Focusing on the Pause in One's Breathing As a Way of Experiencing Tao
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Focusing on the Pause in One's Breathing As a Way of Experiencing Tao

A way of experiencing Tao through focusing on the outbreath and the pause before the inbreath. A brief explaantion of Tao is given.

Focusing on the pause in one's breathing as a way of experiencing Tao.


If we do not breathe we die, but breathing is something of which we are not normally conscious,

Breathing in and breathing out is natural to us. It occurs on its own without our conscious effort. We only become aware of our breathing if we bring our attention to it, or if our attention is brought to it when exercising, anxious or if there is a health problem.

The pause in breathing

Even when we bring out attention to our breathing, we do not usually notice the pause in our breathing - the part of our normal breathing cycle at the end of breathing out, before breathing in again. This pause is longer when we breathe slowly, such as at rest or relaxing, and shorter when we breathe quickly, such as during exercise, when anxious or if we have a respiratory problem.

The pause may be viewed as the non-active, empty space of the breathing cycle. These spaces may be used as a way of finding harmony and tranquillity and help us experience Tao (pronounced Dao).


Tao is also called The Way - the way things really are; the way things work; the way of Nature - that which is behind everything. However, Tao cannot be adequately described or explained in words - it has to be experienced. .

The Chinese sage Lao Tsu (c.604-530 BC) wrote a series of verses about Tao called The Tao Te Ching.

"To speak of the Tao is not to speak of the true Tao because the Tao is not something that can be put into words."

The Universe, says Lao Tzu is infinitely complex - something that the rational mind cannot grasp but can only be experienced.

The following verse is again from the Tao Te Ching:

"Stillness and tranquillity set things in order in the universe."

About space and emptiness he wrote:

"Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub;

It is the centre hole that makes it useful.

Shape clay into a vessel;

It is the space within that makes it useful."

By finding, focusing on, and ultimately experiencing spaces, emptiness and stillness, we become closer to Tao.

Focusing on the pause before breathing in brings our attention to the space in our breathing, the empty part of our breathing.

How to focus on the pause

Medical advice should be sought be if there is a medical condition that may be affected by this exercise. If you begin to feel dizzy or unwell, then discontinue the exercise and breathe normally.

This exercise is best performed in a warm, well ventilated room free from distractions. A less than full stomach will allow for a more comfortable exercise and experience. Therefore, before doing this exercise it is best to allow at least half an hour to an hour after having food.

1. Sit comfortably upright. This exercise may be performed lying down, but there is more of a chance of falling asleep. Sitting upright allows for increased alertness.

2. You may wish to gently close your eyes to reduce visual distraction and increase inward focus.

3. Consciously relax the whole body by systematically breathing into every part of the body, saying 'relax' to yourself when breathing out. Take your time doing this.

4. Keep breathing at a natural pace for you.

5. Become aware of breathing in and breathing out.

6. Focus more on breathing out and pausing before you breathe in again.

7. After breathing out, pause a little longer before breathing in again. Let this be a natural pause. Do not hold your breath, nor breathe more deeply than is normal for you - just breathe naturally.

8. Focus your attention on the outbreath and the pause.

9. Continue for as long as is comfortable for you.

10. When finishing, slowly wriggle your toes and wriggle your fingers. Slowly open your eyes. Take your time on re-focusing outside of yourself and become aware of your surroundings. Do not stand immediately, but sit quietly until you feel you want to slowly stand and move about.

The exercise is best performed for a short time initially - one, two or three minutes, extending the duration of the exercise depending on the time available.

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