About three years ago in a Tao forum, one had advised a fellow traveler to ‘focus on the breath’ while practicing meditation. She was an earnest student of Tao and meditation, reading books on and studying various methods of meditation akin to the Circulation of the Light.
She would travel from the US to India every year to see her guru, a renowned teacher, to improve her meditation and practice. And she would post the various methods of meditation on the forum board for sharing with fellow travelers. She understood Daoist meditations more than most but her practice was not improving. Only when she indicated that she was not able to concentrate properly while in meditation because of thoughts rushing in, did I recommend her to focus on the breath.
Thereby, one was shouted down since she was acknowledged as the most knowledgeable person on Daoist meditation in that forum. According to her admirers and followers, how could I know that she does not know about it already? Yes, how could I know?
Three years on, Daoists in the forums still bandy around the term, ‘focus on the breath’ without realizing what it has to do with the backward flow meditation.
Let us turn to Lu Yen better known as Lu Dongbin, one of the eight renowned Daoist immortals for the answer, shall we?
In sitting down, after lowering the lids, one uses the eyes to establish a plumb-line and then shifts the light downward. But if the transposition downward is not successful, then the heart is directed towards listening to the breathing. One should not be able to hear with the ear the outgoing and in taking of the breath. What one hears is that it has no tone. As soon as it has tone, the breathing is rough and superficial, and does not penetrate into the open. Then the heart must be made quite light and insignificant. The more it is released, the less it becomes; the less it is, the quieter. All at once it becomes so quiet that it stops. Then the true breathing is manifested and the form of the heart comes to consciousness.
The Buddha said: ‘When you fix your heart on one point, then nothing is impossible for you.’ The heart easily runs away, so it is necessary to concentrate it by means of breath-energy. Breath-energy easily becomes rough; therefore it has to be refined by the heart. When that is done, can it then happen that it is not fixed?
While sitting, one must therefore always keep the heart quiet and the energy concentrated. How can the heart be made quiet? By the breath. Only the heart must be conscious of the flowing in and out of the breath; it must not be heard with the ears. If it is not heard, then the breathing is light; if light, it is pure. If it can be heard, then the breath-energy is rough; if rough, then it is troubled; if troubled, then indolence and lethargy develop and one wants to sleep. That is self-evident.
[The Secret of the Golden Flower – W/B]
When we focus on the breath during meditation, thoughts do not flood in. Neither will we fall asleep since we concentrate on the breath and are aware where it is going. In neidan practice, focusing on the breath is elementary but important. Learn it well to go further.
Have fun in focusing on the breath. When fire fills your belly, and thunder roars upon breathing in, while immortals sing, perhaps you may know by then if what Immortal Lu and Buddha already said is true.
But then again, like what those forum members and Zhuangzi had asked, ‘How could I know?’