(STEP 1 - STEP 10)
Practice the following seated meditation for 15–30 minutes in the morning. It has ten steps so you may not be able to cover them all in one sitting on one day. Start by learning the first couple of steps. Become proficient in those. Then add another step, and another, and so on. If necessary, increase the duration of your practice as you add more steps.
Do not consider the following list of steps as a “how-to” manual. You do not have to keep the list in your lap while meditating. Simply use the list as a set of guidelines. Read the guidelines, study them, try them, and modify them if necessary as long as the final goal of developing breath awareness and understanding the four constituents of soul meditation is well understood.
Step 1: Sit in a comfortable posture in a closed room with cool air, gently close your eyes, and mentally review the benefits of breath awareness, which we just discussed.
Now, take your attention to the triangular area of the nostrils (the entire nose area) and anchor it there. Take a couple of long, deep inhalations and release a couple of long, deep exhalations with the intention of feeling sensations in the nostrils as the breath passes through the nostrils. Continue breathing in and out deeply, until you become aware of the sensations in your nostrils. Because you are taking long, deep breaths, it is easier to feel their touch in the nostrils. In fact, if your attention is well anchored you will feel a cool sensation in the nostrils while inhaling and a warm sensation while exhaling. This will happen because the air in your meditation room is cooler than the air inside the body.
Step 2: Once you are established in the awareness of sensations in the nostrils due to intentional long breaths, you no longer have to use them. So, abandon taking long breaths and simply let the natural breath come and go. In other words, now breathe normally without intentionally taking long breaths. Observe the normal, natural breath as it comes and goes by feeling its touch in the nostrils, and stay with the sensations arising in the nostrils due to that touch. At this stage in the meditation, breathing normally and naturally without any conditioning (such as the lengthening of the breath) is important.
If your attention is hijacked by any thoughts arising in the mind you may forget to observe your natural breath and simply flow with those thoughts. Sooner or later, when you realize that your attention has run away, gently bring it back to your breathing without aversion. Do not strive or crave attention. Do not develop an aversion for non-attention if you are unable to bring your attention back to your breathing quickly. Simply keep bringing your attention back to the object of your focus whenever it roams.
Step 3: After a few minutes of continuous practice, you will develop breath awareness due to sustained observation of sensations in the nostrils. Breath awareness will give rise to an experience of pleasantness, a natural outcome of the higher level of concentration.
Do not get immersed in the pleasantness of sensations and lose awareness. Simply keep observing the breath, without developing a liking for pleasantness, without craving pleasantness.
Step 4: At the end of step 3, you will have been seated for at least 15–20 minutes. So, you will begin to experience pain or stiffness in some parts of your body, such as your knees, ankles, lower back, and shoulder joints. Knowingly, move your attention from your breath to any painful or stiff areas and try to observe the pain or stiffness as a bundle of bodily sensations just as you were observing the breath by virtue of sensations it created in the nostrils. Try not to react to unpleasantness of pain or stiffness in the same manner that you did not react to the pleasantness in step 3. In other words, do not develop an aversion to the unpleasantness. This is possible only if you observe pain or stiffness as bodily sensations while you take your attention to the painful or stiff areas and anchor it there.
Observe unpleasantness only until it is bearable, which means, until there is no aversion. Do not fight it or control it. If necessary, change your posture or physically rub the painful area and again get back into meditation. Do all transitional movements knowingly so that your movements are not driven by reaction to pain but by awareness of pain.
At times you may feel like itching or like getting up and doing something. You may become overwhelmed by boredom and want to open your eyes and look around. As much as possible, simply observe all these bodily and mental feelings without reacting to them. Don’t succumb to them out of aversion.
No itch lasts forever. So you may want to temporarily make an “itch” the object of your meditation and continue observing it until it passes away. Similarly, you may want to continue observing a feeling of boredom until it subsides. In this way, observe all unpleasant bodily and mental feelings with the understanding that sooner or later they will cease. However, this is possible only if you observe them without aversion. Notice that there is neither suppression, nor control, but merely non-reactive observation.
Step 5: As you attain higher and higher levels of stillness and non-reaction, at times there will be intruding thoughts of happiness or sadness arising from memories. Deep-rooted desires will come to the surface of the mind. Various moods will manifest themselves as various frames of minds. Observe all these thoughts, desires, moods, and so on without getting carried away by them. Observe them without reacting with craving or aversion. Let them simply come and go, as it is their nature to do so. Knowing that nothing lasts forever, simply maintain non-reactive awareness of all that is happening at the level of body, mind, and consciousness so that equanimity can arise.
Step 6: Equipped with equanimity, take your attention back to the breath knowingly and gently. Give wise-attention to the natural breath as it moves in and out of the body by feeling its touch. Become aware of the fact that the breath is changing from an in-breath to an out-breath, and then again to an in-breath, thus moving in and out of the body naturally. Then reflect and contemplate on the changing nature of the breath and understand the impermanence of the in-breath as well as the out-breath. In other words, understand that no in-breath or out-breath lasts forever. All change constantly from one to the other. Develop that wakefulness.
Step 7: Now, try to realize that the breath is arising and passing away on its own accord, constantly changing naturally from an in-breath to an out-breath without a need for you to intentionally change it, or without a need for you to tell the body to change it. Become aware of this whole involuntary phenomenon of movement of air as “breathing.” In other words, try to become aware of the fact that “it is the body that is breathing on its own accord” and not “you.”
Step 8: Continue to reflect upon this fact and try to look at the breathing body as a third person. It is like putting your attention in front of the body and looking at the body with a bird’s eye view. With such vision, try to look at the breathing body and understand that the breath is bound with the body and that it is a bodily phenomenon.
Step 9: By now, you will have developed some wakefulness, vision, the understanding of the impermanence of breath, and the understanding of the origin of breath as a bodily phenomenon. Now, try to find the one who is breathing amidst the understanding that it is really the body that is breathing and not you.
You will not be able to locate the breath-taker.
Then, ask a simple question, “Why am I still feeling that I am the one who is breathing?”
Continue giving wise attention to the breath in search of an answer. Soon, you will realize that it was the “awareness of breathing” that was mistaken as a breath-taker! The “awareness” was misunderstood as the “I.”
Such realization will automatically generate a smile on your face and bring you spiritual joy.
Simply abide in that joyous realization and develop clear comprehension of what you have realized. In other words, clearly comprehend breathing as strictly a bodily phenomenon having an impersonal nature. Clearly comprehend the fact that there is only “awareness of breathing” and there is no “breath-taker.”
Step 10: Become established in such mindfulness without a sense of being mindful, being aware, or being a knower, and without clinging to anything in the world. This stage of mindfulness is pure awareness—the perfect stage of mindfulness that leads to perfect equanimity and non-delusion: the two most prominent elements of SQ and soul intelligence.
* * *
In the initial stages of practice, you might find step 7 through step 10 quite difficult to comprehend and to practice. Do not strain yourself. Simply keep trying with an open and relaxed mind. Do not stop at a particular step and wait until you have realized its essence. Simply follow all the steps mechanically in anticipation of realizing the essence of each step. This process is like taking a virtual tour and preparing the mind for the real thing, which is bound to happen sooner or later.
In this way, develop mindfulness starting with breath awareness (steps 1–5) and then moving onto wakefulness (steps 6–7), to vision (step 8), to clear comprehension (step 9), and ultimately to pure awareness (step 10). Let mindfulness evolve in this way through seated meditative practice. As soon as you have attained some degree of wakefulness, start applying it to non-seated practices and to daily life situations. You do not have to wait until you have attained the level of pure awareness.
During steps 1–10, you will have experienced the entire spectrum of mindfulness, during steps 2–5, the element of non-reaction, and during steps 6–10, the element of wise attention. The element of concentration will have been experienced as an undercurrent throughout the entire meditation. In this way, through experience, you will have understood the four constituents of soul meditation.
The ten-step seated meditation is just one of many possible seated soul meditations. Once you have practiced it for several months, depending upon your progress, you can then start devising your own seated meditation to address a personal issue that you are facing, so that your meditation time is actually used to solve your problems on a daily basis. For example, let us say on one particular day you are worried and experiencing irritation. On that day, during the seated meditation, give wise attention to the movement of your breath. Notice how your breath changes with changes in levels of concentration. Notice how it becomes harsh and fast if thoughts of worries or anger arise while concentrating. Notice how it becomes soft and slow if worries and anger are replaced with letting go and compassion. Notice how the same effect can be achieved by intentionally making the breath soft and slow. In this way, apply wise attention to understand the link between the mind and the breath and implement this knowledge to change your state of mind.
Alternatively, give wise attention to the external conditions that gave rise to the worries and irritation you are feeling. Find out how you can eliminate those conditions and thereby eliminate the worries and irritation. If you cannot change those conditions, find out whether your worries and irritation are the result of internal conditions, such as your reaction (aversion) to certain unpleasant memories or frames of mind that are arising to the surface. Try to observe those memories or frames of mind without aversion and with the understanding that they will not last forever. By simply applying non-reactive observation you will be able to eradicate worries and irritation.
Similarly, if you are experiencing bodily pain, say pain in your lower back due to putting in too much overtime at work, give wise attention to that. Notice how it becomes aggravated if you dislike it and lessens if you simply let go of it by observing it simply as bodily sensations without aversion.
The rewards of a seated practice will increase many times over once you start applying the combined effects of the four constituents derived from the daily practice to all other practices and to all life situations. In fact, if you are really serious about climbing the ladder of intelligence, I encourage you to perform all physical, verbal, sensual, and mental activities as soul meditations. In other words, do everything with mindfulness, non-reaction, wise attention, and concentration. If you do so, you will develop tremendous power.
After all, what is power?