Messengers from God Going Up and Down

The most important consequence of tilting the pelvis and hips forward is that it opens the belly for breathing, thus allowing the breath to penetrate deeply and naturally. With the posture properly assumed, and the mind gently monitoring it during meditation, periodically checking to see that spine, hips, pelvis, hands, sternum, skull, head, and so on are still correctly positioned, we begin to allow our awareness to settle gently into our breath. We bring our focus in from all the places where it is usually scattered, to the diaphragm, the center of our breathing, the muscle located several inches above the navel.

The breath does not need to be controlled, but it may need to be assisted to penetrate deeply into the body. It is the movement of the diaphragm, in concert with the muscles of the chest, that regulates the expansion and contraction of the lungs. This expansion and contraction is augmented when the belly is also involved in the action of breathing. The belly is a center of spiritual consciousness. Consciously using the belly to help draw air deeply into the body activates this center and allows us to experience the world in a fuller way.

It may be helpful to begin this period of mindful breathing by expanding the belly, making it big like a beach ball to allow the lungs to expand more fully, then letting the air out very slowly. We can do this for half a dozen breaths or so and then let the breath simply flow naturally, gently watching the diaphragm as the breath moves in and out. Or we may begin by following the full course of the breath in some detail. We can watch the breath as it comes into the nostrils; follow the inhale as it descends down the breathing tube into the lungs; imagine the belly filling with breath; attend to the subtle moment when the inhale becomes an exhale; follow the full course of the exhale from the belly to the nostrils; and then attend to that small moment of faith when the breath leaves the body altogether and then returns again of its own accord, without any conscious activity on our part. Again, we need only do this for half a dozen breaths or so. After that we can just watch the breath rise and fall at the diaphragm in a much gentler and more general way.

When we are settled into a natural, rhythmic pattern of breathing, we can let the momentum of the in-breath bring our attention in from all the mental corners where it is usually scattered and focus it at the center of our breathing. We can let the momentum of the out-breath help us to relax very deeply; to let go of tension, both muscular and emotional; to let go of regret about things that have already happened; to let go of anxiety about things that haven’t happened yet; focusing as we breathe in, letting go as we breathe out. As our awareness begins to permeate the breath and the body, they begin to glow as if lit from within. The breath begins to bring a wonderful calm to the body, a radiant calm that fills us body and mind.