Remember to breathe… breathe to remember…
Our breathing is the roots of our calm presence and clear thinking. When we are born we stay with our mothers, and our fathers, held in their warmth, their life-giving energy, as we slowly grow our stamina and our courage for encountering and inhabiting our world.
When we begin mindfulness practice, we stay with our breath because it provides us with the energy we need for the journey and it makes us whole. We inhabit this space as our breathing, in and out, instills us with being and fills the space with our presence.
I acknowledge this magic by bringing attention to my breath. I do not need to control it (as much as my habit pushes me in this direction), do not need to keep my breaths even or to stick my tummy out. The most useful approach is simply to be attentive.
I find it helpful to gently activate the base of my lungs. I would like to give more attention later to the pit of my stomach but there is a deep wound there and for now I find it more enabling to feel the fulness of the base of my lungs like the roundness of a pear. Then I give a little attention to allowing my chest to expand and my throat, mouth and nostrils to relax. I also find it helpful to give a little attention to the last part of my breath going out – I find this more innervating than trying to breathe in fully. I guess it is a small way of releasing control and letting my body work well.
Now (and this timing is being flattened out for the page, is in fact more circular)… without trying to control my breathing, I silently count each breath. Either once for each whole breath: 1 (in…out), 2 (in…out); or even repeating the count as in 1 (in), 1 (out), 2 (in), 2 (out). The function of this practice is to stay firmly with the breath and leave little room for wandering and wondering thoughts. This is a small step (or perhaps a big step!) to ensure the solid foundation of breathing and attention. When my mind wanders then I begin counting again from 1. I normally count to about 50, with a few restarts. My breathing slows during this period and my thinking disperses so that quite a bit of time passes.
At other times, when I am not sitting intentionally, I can still use this practice with a smaller count, to slow and calm and remember by smaller degrees. Remembering is recalling to mind, being mindful.
In my next post I will explore the physical movements, stretching and self-massage I use simultaneously with the breath to release controlling habits in my mind and body, and to more fully activate my being and weave it into the spaces I inhabit. I also hope to explore body scanning to great depth during this journey.