Nuernberger's succinct description of this breath practice and the accompanying benefits was inspirational. The direct control over mental chatter afforded by breath awareness makes it one of the most powerful tools I had used for self development. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 60)

Be aware of your mind chatter for a few moments. Do not get involved with the thinking; be an observer, a witness. Just watch your mind think. Now, focus your attention on the feeling of your breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils. You will feel a slight touch of coolness at the opening of your nostrils when you inhale, and a very subtle touch of warmth when you exhale. Do not think about the breath, focus on feeling the breath as it enters and leaves the opening of your nostrils. Whenever your mind wanders off, simply bring your attention back to feeling the breath. Be aware of how you feel, and what happens in your mind. But keep your attention focused on the coolness of the inhalation and the warmth of the exhalation.

If I were to choose the most important practices in my progress toward The Intuitive Self, this exercise along with diaphragmatic breathing would take top honors. Focusing attention on the breath seemed easy at first reading. But practice showed it was a deceptively difficult exercise.

Notice what happens to your thoughts. They disappear! You cannot pay attention to more than one thing at a time. You either pay attention to what you see, or you think about what you see. You may switch back and forth very quickly between these two activities, but you actually only do one thing at a time. When you focus your attention on Breath Awareness:

  1. The chatter in your mind stops, and your mind clears. The sensory mind cannot think and perceive at the same time. The more you focus on perceiving, the less chatter goes on in the mind.

  2. Your respiratory rate slows down and breathing becomes more stable. As your mind calms down, your breathing becomes calm and you establish a rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing pattern, which balances your autonomic nervous system.

  3. You feel a slight release in your body. Your body relaxes because your brain stops sending demands for action. The body's natural state is one of relaxed alertness but constant programming from our mind chatter keeps it activated.

Physical benefits follow from slowing the mental chatter. Increasing Executive Productivity draws on years of research conducted at the Himalayan Institute on the physical correlates of yogic practices. Their strong laboratory support for Eastern practices convinced my rational mind to use these exercises.