Mindfulness Of Breathing Meditation

Mindfulness Of Breathing Meditation

Interview with

Grace:

Our practice proceeds naturally when more and more often we remember to turn towards the light of opening our minds rather than turning towards our habits and defenses. This is a gradual change that occurs at first with discipline and effort, and then later it begins to carry itself forward. It is like a seed that we have planted after cultivating the ground. We need to weed it, and we need to remember to water and nourish it, but soon it takes on its own shape and turns toward the light knowing its own rate of growth and blossoming in surprising ways.

MP:

I like the idea of turning toward the light. I wonder if we could look a little closer at the mechanics of the sitting meditation. I want to understand the breathing. Is the count to ten during the inhale or the exhale?

Grace:

The counting in Zen occurs on the exhalation. In every arena of our life, except yoga and other forms of stretching, we are encouraged to push and accumulate. We get little training in releasing and accepting. By focusing on the exhalation, we bring our attention to the process of letting go. How do we build the muscle to let go? In the beginning we have no strength, no way to accomplish the command to “Let go!” but with continuous practice, this ability is strengthened and our lives respond to a more harmonious balance of effort and ease.

MP:

I am enjoying this interview. I notice that much of what you have offered in response is couched in terms appropriate for teaching, which is all very good. However, I wonder if I could ask you to go into this a little more personally and speak from your direct experience. What does this process of exhaling and inhaling feel like to you? Perhaps you could recount your initial success and excitement at having found something that works for you personally. This approach, I believe, more than instruction, would be encouraging to readers.

Grace:

Just as I described previously, this is my experience, not just my teaching. I feel where the tension is in my own body when I bring my awareness to the breath. When I feel troubled, there is a focus on the trouble, when I return to my breath, I have a softer view that includes both the trouble, the breath and the entire universe. I can still feel the pain and the magnetic pull to engage with the suffering in my habitual ways, but rather than fight the pain, I turn towards the suffering, the habit, and the aversion to just be present. Being present with the tension allows it to dissolve.

MP:

Thank you. It may be just the use of "I" rather than "Our" that makes a big difference in accessibility, at least for me– so thank you. This description is something I can identify with in my own process. I have a friend who was reading a book called "Buddha Brain" or something like that, where the author recommended holding a joyful image/feeling whilst in the midst of a hurtful image/feeling and that something joins them and allows the pain to move and release. This last response of yours reminded me of that.

I suppose there is often a physiological counterpart to our healing experiences in meditation. I want to ask you about your experience with stilling thoughts, watching thoughts, slowing or stopping internal dialogue. In a previous response you mentioned witnessing them pass by while you were engaged in counting. Can you tell me more about how you work with thoughts? Does "engaging with the suffering in habitual ways" refer to thinking patterns?

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