I’ve had several people tell me they began doing the Alternate Breathing practice in Chapter 5 of the book by starting from 25 and counting down to zero. I suppose this is because it seems easier to complete the exercise from there, rather than starting from 100.
Of course it’s easier.
Easier things are always easier than hard things. The question is, are they of any value, or even of any fractional value? In the case of this practice, unfortunately, the answer to both questions is pretty much, No.
To achieve the desired goal of this exercise—that is, to still your individual mind so that a much greater, much grander mind can enter your awareness— you must attack the exercise with all the strengh, will power, and, yes, even ferocity you can command of yourself! You must at the outset, try your best to defeat it and not let it defeat you. That means setting aside 45-60 minutes and starting from 100, not 25.
Why? First, because—and you all know this one—little pain, little gain. You can’t expect dramatic results in such a short time—what? 10 minutes—even from an exercise as powerful as this one.
But here’s a more inportant reason to start from 100 and do the full practice.If you do the exercise from 25 then stop at zero, likely no change of consciousness will occur, and you will, even subconsciously, get the message that this exercise is worthless, at least for you.
No. Far better to start at 100 and fail as your consciousness suddenly expands, flowers, drops away—or whatever metaphor suits. Only then will you directly experience that something really profound did happen to you, except that you momentarily lost awareness of it. The next time you will be more motivated to try harder – perhaps the next day, which is fine.
You must practice mastering your alertness just at the point you are about to lose it, and if you just start from 25, you may never reach that point at all, and all your practice time will have been wasted.
This exercise is a meditation, but it is not one where you are asked to just bliss out like some Hippie on grass. It is an act of warfare on yourself—your awareness—which takes a warrior’s determination to be successful.
Look at it this way. You are going to be very busy.
- You must count correctly and not lose your place.
- 4 of every 5 counts are through alternate nostrils. The fifth is in and out through both at once – you must remember which is which.
- You must visualize air entering and leaving each nostril as you count. Each inhalation passes up to the apex of an inverted V between and behind your eyebrows. Each exhalation follows one or both legs of the V beyond and beneath the tip of your nose. That’s a lot to keep your inner eyes on!
- A part of your awareness must coordinate all this, which in practice means mainly remembering what number you are on and then, when it’s time, what number comes next.
- Another, even higher part, must decide when and if you dare to pause your breath. Here is the greatest danger of failure, for all your inner motions stop all at once, and you are suddenly adrift, free.
But this is exactly when the magic happens! At this moment, one of only two things happen. Either your awareness will float away into sleep, oblivion, or dreaming—which is failure, or you will remain alert in a strange, but potentially very fruitful state—which is success.
Go for 100!
So dare yourself to start from 100 and see what happens. This practice is all about training your awareness and not letting it go over the edge without you.
So what if you fail to get all the way to zero a couple of times? The eventual fruits are well worth mastering the challenge.
PS. You have done the Peace exercises before tackling this Be Still exercise, haven’t you?