Keep the spine erect. Make sure it is not bent. The body is in a state of natural balance when the spine is held erect. In that position the gravitational pull of the earth has a uniform effect on the body and it is easy to free oneself from that pull. When the force of gravity is at its minimum the body does not interfere in one’s becoming empty, in one’s becoming devoid of thoughts. Keep the spine erect, but without causing any tension or rigidity in the body. Allow the body to be naturally relaxed as if it were hung on the spine like a piece of cloth on a peg.
Leave the body relaxed. Then breathe slowly and deeply. The inhaling and the exhaling will move the naval center up and down. Continue to watch this movement. You don’t need to concentrate on it, just watch it, be a witness to it. Bear in mind I am not asking for concentration. I am advising simple watchfulness and awareness. Breathe as children do – their chests do not move; their stomachs move. This is the natural process of inhalation and exhalation. As a result of this natural breathing, peace descends, becoming deeper and deeper.
Because of the disturbed and tense condition of our minds we have gradually lost the ability to breathe deeply and fully. By the time we grow to adolescence, superficial and artificial breathing becomes a habit. You must have noticed yourself that the more your mind is disturbed the more your breathing loses its natural and rhythmic movement. Breathe in a natural way – rhythmically, effortlessly. The harmony of natural breathing helps dispel the restlessness of your mind.
Why do you advise us to observe the breathing process?
I do so because breathing, inhaling and exhaling, is the bridge between the body and the soul. The soul resides in the body through breathing and because of breathing. By becoming aware of one’s breath, by direct perception of breathing, one will gradually experience that he is not the body, that “I am in the body but I am not the body alone. It is my abode but not my foundation.” As the direct perception of breathing deepens, more and more one experiences the presence, the proximity of the one who is not the body. There will come a moment when one will clearly see the separateness of one’s self and the body. Then the three layers of one’s existence will be realized – the body, the breath and the soul. The body is the shell; the breath is the bridge, the connecting link; the soul, the self, is the foundation.
The role of the breath on the path to self-realization is the most important one, because breathing is the midpoint. On one side of it we have the body; on the other, the soul. We already exist on the body level; what we yearn for is to be in the realm of the soul. Before this can be done it is essential to be at the level of prana, the breath. The transition is through the breath.
Watching at the level of the breath, one can look both ways. From there the paths leading to the body and to the soul become clear. The path is one and the same, but the two directions stand out clearly. It then becomes easier to go on following the breath. I hope you now understand why my emphasis is on breathing.