Art of watching the breath:
Before watching something, you need to know what you are trying to watch. What exactly is the breath? If you have not defined what a breath is, you will not be able to watch it. The problem is not of watching, but of defining what you want to watch. The moment you define something clearly, it’s easier to watch it.
If someone says, “Look over there,” you’ll have a hundred and one questions: “What do you mean over there? Should I look at the bottle, the cup, or the table?” When someone says, “Look at the bottle,” it narrows down your vision a little more, but you can still have questions: “Where should I look? Should I look at the cap, the label, or the contents of the bottle?” When you are finally told, “Just focus on the cap of the bottle,” you can begin to focus without any confusion. This might sound simple, but very few people inquire deeply into their object of observation, and are always confused about the process of watching.
Apply the same process of inquiry to your breath. Your breath is not a single point, it is a continuum. A breath starts as air from the outside, touches your nostrils, enters your body, pauses for a moment, and then leaves the body. Breath is not a single point, but a complete cycle. This is where you need to understand the difference between focus and awareness.
If you are just trying to focus, you will be in confusion, because you don’t know what exactly to focus on, in this long cycle of breathing. You might ask yourself, “Should I focus on the beginning, the middle, or the end of the breath?” All you have to do is narrow down your definition of breath, and focus on either the air touching your nostrils, the pause between two breaths, or the contraction and expansion of your abdomen.
You can focus anywhere on the breath, but your entire awareness should be on the process of breathing. The entire activity and process of breathing should be a part of your awareness. Every time you are confused about what to watch, know that, as long as you are fully aware of your breath, you are in meditation.