Question: Would you speak a little about proper breathing in meditation?
Sri Chinmoy: If you are a beginner and want to breathe correctly, you should sit with your spinal cord erect. Now, while breathing, you have to think first of purity. Another thing can be done to further develop this sense of purity in the breath. For a few minutes, try to imagine a flower or a candle flame or incense - something that represents purity - right in front of your nose. This will automatically give you a sense of purity and convince the physical mind. When you breathe in, if you feel consciously or unconsciously that the breath is coming directly from God, from Purity itself, then the breath can be purified. When you breathe in, try to breathe in as slowly and quietly as possible, so that if somebody placed a tiny thread in front of your nose, it would not move at all. And when you breathe out, try to breathe out even more slowly than when you breathed in. If possible, leave a short pause between the end of your exhalation and the beginning of your inhalation. If you can, hold your breath for a few seconds. But if it is difficult, do not do it. Never do anything that will harm your organs or respiratory system.
Each time you breathe in, try to feel that you are bringing into your body Peace, infinite Peace. Now what is the opposite of Peace? Restlessness. When you breathe out, please try to feel that you are expelling the restlessness of your inner and outer body, and the restlessness that you see all around you. When you breathe this way, you will find restlessness leaving you. After practising this a few times, please try to feel that you are breathing in Strength and Power from the universe, the cosmos. And when you exhale, try to expel your fear. When you breathe out, all your fear will come out of your body. After doing this a few times, try to feel that what you are breathing in is Joy, infinite joy, and what you are breathing out is sorrow, suffering and melancholy.
Another thing you can try when you breathe in is to feel that you are breathing in not air, but cosmic energy. Feel that tremendous cosmic energy is entering into you with each breath, and that you are going to use it to purify yourself: your body, vital, mind and heart. Feel that there is not a single place in your body that has not been occupied by the flow of cosmic energy. It is flowing like a river inside you. When you feel that your whole being has been washed or purified by the cosmic energy, then feel that you are breathing out all the rubbish inside you, all the undivine thoughts, impure actions, obscure ideas. Anything inside your system that you call undivine, anything that you do not want to claim as your own, feel that you are exhaling it.
This is not the traditional yogic Pranayama, which is more complicated and systematised. But what I have just told you is the most effective spiritual method of breathing. If you practise this method of breathing, you will soon see that what you are doing is not imagination; it is reality. In the beginning you have to use your imagination, but after a while you will see and feel that it is not imagination at all, but reality. You are consciously breathing in the energy which is flowing all around you in the cosmos, purifying yourself, and emptying yourself of everything undivine. But this breathing has to be done in a very conscious way, not in a mechanical way. If you can breathe this way for five minutes every day, you will be able to make very fast progress.
When you reach a more advanced stage, when you breathe do not feel that your breath is coming and going only through your nose. Feel that you are breathing in through your heart, through your eyes, through your nose, through your pores. Now you are limited to breathing only through the nose or the mouth, but a time will come when you will know that any part of the body can breathe. Spiritual Masters can breathe even with their nose and mouth closed. When you have perfected this spiritual breathing, you will feel that all your impurity and ignorance is gone. What has come to replace your ignorance and your imperfection is God's Light, God's Peace and God's Power.
Excerpt from Meditation: Humanity's Race And Divinity's Grace, Part 1 by Sri Chinmoy