The Dvâdashânta – Deep Watching

By Linda Oshins

The practice I’m about to describe is actually a meditation practice, but since it involves closely watching an aspect of the breath, I teach it in pranayama class. It is one among several practices that I think of as “deep watching” or “deep listening,” ones that can teach you to “hear” or “feel” subtle body landmarks or to question your very nature. It is a meditation upon the dvâdashânta.  The inner dvâdashânta is located in the heart center and the outer dvâdashânta is located about 12 finger-widths from the tip of the nose along the line the breath takes as it leaves the nostrils. In my case that ends up being about 4 inches in front of the breast bone. There is also an upper dvâdashânta above the crown of the head, but it is not a focus in the particular practice described here. Regarding the inner and outer dvâdashânta, “When the breath pauses in each of these two spaces, the activity of prana and thus the mind ceases for a moment, and your breath will seem to vanish.[1]

Verses from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra as translated by Jaideva Singh[2]

25. If one fixes one’s mind carefully on the two void spaces of the breath, one internal, when the inhalation pauses momentarily inside the Heart; and one external, when the exhalation pauses momentarily outside in the dvadasanta then, O Goddess, the Bhairava (the experience of the Absolute) will reveal herself, the marvelous and essential form of Bhairava.

26. When the energy in the form of the breath neither goes out from the center of the body to the dvadasanta nor comes back in to the center from the dvadasanta, then it simply expands in the center into a non dual, non discursive awareness. This is the attainment of the condition of Bhairava.

You could focus your attention on any one of these three points, but in this practice you “watch” the outer dvadashanta on the exhalation and the inner one on the inhalation.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, either cross-legged on the floor, on props, or on a meditation cushion or bench. You may also sit in a chair, but sit upright without leaning against the back of the chair.
  2. Begin by watching the breath just as it is without criticizing it or yourself. Just watching. Just accepting.
  3. Find the internal point, which is about 12 finger-widths from the tip of the nose to the heart. Sense this point. Sometimes it pops right into your awareness and is distinctly felt. If that is not the case, just imagine its location and focus there.
  4. Find the external point, 12 finger-widths below the nostrils and external to the physical body. Again, if you don’t feel an external point, just imagine it’s there. In working with the subtle body, acting “as if” is useful until the practices become more concrete for you. Act as if you have a distinct sensation of these two points. Don’t worry about whether you are doing it “right.”
  5. On the inhalation, sense the internal dvâdashânta.
  6. On the exhalation, sense the external dvâdashânta.
  7. Move from one point to the other as the breath enters and leaves the body.
  8. Do this practice for at least 5 minutes or as long as you like. As in all such practices, if the mind wanders, simply bring it back to the point of focus.
  9. At the end of the meditation, return to the natural breath. In this case, the natural breath is defined as the breath your body takes without you applying any given technique. The body breathing itself.

What is inner? What is outer? Do you have boundaries? Are you boundless?

This is a practice that, for many beginners, introduces the variation in the boundaries of the physical body and the energy body. On a more profound level it invites us to expand beyond our concept of ourselves as bodies at all.

25. Attend to the skin
As a subtle boundary
Containing vastness.

Enter that shimmering pulsing vastness.
Discover that you are not separate
From anything there.
There is no inside.
There is not outside.
There is no other,
No object to meditate upon that is not you.[3]


[1] Refining the Breath, Doug Keller
[2]
Vijnanabhairava or Divine Consciousness, translated by Jaideva Singh
[3]
The Radiance Sutras, translation by Lorin Roche

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2 Responses to The Dvâdashânta – Deep Watching
  1. Jenn

    Thank you Linda, looking forward to working with this. I’m hoping this summer to get to Pranayama class:)

  2. Helene Everson

    Thanks for letting me know about this blog, Linda.

    I think I’ve done this practice before (perhaps in one of your breath workshops), but had forgotten about it.

    I’m going to try to work with it myself and in classs.

    Allowing energy/breath to flow in yoga poses is one of the things I try to teach. I like that this is a practice that allows you to access the energy body–and beyond.

    Helene