Sunday, 22 April 2018

I am here, breathing... and here, breathing... and...

Even though I practice and teach meditation all the time, I still at least once a day have the dawning realisation that focusing on my breath is really quite miraculous. This recurring eureka moment, every time I experience it, expands me that little bit more, and I think, 'wow, how lucky am I to know this simple, life-changing thing.'

Sometimes I have a really big eureka moment about the breath, and two weeks ago was one of those times. I had spent the few days after my Easter retreat/workshop feeding and following more and more thoughts about the workshop itself, about my future, about the possibility of moving to Findhorn, about this and about that - and I was getting very thinky about the whole thing.

This went on until I felt so awful that I knew it was time to call in the big guns, which for me is to make a commitment to spend a full day focusing on my breath. Within 5 minutes I was back to normal, and instead of spending the whole day focusing on my breath I have been gently and determinedly inclining my attention there ever since. Of course my mind wanders, but every time I realise it has gone I very simply stay with my breath once again.

There is something very necessary about this back and forth between awareness and unconsciousness, between the light and shadow, between being lost and found. The poet Rumi says that in order to remove dirt from our skin we introduce a new dirt we call 'soap', allow it to mingle with our own dirt and then both get washed away leaving us clean.

Realising we are lost is the dirt that brings about the cleansing which brings us back to ourselves and wholeness.

We focus on our breath then wander off, refocus then wander off, then refocus... and it is the wandering off that reminds us of the value of what we temporarily lost.

The murkiness is just as important as the clarity.

Carl Jung puts it this way... 'Life itself flows from springs both clear and muddy. Hence all excessive 'purity' lacks vitality. A constant striving for clarity and differentiation means a proportionate loss of vital intensity precisely because the muddy elements are excluded. Every renewal of life needs the muddy as well as the clear.'

So, the important thing in our mindfulness of breath meditation is not to be perfectly clear, but to be growing kindness with whatever is happening.

Whether we are as clear as a Himalayan wind chime, or as chaotic as a soap opera, the intention is to be compassionate and equanimous, remembering that everything is changing and that our true identity already is perfect.

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