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The Boundless Breath: A Gateway Into Our Unconditioned Nature

December 10, 2009
Dennis Sitting with Raven Circling Above

Dennis Sitting with Raven Circling Above

Here is a special meditation of self-inquiry, in which you will explore your breath as a gateway into yourself. Through practice of this meditation, you will have an opportunity to receive a glimpse, a taste, a sense of your inner being, your unconditioned nature.

Sit Comfortably in Silence

Begin by sitting toward the front of a firm chair, with your spine straight but supple. You can, of course, sit cross legged on a cushion if that is comfortable for you. However you sit, make sure your hips are higher than your knees.

Close your eyes, and fold your hands together in your lap or put them palm down on your knees. Rock gently forward and backward on your “sit bones” until you find a comfortable yet erect posture (if you are sitting on a chair, check your feet to be sure they are relaxed and flat on the floor). Just sit in silence for a few minutes, simply being present to yourself as you are.

Engage Your Thinking with the Question “Who am I?”

Now, with your thought, ask yourself who you are. Don’t allow yourself to be taken by any particular answer. Simply ask the question “who am I?” and observe and let go of any answers as they appear. Ponder this question with your mind for at least five minutes.

Engage Your Feelings with the Question “Who am I?”

Now ask “who am I?” again, but this time, see if you can ask with your feelings. See if you can feel your whole life all at once: “Who am I?” “What’s it all about?” Allow these questions to open your heart and free you from the fixed attitudes you have about yourself and the world. Work in this way for at least five minutes.

Engage Your Sensation with the Question “Who am I?”

Now let the whole sensation of your body enter your awareness, including a sensation of your breathing. Follow your breath as it moves from the tip of your nose, through your nasal passages, into your throat and trachea, and down into your lungs. Sense how the tissues of your body seem to open like flowers as you inhale and close as you exhale. Don’t try to “do” anything. Just follow, sense, and watch. Observe in an intimate way any thoughts or feelings that take place, but don’t lose yourself in them. Continue to sense your body and follow your breathing like this for at least five more minutes. Then ask “who am I?” again, this time with your entire sensation. Let the question touch every cell of your body. Work in this way for at least five minutes.

A Gateway Into Our Unconditioned Nature

As you continue to follow your breathing, notice the pause that occurs naturally at the end of your out-breath. Include this pause in your overall awareness of yourself. The great mystical traditions have spoken of this pause, this space, between the out-breath and the in-breath as a gateway into our unconditioned nature, into our underlying reality as pure consciousness. It is in this boundless space between exhalation and inhalation, a space that is always there beneath, around, and within our thoughts, feelings and sensations, that we can more readily begin to let go of everything we believe we know about ourselves and open ourselves to the unknown.

Continue to follow your breathing, paying special attention to the space between exhalation and inhalation. Sense this space as kind of “resting place,” a place to give up your self-image, your identity, and simply come to rest in yourself. Don’t try to force anything. Just watch and sense.

As your breathing continues, and as this space begins to expand into a sense of global consciousness, let yourself become one with it.  See how your thoughts, sensations, feelings, and breath are all contained within consciousness itself. Feel the miracle of yourself here and now, alive in a vast ocean of space and presence—alive in the vast ocean of the unknown.

When You’re Ready to Finish

When you’re ready to stop, let go of any experiences you may have just had and return to the whole sensation of your body and the movement of your breath from the tip of your nose down into your lungs. Then stop following your breath and just sense yourself sitting there in silence.  When you’re ready, gradually open your eyes, get up, and return to your so-called ordinary life.

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Copyright 2009 by Dennis Lewis. You can find expanded versions of this practice in my book Free Your Breath, Free Your Life, and in my audio program Natural Breathing (where I personally guide you through the practice).

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 31, 2009 4:16 am

    Dennis,

    I’d forgotten how simple it is to release into the realm of pure, uncluttered meditation.

    Well done.

    It’s a charming exercise.

    David.

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