The Awareness of Pauses in the Breathing Cycle
A Way to Find the Self
Opening to the Background of Stillness
The awareness of the pauses after inhalation and exhalation is a very simple and efficient method to quiet the mind and open ourselves to the background of Stillness, our Real Nature.
However, the awareness of these pauses is not Spiritual Realization. Being just a technical element, this awareness is naturally transcended when we go deeper in meditation. At a certain level in Hridaya Meditation, focusing on the breath might become a limitation, a barrier that will keep the attention in the practical domain and, implicitly, focused on the personal consciousness.
The Three Levels of the Pauses
The pauses after inhalation and exhalation become spiritually efficient only when they are associated with a specific awareness.
For the sake of clarity, we refer to the pauses at three levels:
- The actual pause in the breathing cycle (of around one second) and the awareness of it.
- The gaps between thoughts, which are more liable to appear during these pauses.
- Stillness–the background of Pure Consciousness, our Real Nature, which is revealed more easily when the mind is quiet.
The pauses after inhalation and exhalation do not automatically bring a state of mental void, but they can help us in quieting the mind. This condition of the mind doesn’t necessarily imply the revelation of Stillness–of the Spiritual Heart, but it can be more easily revealed when the mind is quiet.
In the beginning, this method is very efficient in quieting and clearing the mind. But eventually, when experience in meditation increases, we understand that Silence is not only in the mind–it is the experience of Reality, of sacredness. It is Pure Presence. It is Stillness.
The Equanimity of Energy
The important element is not the pause in itself, but the awareness and attitude associated with it.
Pauses always exist in every breathing cycle. At the end of exhalation before inhalation starts, and at the end of inhalation before exhalation starts, there is a moment of silence. Yogis consider these breaks as moments of equanimity in which two energies prana vayu and apana vayu are completely balanced.
As a general principle, when there is perfect harmony between two opposing energies there is an opportunity to transcend the level at which those two energies act. Thus, these two moments have a special quality compared to all the other phases of the breathing cycle. However, the catalyst of the process is our attitude.
Surrender in Hridaya Meditation
The pauses are not introduced and seen in a mechanical or strictly technical way. They are moments of total surrender, as if we were diving deep inside ourselves or falling asleep, but always maintaining our awareness, without the loss of lucidity that characterizes the dream state.
The Pause Is an Energetic Condition of Equilibrium That Favors Surrender
The attitude of surrender opens us towards the deep reality of our being, the Spiritual Heart. Therefore, it is more important than the pause itself. It should be maintained continuously during all phases of the breathing cycle, even after the pauses.