Complete Instructions for Watching the Breath
from the book, How to Meditate, by John Novak

Although simple to practice, this is one of the central and most important techniques of yoga. Watching the breath is extremely powerful because it works scientifically to calm our breath, mind, and life force. By concentrating intently on the breath and becoming a simple observer of the breathing process, you quickly calm the breath, redirect the flow of energy to the spiritual eye (or Christ center), and concentrate the mind.

  1. The technique of watching the breath should be done immediately following the preparatory techniques, (tensing and relaxing and even count breathing), when you are already relaxed and focused.

    Begin by exhaling completely. As the next breath flows in, mentally watch it as if you were observing the flow of a tide. Be very aware of the breath, but make no attempt to control it in any way. Simply observe its natural flow. Try to feel the breath as it passes in and out of the nostrils. If you are unable to feel the breath in the nostrils, focus for a short time on the breathing process itself, the movement of the chest and lungs, and then transfer your awareness back to the breath in the nostrils.

  1. To help deepen your concentration, mentally repeat a simple word formula such as “Amen” in tandem with the breath. As you inhale silently say “A,” and as you exhale silently repeat “men.” Or you could say “I am” while inhaling and “He” while exhaling. Or simply count “one” with the incoming breath and “two” while exhaling.

    In India they silently repeat “hong” with the incoming breath and “sau” with the exhalation. This is a special “mantra” or word formula which is especially effective in calming the flow of energy in the spine.

    It is also helpful to move the index finger of the right hand slightly toward the palm on the inhalation and slightly away on the exhalation.

    If the mind wanders, immediately bring it back to concentrating on the technique.

  1. As the breath becomes calmer, gradually become aware of it as it passes higher and higher in the nostrils until you are feeling it high up in the nasal cavity. Now you can transfer your point of concentration from the breath to the point between the eyebrows. Continue to mentally observe the breath, and to silently chant your word formula, still making no effort to control either the rhythm or depth of your breathing.
  1. The key to success with this technique is to deepen your concentration at the spiritual eye until you no longer think of anything except the rhythmic flow of the breath. As the mind becomes very focused and calm you will find your need for breath diminishing. Enjoy the spaces between breaths, keeping your mind very still and allowing the pauses to lengthen naturally.
  2. A cycle of increasing interiorization is set into motion through this technique. As the breath (and the flow of life-force) begins to calm down, the mind is naturally able to concentrate more deeply. Deeper concentration brings about an even greater calming of the breath, allowing yet deeper focusing of the mind, and so on. The final stage of this cycle is the complete withdrawal of life current from the body and senses and the total concentration of the mind.

    As the energy becomes completely focused at the spiritual eye, the body’s need for oxygen ceases and the breath stops. At first this may be a somewhat odd and even frightening experience, but it is the doorway to the deepest states of meditation.

  1. End your practice of this technique by taking a deep breath and exhaling three times. Then concentrate very deeply at the spiritual eye, trying to hold your mind completely still. With the mind deeply concentrated and interiorized you can go on to the others parts of your meditation, such as concentrating on the light of the spiritual eye, listening to the inner sounds, or feeling the deep love, peace, and joy brought by meditation.
  2. How long should you practice this meditation? Be guided by your own feeling of enjoyment and your ability to maintain your concentration. Be sure to allow time for silent communion and devotion after your practice of the Watching the Breath technique. 


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