You’ve been practicing meditation for some time now. When you started, paying attention to the breath and staying with it was challenging. It commanded a good share of your attention. Now, you’ve settled into it. You can hold your attention on your breath for longer durations.
To your surprise, you’ve realised that your mind is capable of keeping most of your attention to your breath, and still sneak in thought-streams that you wander off to. You keep oscillating between the two attention streams, so much so that they seem to be running in parallel.
You’ve stagnated at this stage for some time and you want to go deeper.
Diaphragm to the rescue
The next time you sit down to meditate, after you’ve settled into your breath, move your attention to your diaphragm. Careful, don’t let it slip down to your abdomen, keep it at the diaphragm. Notice how your abdomen pulls down as you inhale, and contracts upwards as you exhale (if you were focusing on the abdomen, this would feel like pushing out and pulling in).
As you settle into this rhythm, you notice that without you having a say in it, as you inhale your attention automatically jumps to your nostrils and then you consciously bring it your diaphragm. Same thing as you exhale. Even if for a split second, your attention jumps to your nostrils before you bring it back to your diaphragm.
You notice that without you having a say in it, as you inhale your attention automatically jumps to your nostrils.
Take charge, allocate all your attention to your diaphragm. Consciously let go of pulling in air from your nostrils. Let inhalation be a by-product of your body pulling your diaphragm downwards. Let exhalation be a by-product of your body contracting your diaphragm upwards. Let go of pushing out air from your nostrils. Get to a point where if your diaphragm stops moving, your breathing automatically stops too.
This part takes practice to get used to (likely to take months/years, but you’re not in a hurry anyway). Settling into this form of breathing takes letting go of your association with your nostrils as the central breathing device. Afterall, they’re just two holes on your face. There’s so much more going on.
If you practice nadi shodhana (or anulom vilom), transitioning to diaphragmatic breathing would make the experience subtler and more in rhythm.
Once your awareness is sensitive to the movements of your diaphragm, one of the first things you might notice is how your whole body is involved in the breathing process. How each square centimetre seems to expand and contract with each inhalation and exhalation.
First things you might notice is how your whole body is involved in the breathing process.
You can’t hear your breathing anymore, in-fact you don’t really sense air moving through the wind-pipe. Your body is just moving and breathing is happening as a part of it.
Now, as you bring and hold your attention between your eyes (Ajna) and allow there to be an open awareness of the breathing movement (not single pointed on the diaphragm like before) you might find that it’s easier to stay in this state without getting swept up by thought streams, than it was to stay with your breath.
As you continue this practice, you may start sensing waves that are beyond your body (not outside, beyond; the feeling is distinct) interacting with your own rhythm. You will find that the flame of your chakras is more stable than it used to be.
Before you try
I don’t fully understand all of this, I’m still learning. If you search for diaphragmatic breathing on the internet you’ll find that it’s nothing new and that more recently people have figured out the science behind it. I leave it upto you to dig through that.
I’ve written this both as a note to myself and as a simple guide to whoever might be motivated to try it. If you do, I’d be eager to hear your experience of it. If you have suggestions for me to try, I’m all ears.