2020-08-28 Mindfulness of Breathing (5 of 7) Intimacy with Breathing
2:51PM Aug 28, 2020
It's an amazing process, the process of breathing. And kind of an amazing, sounds may be kind of amazing, that I would say that I didn't really learn to breathe until I was 21. And what I mean by that is that I was living on a small farm doing farm work every day and being outdoors every day quite a bit. And it was a fairly remote place. So I didn't see a lot of people, there wasn't a lot of activity, and no TV, certainly back then no computers and internet and it was just a very settled and peaceful quiet life of hard work. And to my surprise at some point in that process, I felt a way of breathing that had greater ease and peacefulness and relaxation or naturalness than I could ever remember having in my life, I probably I had it when I was small occasionally, but I didn't know to pay attention to it. And so I felt like oh, this is what a breathing can be. And I felt like so in some ways I had to learn to breathe in a nice way. And that capacity for an easeful breath, relax breath comes and goes. And, but what I love is I sit down to meditate and discover what my breathing is like today and now. And it has so many different flavors and textures and ways that it is. It's kind of like no two snowflakes are supposed to be the same. No two days have the same exactly the same weather or they I love how at least in this environment, the colors of the vegetation changes. It's like no two days are there all the greenery, the way things are green, the same. There's fresh spring green and kind of kind of, I don't know, settled green of the summer and then things getting drier and drier and maybe turning colors and. There's all everyday there's a change.
So same thing, every practice is different, every day the breathing is different. And to sit down to be with breathing is a process of discovering Oh, that's how it is today. And inevitably, what I find is that if I can just allow myself, leave myself alone and allow the settling to happen, the breathing begins to relax and settle and become freer and more at ease than it was when I first sit down, if I've had if I've had a busy day. And that's one of the functions of mindfulness of breathing is to kind of get out of our way, our own way. Meaning that not to be so busy, actively involved with projects and doings and fantasies and memories and discursive thoughts, conversations in our head, that are often closely connected to our emotions and our desires and our drives, so that the physical body gets activated and aroused in different ways. And one way is arouse with tension and holding patterns. And so, to sit down to meditate with a breath is a way of stepping away from the discursive thought. Stepping away from the mind always be doing and actively trying to figure something out or accomplish something or something and let things settle. And this settling then that allows the body to settle because the body is not being activated by the activated mind.
And so as I said before, one of the functions of mindfulness of breathing is to to interrupt the continuity of the discursive mind. Sometimes the discursive mind is entertaining and wonderful and valuable. And I don't want to diminish its important role when it does have an important role. But not a few of us discover that a high percentage of the discursive mind and thinking is not particularly useful or helpful. And occasionally, we might even recognize that what's going on in there is a bit of nonsense, and not really too useful.
And so to have the ability to stop doing that, to interrupt that flow of discursive thought, simply by taking a moment to land in the physical experience of breathing. It's kind of like we're taking our attention, and moving it from one place where our attention has been hijacked into discursive thought and choosing to place it someplace where it's maybe useful to be, or as an alternative and a safe alternative. And that interruption of a discursive thinking begins to lessen the pull of discursive thinking. You won't feel at each time you let go of your thoughts, but you can over and over and over and over again if you do it repeatedly, slowly that pull into discursive thought, that fascination with discursive thought, begins to lesson, it's easier to stay present.
As we begin to stay, be able to stay more and more with the breathing ina a relax simple way, kind of dedicated, trusting the experience of breathing. It can at some point do learn how that's so actually that itself is also a way of leaving ourselves alone. We're not trying to accomplish something with a breathing, mindfulness of breathing or get somewhere. It's not an other kind of accomplishment or goal. It's kind of like just hanging out there. As we would hang out to the riverbank and relaxed way watching the river go by. And all our cares and concerns begin to fall away. And we're not trying to do anything on the riverbank watching the river, we're just there and so much settles and quiets and disappears. And I call that kind of leaving ourselves alone. So to let the mindfulness of breathing, let the continuity develop like that, like you're watching the river go by and that kind of peacefulness and lack of projects, not a project mind involved.
And so important part of mindfulness of breathing, is learning how to relax. So there's certainly my closer breathing, it's not a tensing it's not a resisting something or asserting something. But a lot of it and learning the art of relaxing into attention, relaxing into awareness, relaxing into mindfulness of breathing. And we can talk about relaxing into awareness. Because awareness is a natural capacity of the mind. That's when you if you're conscious and awake is always there, and you don't have to work at it. Some of it is just a matter of letting go of what obscures it. That discursive thought, a lot of concerns, projects doing, judgments, just keep opening, opening to the natural capacity of awareness.
And Excuse me for a minute while I cough. We have a fair amount of smoke here today again.
So one of the wonderful things about mindfulness of breathing is that it also begins teaching us, it's a mirror for understanding ourselves and teaching us how we are so involved in discursive thoughts or how we're caught up in concerns or that we are not relaxed. We're trying too hard or not trying enough for something, all these kinds of as we try to come back and having the regularity of breathing and so many of you heard this story I like to tell of I up in the mountains now here in Santa Cruz Mountains we're close to where now the fires are many, many years ago, I saw a stream of water sitting next to the stream, and I couldn't tell whether the water wasn't flowing. It seemed like it was completely still. It's very shallow water. And so I put a little stick into the water vertically, and then I could see a little wake. Little waves were formed on the edge of this of the stick showed me that, in fact was a current, but it was very slow, but I needed that reference point of the stationary stick in the water that showed that there was a current flowing. So the same way mindfulness of the breathing is like putting a little stick into the currents of our life, currents of our mind. And so we start seeing much more how busy the mind is, how the mind might be out of control. The strong how strong the pool is into our thinking, and our concerns, our pull into emotions. And just isn't that is wrong to do those things, but to see it clearly. Be able to see it more clearly because we have this reference point of breathing. The fact that it might be hard to stay with a breathing, that's also a lesson, it's a mirror for what's going on with a mind that makes it hard.
And in this way, I like to think of mindfulness of breathing as it works when it doesn't work. So you can't do it wrong. It works in the sense if you can actually stay with it for some time and hang out with it and have some continuity. But when you can't have the continuity with the breathing, if you use the breathing as a mirror to see better why you can't do that, not to analyze it, but just to notice, oh, the mind is very discursive, very having all kinds of conversations or there's a lot of strong emotions swirling around that I keep getting involved in and picking up. And then you see Oh, that's what's happening instead, I can see it more clearly now than I could before. And because you can't stay with breathing, but you can see more clearly what's happening for you. Mindfulness breathing has worked. It has helps us to be mindful of how we are.
So I like to think of that way that mindfulness of breathing works even when it doesn't work. And then mindfulness or breathing also, as we begin to relax into it, there is a movement towards freedom. In mindfulness of breathing. The more we could stay with the breathing, the more the mind begins to let go and relax and soften. And that movement of relaxationing, letting go, softening is a movement towards what Buddhism calls liberation. And sometimes that can be felt with the exhale, letting go, releasing with the exhale. And we get a small, maybe at some point a small little taste of some qualitatively nice freedom, letting go, in relaxing and trusting the exhale, parts of the exhale just oh, okay, letting go. And it's kind of like when people say ah, in a nice way, it's a really nice thing. It's they do that on the exhale. And so he's kind of gentle, soft, letting go, that could happen there.
And I'll talk more about that tomorrow morning. Breathing and, and letting go, freedom.
So thank you for being part of this and I hope that this supports you in just a greater appreciation for your breathing and even if breathing is difficult for you and you have, there's lots of times we have challenges with the breathing and that I'm hoping that there might be just some little kernel of what I'm saying that you might find useful and supportive. And and I look forward to seeing you all next time.