Okay... by now you've had time to practice a bit of "Normal Abdominal Breathing". And, let me guess, you found it "awkward"??
If so, don't worry. Anything you're not used to will seem that way at first and the right way to breathe is no different. Of course, if you've had any experience before with such things as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga and even if you've been properly taught how to sing, this kind of breathing won't be anything new to you.
You may have noticed how easy it was to feel peaceful and relaxed while you were sitting and doing your meditative breathing practice, and how quickly that state disappeared the moment you got up. That's the catch...
How do you keep your mind centered and your breath relaxed while you go about your daily tasks?? Is it really possible?
Yes, and it's simpler than you think. It still takes practice and persistence, but it really can be done. And here's the method that so many ancient traditions have used so successfully for millennia in one form or another:
1. When you get up from your sitting practice, do your best to continue your Normal Abdominal Breathing.
2. The important thing here is to "watch" your breath. In other words, do what you can to keep your mental attention on your breathing, just quietly following it and turning away all other thoughts.
If you're new to abdominal breathing and this new-to-you breathing pattern presents an obstacle for you, just forget about it entirely for now and watch your breath. Forget about whether it's abdominal or not, whether you're doing it right or not. Just pay attention to the ebb and flow of your breathing.
Your mental focus on your breathing should be "light" and natural. Don't focus so hard you tense up. As you can probably guess, that kind of defeats the purpose ;-)
3. While you're focusing on your breath, you'll eventually notice physical feelings of harmony all over your body. You may notice various parts of your body and skin seem to "breathe" in conjuction with your inhaling and exhaling. Feel free to pay attention to those feelings as they arise.
Combining Energy and Spirit
Although many traditions used this procedure, only the Taoists gave it a name. They called it "combining energy and spirit". What's that mean?
Simple. "Energy" is your breathing, since breath relates to and controls energy (Qi). And "spirit" is your mental attention.
This simple procedure - paying continuous attention to your breathing - is so profound that it was often referred to as "the true path". Why? Because by doing it for a few months you could easily:
- Banish negative emotions - all your doubts, fears, confusions
- Gain complete control over your inner world (and therefore a lot more control of your outer world, since the former dictates the latter)
- Increase your love for all people and all creation naturally, without much effort
- Eliminate stress and discover levels of inner peace you didn't know existed
- Regain your health and banish diseases arising from emotional factors
Let Me SIMPLIFY This For You...
All you need to do is get used to watching your breathing with your mental attention. It's that simple.
Of course, at the beginning you'll lose track of your breathing every time something distracts you - a chance conversation, spilling your coffee, memories of a negative emotional state, or just about anything else.
As long as you persevere, though, it won't be long before you can even do intellectual work like writing this article without losing track of your inner world!
Next time, I'll show you how to reduce some of the unseen stresses you're putting on your physical body. Until then, enjoy the wonderful practice of "combining energy and spirit".
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger