The process of breathing, of respiration, of the fundamental movement of inspiration and expiration, is one of the great miracles of existence. Breathing not only unleashes the energy of life, but it also provides a healing pathway into the deepest recesses of our being. To inhale fully is to fill ourselves with the energies of life, to be inspired; to exhale fully is to empty ourselves, to open ourselves to the unknown, to be expired. It is through a deepening awareness of the ever-changing rhythms of the primal process of breathing that we begin to awaken our inner healing powers–the energy of wholeness.
Breathing Awareness: An Integral Part of Meditation
For thousands of years, breathing awareness has been an integral part of meditation, an integral part of the journey toward our own essence. For our breathing, especially when it is soft and full, can attract our awareness deep inside the extraordinary temple of our body, where it can help awaken our inner dimensions of spaciousness and silence. The energy of breathing, when it is experienced in the full light of our interior consciousness, can help animate and harmonize our being at every level.
The following breathing meditation is the first of a very simple series of breathing practices. Do not, however, underestimate its power. If you can work with this breathing meditation every morning for a minimum of 15 minutes over a period of several weeks, you will begin to experience its many beneficial effects both on your body and your psyche.
Begin the Meditation
Sit quietly for several minutes, either cross-legged on the floor or on a chair (without leaning against the back of the chair). Be sure that your spine is erect yet supple. Your hands should be folded gently together in your lap or palms down on your knees. As you sit, sense your weight being supported by the earth and allow the whole sensation of your body to enter your awareness and come to life.
Now, simply follow your breathing as you inhale and exhale. It is through following our breathing through our sensation that we begin to open to the power of breath. During inhalation, sense the temperature and vibration of the air as it flows from the tip of your nose through your nasal passages, throat, and trachea on its way into your lungs. During exhalation, sense the air going up and out of your lungs through your trachea, throat, and nose. (Do not manipulate your breathing in any way during this practice.)
After at least five minutes, rub your hands together several times, put them over your navel, and sense your belly. How does your breathing respond to the warmth and energy from your hands? As you continue to follow your breathing, can you sense your belly expanding (or wanting to expand) as you inhale and flattening (or wanting to flatten) as you exhale, without losing your awareness of the air as it enters and leaves your lungs?
As you begin to observe more clearly these movements of your breathing, you may start to experience a sense of energy deep in your belly, at the level of about an inch or two below your navel. During inhalation, you may feel this energy filling your entire belly. During exhalation, you may feel the energy becoming more compact and concentrated. Really let yourself experience (and enjoy) this expanding and contracting sense of energy in your belly as your breathing continues.
Continue working in this way with your breathing for another five minutes or more. When you’re almost ready to stop, give yourself a couple of minutes to sense the energy, or at least some of the energy, being absorbed into the cells of your belly and back toward your spine. Then bring your attention back to the whole sensation of yourself just sitting there, breathing. Watch, sense, and feel everything that’s taking place, including your breathing, until you are ready to stop. Sense yourself as a breathing being.
Copyright 1999-2015 by Dennis Lewis