Go Back to the Breath

I’ve been reading some pretty heavy stuff lately.  For example.  If you Google, “A Buddhist view of interdependence”, the first thing that should come up is a very interesting article that is actually a book excerpt by Alan Watts.  But I’ve read it a few times, and I’m still trying to grasp it.  I had read lots of Tolle in the past, and I’m reading “After Zen”.  With a whole bunch of other stuff in between.  I read stuff about how grasping causes suffering.  So I try to let go of my grasping.  But I’m told that by trying to let go, that is really my ego in control, and it’s actually a form of grasping, in itself.  Yeah…  Stuff like that.  Things that make you say, WTF?  I have a feeling that when I’m through with my current reading phase, I’ll probably go back to some Thich Nhat Hahn.

I like reading TNH because he is very simple in his approach.  When the deep philosophical questions arise, and it’s just a little too much, I can remember that he says, just be where you are.  Be as fully present as possible.  I won’t spend much time on that here, please see the blog post from March 9, Being Where I Am, On Purpose.  But I will say that it’s a simple thing to do without having to have all kinds of spiritual insight of any kind.  Just be as present and I can be, right now, with what I’m doing.

The other thing that I often remember TNH saying is go back to, or follow the breath.  What does that mean, exactly?  It just means to pay attention to your breathing.  Pay attention to when you are inhaling, and pay attention to when you are exhaling.  You might even say to yourself, “inhaling” when you inhale, and “exhaling” when you exhale.  You don’t have to make yourself breathe, you are doing that already.  Just be aware of it.  It’s that simple.  You might also notice things like what the air feels like when I inhale, and what does it feel like when I exhale.  Like the other things that I practice, this is not a cure all.  But I do find that it helps me calm down, it quiets my mind, and just helps me feel better.

Sometimes I do intentionally breathe deeper into my belly.  And then try to relax with the exhale.  I try to notice tension in my body, and keep my focus on that spot as I naturally exhale.  It’s like when you blow up a balloon and let it go.  It makes that ppphhhtttt sound and the air just comes out as it flies around the room.  🙂 That’s what I try to think of exhaling.  Don’t force it.  TNH talks about saying this to himself when he breathes: “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”  Sometimes I’ll say “I calm my body”, just because it’s shorter and fits better for me.  And I’ll also substitute “a wonderful moment” for “the only moment”.  I’ve heard him say that as well.  I’ve used this with good success in stressful situations.  Whether at work, or allowing an intense alcohol craving to pass when I’ve decided not to drink, or getting shots in the palm of my hand to numb it before stitches to sew up a bad cut… yep, ouch!… it helps.

I encourage you to give watching or following your breath some practice during some not so stressful times to just get the hang of it, if that is something you aren’t used to doing.  And as you learn to pay more attention to your breathing, start to work it into the stressful or intense situations that come your way.  I think with some regular practice, you will start to notice some positive things happening as you go back to the breath.

Now I feel like I should say, “namaste”, or something like that.  🙂


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