Human kind has been living under the illusion that chronology is the best way to measure time. Of course, dividing time into years, months, hours, seconds and beyond does serve myriad purposes. Precise measurements and split second accuracy benefit us in many ways. But they tell us little to nothing about the quality of time in human experience.
I’ve heard it said that yogis measure the moments of their lives by each conscious breath. Since we are only rarely aware of the breath that keeps us alive, it may boggle our minds that the human breath would even be considered as an increment for evaluating time. How could computing time by each inhalation and exhalation be of any use to us at all? Such an idea might even seem silly and unworthy of further deliberation. But anytime you think something is just plain hooey is exactly the time to stop and ponder that idea from another angle.
Raising “consciousness” has long been a hallmark of what some would call the New Age movement. For that very reason one might dismiss it out-of-hand as a crackpot concept to be flushed away as so much refuse. Though New Age thought may have its share of sloppy or wishful thinking, becoming more aware is not something that came along with the Age of Aquarius. To the contrary—since the first human being sat still with eyes closed following the rhythmic breath, acute awareness and expanding consciousness ensued. Jane Hirshfield in her poem “The Door” puts it aptly: The rest note, unwritten, hinged between worlds, that precedes change and allows it.” As a compliment, T.K.V. Desikachar wrote in his book, “The Heart of Yoga”,: “Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present—really present—in every action, in every moment.”
“Yeah, so,” you might ask?
I would answer, “When we are truly present within the ebb and flow of each breath, we open the connection to the full potential that human experience has to offer.”
Poet, Danna Faulds, in her poem, “Breath” nails it down succinctly. “In the breath, the soul finds an opportunity to speak.”
As I sat in meditation this morning, I swam my way through the usual distractions. (Note: The intensity of distractions often correlates directly to the amount of visual media I’ve consumed). But I’ve found a method to help wash distractions away— attention on the breath. Before the beginning of each inhalation and exhalation, I pause and recompose my attention to the pinpoint of that moment with my focus on the third eye or ajna chakra. (Ajna chakra corresponds to the pineal and pituitary glands in the brain. Both are powerful hormone producers that regulate essential body functions). Combined with the simple mantra, So Ham (Hum), I can practice one-pointed attention on my breath. To reinforce this technique, I further merge my attention to the action of my body as it breathes. Feeing the ebb and flow of the breath into the belly and chest supports the mental aspect of breath attention. By using this technique we can learn to displace the distractions that so often limit the depth of my meditation. By no means am I an accomplished adept at this technique, but this practice offers tantalizing evidence of its value.
Developing one-pointed concentration is the difference between attempting to do something and the mastery of that thing. Peak performance, as anyone who has achieved it will tell you, is a matter of being “in the zone.” The door way to the zone is samadhi or absorption into the object of your concentration as Patanjali said in the Yoga Sutras. Jesus of Nazareth confirms this in Mathew 6:22 when he says “…when your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.”
Regardless of your religious beliefs, a mind trained to one-pointed focus can achieve bliss, excellence, joy, ethical groundedness and accomplishment beyond normal everyday existence. We see this in champion athletes, business tycoons, great religious figures and intellectual giants. These seemingly super-normal human beings have simply mastered some aspect of absolute concentration.
This ability to be full of light is the doorway to our dreams as individuals and as a species. The only limits are those we impose upon ourselves.
So, is it a watch with a second hand you want or the conscious quality of your breath?