Suffering, Meditation and Breath

I live in a house on the edge of a town. My yoga studio faces the wooded cemetery full of birdsong and stillness. As I sit to meditate I see the filtered light coming through the trees and as I close my eyes my sense of hearing takes over to listen to the joyous birdsong.

But very quickly I pick up on the other sounds I can hear. On the other side of my house lies the fast pace of the town with a noisy road transporting people from the centre back out into the countryside. My senses are aware of both of these energies – quiet, nature, stillness and being as well as noisy, polluted flux of grasping and doing. I feel my whole being becoming agitated and confused. I want to rest in the birdsong but the ongoing road sounds are disturbing me.

I sit in a place of tension for a while. Then a question arises. “How can I be here with both of these energies present?”
I continue to sit and let my curiosity hold me in this space of uncertainty.

All of a sudden out of the commotion comes an answer. It is in the form of my breath. Such relief! A moment of realization accompanies my next exhale. I have been directing the senses outward and focusing externally on both that which is pleasing and that which I dislike.

As I begin to ride the rhythm of my own breath a whole new perspective and feeling emerges in my body.  The ongoing rhythm of inhale and exhale connects me with the life force. It is that which moves between the inner and outer world. I literally draw in that which is outside of me and release that which is inside of me back out  and a bridge of connection is built.

Stepping back to be with my breath makes being with the two opposite sounds totally bearable, in fact I feel an ease settling in my being.

After some time the pause at the end of the exhale makes itself more prominent and invites a stillness and further acceptance of my present situation. As I rest in that pause all the sounds and thoughts that accompany them move into the distance and a whole field of awareness opens up. This sphere is the place in which I can witness the good and the bad, the joyful and the uncomfortable, and all the other opposites that I am subject to arising, and yet stay in a place of non- reaction.

Yogic scholar, spiritual teacher and founder of i-rest, Richard Miller describes and refers to this state in the following way:

“When you are open to feeling whatever is present, attachment and aversion no longer control your life and you live the ease of Being, which evokes profound relaxation and clarity in both your body and mind. Judgement looses it’s grip, and compassionate love of self and other blossoms.”

Through the breath I experience both my interconnectedness with all of life as well as a sense of my own wholeness. 

I am so grateful to be able to sit and practice regularly and allow for this wisdom to come in and guide me in the rest of my life. Meditation is something I have continually struggled with over the years. As I stay with the practice however I see it’s benefits more and more and see that it is core to my yoga practice and journey towards freedom. I’d love to hear any of your experiences and struggles with incorporating meditation into your yoga practice. Please do share!

I’ll leave you with this wonderful poem by the Sufi poet, Kabir.

 

Breath

Are you looking for me? 

I am in the next seat.
 My shoulder is against yours.

You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms, 
nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor in kirtans, not in legs winding around your 
own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.

When you really look for me, you will see me instantly—
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.

Kabir says: Student, tell me what is God?
 
He is the breath inside the breath.

by Kabir
(as translated by Robert Bly)

 

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