Breath Awareness

One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925-1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in Northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally in 1969, came to the United States where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best known work, Living With the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.

Inhale ExhaleWhen the posture is steady, the body is still and comfortable, and you are breathing diaphragmatically, the next step is breath awareness—observing the flow of your breath.

Let your mind be focused on the breath and allow the mind to flow with the breath. The breath should not be jerky or shallow, it should not be noisy, and you should not uselessly expand the natural pause between inhalation and exhalation.

Breath is a barometer to measure one’s inner state. When you observe that your breath is serene, deep, and without any unnecessary pause, you will experience a sense of great comfort and joy.

The more the mind is made steady and one-pointed, the more one experiences peace and happiness. There are several ways of making the mind steady and one-pointed. Among them, concentration on inhalation and exhalation is considered to be the best.

Concentration on the flow of breath is one of the best ways to attain control over the modifications of the mind. When all the modifications cease, and the mind is calm and tranquil, one finds great joy within. When the mind is free from all distractions, and starts traveling inward, an aspirant begins to unveil the mystery of multilevel reality. Through a one-pointed mind, one gains knowledge of the inner world. This knowledge is superior to that derived from perception, inference, or testimony.

You will find extraordinary joy when you have coordinated the mind with the breath. Gradually you move your mind from the breath to sound awareness. The sound "so-hum" is the best to concentrate upon. When you remember "so-hum," "so" is the sound of inhalation and "hum" is the sound of exhalation.

With your eyes closed, focus your mind on the lowest center along the spinal column, called muladhara. Inhale as though you are inhaling from the root of the spinal column, while inhaling the sound "so;" then exhale with the sound "hum," as though you are exhaling from the crown of your head to your toes.

In this way the ratio of exhalation to inhalation will be double—inhale four and exhale eight. Do it ten times after practicing diaphragmatic breathing. After a few days, you will find your breath has become very calm.

Whenever you are in great joy, you will find that the mind is calm and the breath is serene. You can never remain in joy and you can never be happy, unless there is perfect coordination between the breath and mind.

Life is breath and breath is life.

 - Swami Rama in The Essence of Spiritual Life pages 80-81

Randall

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