January 10, 2011

The Breath, My Teacher

One of my "Buddhists in a Book"  who is gently guiding the practicalities of my meditation practice is Thich Nhat Hanh.  

I am learning some basics in a simple reading of his first book (The Miracle of Mindfulness),   originally published in the mid-70's.

He shares that a good way for newcomers to start a practice of mindfulness meditation is to consciously follow the length of the breath, slowly making the out breath longer with each breathing cycle. 

Breathing for many of us is so automatic that we are not aware of the precision and the order of each motion involve in breathing.   For so many years, I have resisted adopting the Program's traditional concept  G.O.D. (Good Orderly Direction) as my own. 

Today I see how breath has a natural order, and that paying attention to it moves us into Awareness. Let me share Nhat Hanh's teachings:

At the beginning of a breath, feel the stomach begin to push out. Be aware that is is the diaphragm that pushes down on the abdomen, making the stomach rise. As your stomach rises, the lungs will fill. Then. the stomach lowers when the upper lungs fill with air. You will notice that each time you inhale, expanding your lungs to the two-thirds mark, your belly begins to lower. As you continue to breathe in and out using these guidelines,  you may begin to understand why earlier people spoke of the breath as originating in the navel and ending at the nostrils. 

Can conscious breathing be the life force (or even G.O.D.) that will help me order my thoughts and my life?  It would be miracle indeed if, what I once saw as a fetter may have found a way to set me free.   

Ah, the breath, my constant teacher! 

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