As someone with sleep apnea, an extremely alarming dysrhythmic heart and the no-cure killer disease Pulmonary Fibrosis – death within 33 months on average – I have a more than normal interest in breath and breathing. Here is a quotation from Eckhart Tolle on the subject;
ON THE BREATH – Eckhart Tolle in his book ‘A New Earth’ chap 8 – p243
“Be aware of your breathing as often as you are able, whenever you remember. Do that for one year, and
it will be more powerfully transformative than attending all of these courses. And it’s free.”
Discover inner space by creating gaps in the stream of thinking. Without those gaps, your thinking becomes repetitive, uninspired, devoid or any creative spark, which is how it still is for most people on the planet. You don’t need to be concerned with the duration of those gaps. A few seconds is good enough. Gradually, they will lengthen by themselves, without any effort on your part. More important than their length is to bring them in frequently so that your daily activities and your stream of thinking become interspersed with space.
Someone recently showed me the annual prospectus of a large spiritual organization. When I looked through it, I was impressed by the wide choice of interesting seminars and workshops. It reminded me of a smorgasbord, on of those Scandinavian buffets where you can take your pick from a huge variety of enticing dishes. The person asked me whether I could recommend one or two courses. “I don’t know,” I said. “They all look so interesting. But I do know this,” I added. “Be aware of your breathing as often as you are able, whenever you remember. Do that for one year, and it will be more powerfully transformative than attending all of these courses. And it’s free.”
Being aware of your breathing takes attention away from thinking and creates space. It is one way of generating consciousness. Although the fullness of consciousness is already there as the unmanifested, we are here to bring consciousness into this dimension.
Be aware of your breathing. Notice the sensation of the breath. Feel the air moving in and out of your body. Notice how the chest and abdomen expand and contract slightly with the in and out breath. One conscious breath is enough to make some space where before there was the uninterrupted succession of one thought after another. One conscious breath (two or three would be even better), taken many times a day, is an excellent way of bringing space into your life. Even if you meditated on your breathing for two hours or more, which some people do, one breath is all you ever need to be aware of, indeed ever can be aware of. The rest is memory or anticipation, which is to say, thought. Breathing isn’t really something that you do but something that you witness as it happens. Breathing happens by itself. The intelligence within the body is doing it. All you have to do is watch it happening. There is no strain or effort involved. Also, notice the brief cessation of the breath, particularly the still point at the end of the outbreath, before you start breathing in again.
Many people’s breath is unnaturally shallow. The more you are aware of the breath, the more its natural depth will reestablish itself.
Because breath has no form as such, it has since ancient times been equated with spirit the formless one Life. “God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living creature.”5 The German word for breathing – atmen – is derived from the ancient Indian (Sanskrit) word Atman, meaning the indwelling divine spirit or God within.
The fact that breath has no form is one of the reasons why breath awareness is an extremely effective way of bringing space into your life, of generating consciousness. It is an excellent meditation object precisely because it is not an object; has no shape or form. The other reason is that breath is one of the most subtle and seemingly insignificant phenomena, the “least thing” that according to Nietzsche makes up the “best happiness.” Whether or not you practice breath awareness as an actual formal meditation is up to you. Formal meditation, however, is no substitute for bringing space consciousness into everyday life.
Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment – the key to all inner transformation. Whenever you are conscious of the breath, you are absolutely present. You may also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing. Conscious breathing stops your mind. But far from being in a trance or half asleep, you are fully awake and highly alert. You are not falling below thinking, but rising above it. And if you look more closely, you will find that those two things – coming fully into the present moment and ceasing thinking without loss of consciousness – are actually one and the same: the arising of space consciousness. -0-
In the matter of breath and breathing Tolle is brilliant as he is on so many other aspects of life and inter-spirituality!