breathing -- called Anapanasati by the Buddha -- is a powerful meditation 'technique'. It is an exercise on Mindfulness -- not on control of respiration. So it is quite different form pranayama -- wherein regulation of breath is done in a variety of ways , leading to variety of pranayama. Pranyama has it own benefits and should be practised in its own right -- for physical and mental health benefits.

Anapanasati is an exercise to raise awareness and that has its own benefits. Stopping of breath for a few seconds at the end of inhalation; and similarly at the end of exhalation, is quite natural. No need to put effort to do so. One has to be patient enough to be able to observe it.

Anapana sati is usually done with two different objectives - to raise concentration and calm the mind and/ or to raise the awareness and investigate [& assimilate] the nature of Reality. It is one of the most popular amongst the various meditations taught by the Buddha.
The Buddha gave detailed instructions on its practice in Anapanasati sutta. You can learn about it from numerous sources available on the internet. "

Dr. P. L. Dhar

हरि चन्द said...

Sir ! Most of the Time Practices are like launching of a Rocket, i.e. use the practice till it meets the target, further discarding it and using the next one. The Physical Exercises, Breathing Exercises, Reasoning (thinking) and Meditation are used in that order . There may be conscious effort involved in some or none of them. The Ultimate goal is to lose conscious effort and also reasoning and be observant only. The Technique mentioned by you is different from Vipasanna in Two ways- 1. In Vipasanna Observation of Breathing is meant for stablising the Mind, without effort (like even momentary pause as recommended by you) and without assigning any value to incoming/outgoing breath (equanimity) as you have mentioned. 2. In Vipasanna the emphasis is on observation of the effects of phenomena inside/outside the body on Body and Mind in form of Sensations, that anso again without assigning any value to the Sensations (Equanimity). The desired goal is to achieve this equanimity, which preserves the Energy of Body and Mind which we otherwise keep on wasting by reacting to the phenomena occurring around/within us.

Ashok said...

Thanks Hari Chand ji. really appreciate the additional information as will other readers of this blog. I am aware of your considerable expertise in the area. I shall reflect on it in quieter moments and add a comment then, thanks again.

Ashok said...

I shall improve the post based on what you have rightly said Hari Chand ji because 1. Observation of breathing does stabilize thought 2. When done properly stops become automatic ( Dr. L Dhar said the same thing) although I do think at first to do it slightly consciously helps too.

Ashok said...

Patanjali too recommended the conscious stopping and he was aware of all existing techniques of his time including Buddhist ones.

Ashok said...

It is interesting to see how I changed my profile pic with time and blogger keeping a record of it :)