"This value will be clear when you do the exercise consistently for five days."
by Ken Russell
We all believe so firmly in the illusion that we are our personality because this personality always seems to be there; it appears to be a constant in our lives. But it is a mirage, like the lake viewed in the middle of the desert. The personality has no independent reality; yet it appears to have one because of the constant motion of the mind, which just keeps rolling along with virtually no breaks. It is this momentum that gives the illusion of substance, of a reality where none exists. This is most unfortunate because our belief in this illusion separates us from our true nature.
But there is something you can do to begin exposing this illusion. It is a very simple exercise: periodically, just put your complete attention on three full breaths. Stop whatever you are doing, cease your thoughts, and become fully aware of the physical sensations that occur when you breath. Feel the air moving in and out of your nose or mouth and then into and out of your chest. Feel your chest and stomach rising and falling. Your eyes may be open or closed, depending on the situation and what feels comfortable. You are not to visualize or think about the physical sensations of breathing, but to actually feel and experience them. The essence of this exercise is being directly in touch with the physical sensations of your breath.
What gives this practice its potency is doing it totally—with your complete attention. Just be with your breath for a full three breaths, putting aside whatever your mind had been engaged with and not allowing any thoughts, images, or emotions to capture your attention. Simply be there with full attention for three breaths.
Again, the key is putting your total—100 percent—effort into it. Before doing the exercise, you may wish to remind yourself that three breaths take but a brief time, that you have plenty of time remaining during the day to plan, worry, fantasize, be elated or depressed, imagine, or whatever else the mind likes to indulge in. But now you have chosen to do something to benefit your self: these few moments of attention to your breath. You can do this as many times as you wish during the day.
You may find it easiest to do this exercise when you shift from one activity to another. A transition affords a small window of opportunity when there is less resistance because the mind is not actively engaged in something. Some people find it convenient to do the mini-meditation when they first get into their car or as soon as they arrive at their destination. It only takes a few moments. You can do it before returning a phone call or right after finishing one. Other convenient transitions are before or after a meal, or when going to the bathroom. Or you can do it randomly, whenever you feel like it. However, your intent will need to be clear to get around the mind's resistance, which generally takes the form of forgetting.
Resistance arises because the mini-meditation, when done correctly, throws a monkey wrench into the gears of the mind's momentum. By stopping the mind, just for this brief period of three breaths, you temporarily suspend its control over you, thus clearing the way for your true nature to begin to assert itself. You may actually get an intimation of your true nature, which is apart from the mind and is akin to God or Buddha or however you wish to envision the ultimate. This exercise is a powerful assist in coming back to the reality of your Self.
However much you might benefit from this practice, the mind will not relinquish its hold over you without a struggle. Resistance will manifest itself as forgetting to do the exercise or, when doing it, drifting off into thinking about or visualizing the breaths. The more successful you are in doing the exercise, the more resistance you will meet. To counter this resistance it helps to keep in mind the value you receive from doing it. This value will be clear when you do the exercise consistently for five days.
While powerful, the mini-meditation is not complete in itself as a spiritual path. It is suggested as an enhancement for your regular practice. For instance, if sitting meditation is your basic practice, the mini-meditation will help your meditations to go deeper. It can accomplish this because it reduces the momentum of the mind that meditation has to work against. Whatever your path, this exercise will tend to bring up suppressed or repressed emotions, so it is best to have some way of allowing those emotions to dissipate in and through awareness.
Normally, the mind diverts your attention from feelings or emotions that it finds uncomfortable by distracting you with thoughts, or by channeling the discomforting energy into derivative or smokescreen states like anger, anxiety, or depression. By using the term "smokescreen," I am suggesting that the mind finds anger or anxiety more acceptable than the underlying fear or pain which prompts anger or anxiety. If the mind is not allowed to distract you, then hidden emotions will surface. This is exactly what we wish to happen. Then, through awareness, those emotions can be released from your consciousness. The unconscious is nothing more than thoughts or feelings of which we are not aware. Hidden emotions tend to bind up a lot of your energy and covertly influence you in ways that are not beneficial. If you do the mini-meditation exercise regularly, over time you will notice a shift in your life; you will most likely become more and more present.