Just as with movement, breathing is a key feature and characteristic of biological life. Breath is also fascinating in that it is a process that functions naturally and a process that we can somehow manipulate with our own sense of will. It is indeed one of the few biological instruments at our disposal in this immediate sense, meanwhile pretty much everything else, like for example body temperature and the heartbeat are much more difficult or maybe even impossible to influence on pure will alone.
Breathing is also an effective anchor to place ones attention and in doing so aiding the mind to become one-pointed and focused. This ‘one-pointedness’, as mentioned in a previous chapter on movement, can aid you in bringing you to the direct experience of your body and its natural mechanics, quite effortlessly.
As long as you are experiencing life as a biological organism, breathing will be an essential component of your experience. This is precisely why I consider it to be an effective anchor to place your attention.
You can access your direct experience through the breath by simply being aware of it. My own experience of focusing my attention on my breath can be summarized in the sentiment that by being fully aware of the breath you as a conscious being seem to become indistinguishable from it, the tidal nature of it, how it rises and how it falls. The breathing becomes you and you become the breathing, it almost feels like there isn’t any barriers between you and the experience of breathing. This is direct experience.
Conscious attention on breath is indeed a powerful way of tuning yourself to direct experience, just as one fine-tunes the strings of an instrument to the desired tuning.
The Buddha’s Way of Vipassana
If you are to believe some sages, yogis and mystics, it was simple awareness of breath that led the wise Siddhartha Gautama to wake up to the truth and become the Buddha. This “Vipassana technique” was the main technique employed by him when it came to attaining self-realization or nirvana, and it only consisted of being aware of the breath.
From my own experiences I feel that when one is truly in harmony with ones breath, one is achieving a unity of the mind and body and in doing so also bridging some parts of the unconscious with the conscious.
Whether or not you wish to become spiritually enlightened, awareness of the breath is a powerful technique for anyone to use. That is anyone that is so wishing to live more directly or someone that wants to resolve the muddy waters of his/her mind.
You may have noticed, if you’ve read the previous articles on direct experience, that awareness and attention have so far been integral keywords in our quest for a more immersed life.
This is because wherever or whatever you place your attention on, that “focus” becomes your immediate reality, this is a innate power we as consciousness have that can’t be stressed enough. A power which most people aren’t fully conscious of, instead they seem to be constantly ruled by the whims of their own capricious psyche.
I truly feel that our responsibility as consciousness is to learn and to understand this fundamental power at our disposal, which is this sense of attention and from thereon aligning it gracefully with our true interests and desires.
If you don’t cultivate this power, it will be a wasted gift and it will also inevitably be more easily manipulated by external factors and phenomena, which will in the end be working against your well-being.
This is precisely why awareness of breath is such a powerful tool.
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized that he was made of immaculate and timeless consciousness when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history, philosophy, egyptology and western esotericism at Uppsala Universitet. He’s also currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.