November 22, 2010

Misusing the Breath

In response to the Week 3 talk of Reginald A. Ray's Tricycle Retreat, "Touching Enlightenment," a participant writes:

Thank you for your teachings. In Part 3, you spoke of our habitual shutting down or stopping at some point in our experiences and how our karma is created in doing so. This idea is fascinating. While sitting last night, it seemed that my returning to the breath at the point of the awareness of thinking might be a way of doing the same thing. What is the difference?

to which Reggie responds,

You are quite right about this. One of the big problems in the way many of us practice meditation is that when something painful comes up, we use the return to the breath as a way to avoid the painful feeling and push it back down into the body. Then, ironically, going back to the breath becomes a way of disembodying ourselves. When any somatic feeling arises and calls for our attention, be it physical, emotional, or energetic, we need to stay with it. Separating from it by going back to the breath is exactly the wrong thing in that situation. Alternatively, when our mind is churning up thoughts as an avoidance of painful or difficult feelings, then coming back to the breath is a way of coming back to our bodies and the feelings underlying the chattering mind. Obviously, in any situation, you have to make the call about whether returning to the breath is called for.

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