Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Breath and I, We’re the Best of Mates

This post was written in December 2009, when I was spending a month staying at a Buddhist monastery near Sydney, Australia. 

Last night, after an intense meditation where I was feeling a lot of tension and resistance in my mind and body, I went up to the monastery library to see if I could find anything helpful to read.  I really felt completely stuck – I could observe the tension, the fighting, the utter dislike of my own thoughts and experience – but I couldn’t find any way of working with them.  Every ‘technique’ I tried just left me feeling more and more stuck. 

I found a book by the Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm called Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond. Ajahn Brahm was born in the UK, but for many years has been the Abbot of a monastery in Australia.  (He’s currently in the news for controversially ordaining women, and being kicked out of the Thai lineage his monastery  belonged to...but that’s another story).

Often when I go searching for something in a book that will help me during my ‘stuck’ periods I find nothing, but this time I found a really beautiful section on relating to meditation in a friendly, relaxed, way.  It was exactly what I needed to read.  Here’s the section – may you find it useful too.

‘I love meditation.  I enjoy it so much...Meditation is like a dear old friend that you want to spend time for the meditation object, the breath, we’ve had such a good time together, my breath and I. We’re the best of mates...The opposite of course, is when you know you have to be with that friggin breath and you don’t like see it coming along the other side of the street and you think, ‘Oh my God, here it is again.’

I use the following method to overcome any ill will toward my breath.  I look upon my breath like a newborn son or daughter.  Would you leave your baby at the shopping mall and just forget it?  Would you drop it as you’re walking on the road? If you appreciated your breath as much as your child or someone else who is very, very dear to you and very vulnerable, you would never drop, forget, or abandon it. ...When you have loving-kindness towards the meditation object you do not need much effort to hold it.’
I just love Ajahn Brahm’s happy, uncomplicated, joyful view of meditation.  After I read this I realised how much I see meditation as a chore; ‘I’m sick, and I’ve obviously done something wrong to be given this illness, so now I’ve got to do all this awful, boring, hard work to get better.’  I usually feel like I’m trudging along a long road with a heavy load.  Reading Ajahn Brahm’s book is a good reminder to me to take things a little more lightly – and a lot more kindly.

                                                                       Ajahn Brahm

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