Vipassana and Breath Witnessing Techniques


It had been said that Vipassana has helped more people become enlightened than any other technique.
Let us explore this technique.
First, what is enlightenment?

Well, it is not easy to put into words – perhaps it is impossible.
But, let I’ll try and be pragmatic to offer some insight into understanding for our present purposes.
Enlightenment is about becoming conscious.

Enlightenment is when your spirit or the light of consciousness pervades every cell. It is when spirit integrates into your mind and body. It is when you become awaken to your true and total nature.
Since birth (and you have had many births) you have been awakening. At the beginning of each incarnation every child begins to awaken to their mind and body and thus begins the process of integrating their consciousness or spirit into embodiment.
It is a process. So then, on a practical level…the enlightenment process involves becoming more AWARE.

There are 3 directions we can enter into this process and all spiritual techniques and breath practices can be classified in these 3 directions.

The 3 directions are as follows:

  1. The pathway of control and effort
  2. The pathway of surrender
  3. The middle way
    You may walk all three, or you may choose to focus on one for a period.

The pathway of control involves effort and discipline.
Learning to practice physical asanas involves control and effort.
Reciting prayers and offering service and penance involves effort.
Much of all human activity involves effort.

In truth, it is possible to practice any spiritual practice in anyway…for example, you can practice action with ease and surrender…or you can practice yoga with a perfect balance of effort and ease. However, in general, certain techniques are taught in specific ways by specific teachers. Like, Bikram Yoga, which is a yang dominant technique of effort. You could practice those same Asanas with grace and ease, but that is not how they are typically taught. Make sense?

It is important to teach a certain technique a certain way so that you may become total in your awareness. There is a reason why techniques are practiced over and over, because you are not total in your awareness upon first learning something. It takes time and practice to discover new layers of yourself with each new cycle…these cycles of learning are the awakening process of enlightenment in action. If you have no practice, you are still awakening, but depending how you live your life, typically the process will move much slower.

So then, what is Vipassana and breath witnessing techniques?
They are directed towards surrender and ease…they are passive and involve inactivity. For an example of what a breath witnessing technique may involve is thus: Sit straight, and witness your breath. That’s it. No complex asana postures, no hare Krishna, no church service, no dervish dancing….just sit.
Now, anyone who has tried to simply sit knows it is not so easy to be still.

Stillness is hard, especially for the modern mind and body which is always in motion. Body in motion, emotional energy is flowing, mental chatter is seemingly unceasing. So there is a plethora of teachings on how to witness the mind and body without getting caught in it.

But, the technique is straight forward. Become passive. Become receptive. Be a witness. A non-doer…just BE.
Now then, as a technique of awakening it is so beautiful. It is the historical Buddha’s chosen technique, and there have been few individuals as awake as him.
As discussed, enlightenment is about become aware. So much of action is external. There is activity, but not always awareness. Many people can drive their car and work and eat almost entirely on auto-pilot.

This technique offers a way of entering into oneself and laying down the ordinary way of DOING that most get so caught up in, they forget their true nature and inner silence.

Breath witnessing asks that you drop your effort. Drop your ego. Drop your need to make things better, or to achieve anything. Though Enlightenment may be a ‘goal’, to try and achieve this goal in meditation may keep one tied into the efforting mode of being. So then, the medicine of breath witnessing comes with time, and there’s nothing you can do to make it happen. Which relates to the spiritual concept of grace…a force that falls upon you without your own effort and doing.

The pathway of surrender teaches one a way to approach life. We all have conditioned patterns of being and relating to the world and problems…and for the Western mind, most people approach their life and problems through effort and activity. To learn to surrender is a true jewel. For there areas and situations in life when your individual effort is useless…like when death comes. So breath witnessing prepares us for this vital transition time, and many other difficult times and teaches us to move through them with grace.

For example, when many people receive challenge, such as a hard divorce, if they do not know how to surrender they will attempt to control the situation…if their not willing to feel their emotions they may do 10,00 things to avoid feeling and being present with reality…instead they will try and change it…they will seek to maintain a pleasurable state, rather than accepting the challenge and allowing their mind and body to process. This avoidance of reality prevents awakening.

So then, that is a bit about breath witnessing and vipassana. The same quality of learning to surrender is found in the conscious connected breathwork I teach. Though breathwork, like yoga can be taught in many ways. There are many effortful techniques of breath which are wonderful tools. As a teacher I train in effortful practices, surrender practices, and the middle way.

This is why I’m honoured to offer a breath fundamentals course in September which will provide an introduction to working with the breath in all its dimensions. We will be exploring Vipasana technique, Conscious Breathwork, Kundalini and more.
Blessings and love.

  • Aya

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