Week 1: Meditation on the Breath

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Martine Batchelor's picture

Thank you for your appreciation.  I am glad that these videos were useful.  Sorry for the lateness in replying I was traveling and had problem with the internet connection. 

I would recommend the work of Diana Winston.  She is a teacher at Spirit Rock and she wrote a book on meditation for teenager.  You could check out her website.

Warmly, Martine

mgarrett's picture

Dear Martine - Thank you so much for this lesson. I will reiterate what others have said in that you have a knack for speaking clearly about something that (although it is always with us) we have a hard time working with - the breath! I also was struck by your description of impermanence. noticing what is in the background and seeing it as arising and passing away without grasping or aversion. Very clear for beginner or long time meditator. 

I have a son who is going through a little rough spot. He feels undeserving of his talent (musical), his intelligence (ample) and the fact that he has everything he needs when others don't. The idea of solidifying and making what is not permanent feel permanent really struck me in your talk. We all do it and it causes such a great deal of suffering. I know my son, even though he is only 19, really feels like he is stuck with these feelings. I'm sure meditation will help him but as his mom - I don't want to seem preachy. I hope to share your video with him but any other thoughts would be appreciated. 

balance's picture

Dear Martine,

This is my very first time of 'really' :-) subscribing to teachings which I can see and hear over the internet. I live in southern Australia, and am pretty remote, geographically, from all the teachers / writers on meditation, Buddhism, and so on. We have a few here, but I've always kept coming back to my books and articles gathered over the years by you, Stephen, Kabat-Zinn, Kornfield, Pema Chodron, et al!

Your points made in this first video session are profoundly - yet so simply - useful to me. I've struggled with all the things you and the others posting here talk about.

However, my particular situation (well, no more particular than any others, but it's all I can truly describe) is that I battle with very heavy drinking. I won't go into all the ins and outs of that journey over the past 10 and 20 years, but suffice to say that in the past year, it's mostly been both day and night, apart from a 3 months period of detox followed by abstinence. However, I don't wish to keep pursuing the abstinence path for a whole range of reasons.

What I do look for is any suggestions you might have about how to practice meditation as a kind of 'way in'  to confronting those damned addictive thoughts and urges. Over roughly the past ten or more years, I've read / bought / borrowed a number of books by William Alexander, Kevin Griffiths and others who write on addictions with a Buddhist perspective. They have been fabulously helpful. Yet, I still keep 'coming back' - not to the breath, sadly, but to the drink. I know I'm kind of 'stuck' in this.

Are you willing to comment on any of this?

Kind regards,

Victoria

Martine Batchelor's picture

Dear Victoria,

For my book "Let Go", which has a chapter on addiction, I read many books on addiction.  I also had a meditator friend, who was addicted, who helped me with this chapter.

If you want to discuss things more personally on this subject you can go to my website and use that email there.  Otherwise I will make a few general comments.

When did you start drinking and what were the conditions that led to it?  Do you drink because you like the taste of alcohol or because you like the way you feel or don't feel when you are drinking alcohol.  Is it self-medication for some difficult feelings or states or is social drinking?  There are many different types of drinking, some more workable, some less.

I presume that you have moments when you do not feel like drinking, when you are happy or at peace and you do not need anything else at that moment.  

If you stop drinking, you need to replace it with something, which will positively occupy that space.  A young man, I read about, who was addicted to the high of drugs replaced it with surfing, and in that way still got high but more healthily.

If you have difficult feelings, therapy could be beneficial to help you to deal with them.  Abstinence by itself will not resolve that.  Meditation could also help you to know and be with your feelings and thoughts in a different way so that you could have them, be able to be with them, let them pass through and feel ok at the end,  even if it was difficult.  The main point would be not to exaggerate nor proliferate as I mention in one of the talk.  

But if the situation was intense, it is more likely that you might go back to drinking.  So then you need first to be able not to drink when the situation is light or habitual.  To help you with that you need at that same time to cultivate something positive that will help you to feel better.  Once you can more or less do that, you can see what could help you to do something different when a situation is intense.  You would have to train yourself in that positive habit before the situation becomes intense, so that you can be more prepared.  The positive habit would have to be fairly occupying in a creative way so that it would helped in developing a more peaceful or creative state of feeling or mind.

Warmly, Martine

balance's picture

Thank you so much for all this rich commentary Martine - it gives me much to reflect upon and work with.

I will respond at a later date to some of your questions, via your email address.

Again, thank you taking the time to reply,

Warm regards

Victoria

frepie's picture

Bonjour Madame Bachelor,

I could write in french, since I am french Canadian but I will post in English so my question can be read by everyone posting here. I would like to know why putting so much importance on impermanence in Buddhist meditation? Quite frankly, this annoys me. In the Goenka Vipassana 10 day retreat, the discourses always emphasize this and it is presented as the proof of the existence of the Dharma (at least that is how I understood it). Impermanence is an evidence even for non-Buddhists (like me) and I don't see the point of insisting on this reality more than on any other.

I really enjoyed your video on the breathing meditation. Clear, simple and straight to the point. Thank you very much.

 

Pierre

Martine Batchelor's picture

Dear Pierre, The emphasis on impermanence can be looked in different ways.  personally the emphasis on moment to moment change I do not find so useful.  But to look at change in general I find that it helps us with regards to the tendency we have to 'permanentize'.  Something happens and quickly we think that it is always like this.  Something is intense and we cannot imagine that this too will change.  So I would see experiencing change as an antidote to that.  You can also look at change in terms of death or in terms of the possibility of transformation.  Warmly, Martine

William Stanhope's picture

Once I read a comment by Pema Chodron that applies to the idea of impermanance and the reality of change I think. She said that when you are on the street level (I am paraphrasing here) all seems chaotic and you can get caught up in the idea that this might never change, this feeling, sorrow, pain, etc. When you eventually get to a higher level in the building and look out (through greater understanding coming as the fruit of concious enquiry and meditation) you see that the pattern is not so chaotic..that there is a pattern there and that helps me to feel hopeful and accepting of the natural flow. The breath is the vehicle to this calmer place that can hold the chaotic experience in balance and provide liberation, even if momentary. The more one feels free the more one can feel free. Eventually these moments of freedom from habitual thinking can add up to a calmer life lived with equinimity.

 

Merci beaucoup Martine pour votre discours. J'ai beaucoup apprecie les images au debut du discours de votre petit coin du monde en France...tres calme comme un soutien. Merci encore!

Martine Batchelor's picture

Dear William, Yes, it is like this.  One gains a greater perspective.

Warmly, Martine

Wayne Erwin's picture

Thank you for you talk.  I've only been meditating for a few months and as a beginner I find it difficult to remain on task.  I’ve read a few description of how to breath/meditate and I’ve heard others describing the technique, but your talk I find the most clear and informative so far.  I’ll be putting in to practice what you’ve taught me this morning.

Have a wonderful Day,

Wayne 

Martine Batchelor's picture

Dear Wayne, I am glad it was helpful.  At the beginning it hard to be focused but it does not matter as long as you sit there and try again and again gently.  Warmly,

Martine

beautifulyogini's picture

Thank you Martine, 

Your talk on meditation and awareness on the breath is very helpful.  I like when you say "I don't need to be doing this NOW."  Often during meditation, I am so attached to my habitual tendencies of thought I become afraid when I try to let them go.  I feel as if I will loose who I am, and this thought brings up great fear.  By recognizing that I can use my imagination at will, hopefully fear will arise less and less during my meditations.

 

Warmly, 

Laura

Martine Batchelor's picture

Dear Laura, Yes, indeed.  The thoughts are fine.  It is more to see that the repetition is a bit tiring and often unnecessary.  You have diverse thoughts and you are not the repetition of your thoughts.  Warmly,

Martine

scubasandy's picture

dear Martine

This is the first retreat that I truely could identify with.  I find you calming and at the same time so precise in your training.  You identify all my little problems or idiosyncrasies during a meditation session.  Although I have meditated for many years, it is not consistent and I often wonder "what for"...the intent does not seem to be there.  You are giving me some clear guidance.

I thank you from my heart to yours and wish you joy

Sandy

Martine Batchelor's picture

Dear Sandy, I am glad that it was helpful.  Warmly, Martine

PS: If you have private specific meditation questions, you can contact me via my email address on my website.

ehoffserf's picture

Shalom Martine, Thanks you for your teaching! Even though I have been practicing meditation for awhile, I love the new perspective that you bring, and it gives me much food for thought and practice.

I would also like to ask you about feelings that arise--I find that if I do a body sweep/scan, that there are certain places in my body where feelings arise, and often this arises each time I scan.  Like my shoulders--sadness; and sometimes I feel block of energy, that it seems like the breath helps to become fluid; sometimes anger; and sometimes positive emotions. Sometimes they are strong, sometimes mild; sometimes nothing. I have learned that these are transitory, but it reminds me of how much stress and tension I accumulate!

I discovered this recently, when I visiting my mother, who is dying....I felt the need to get up early each morning, and spend about an hour doing a scan because I woke up so achy and tired.  And during the day I would focus on pains and aches--it almost seems that all the difficulties of being with a loved one,  in pain and dying, get lodged in our bodies.

This seems to help me when I am not sitting, too--that I can breathe into the area of the body where I feel discomfort, and trust that it will not last. I would like to hear more about this, or read more about this....it seems to be very useful for me.

Can you comment?

I look forward to hearing more from you.

Ellen from Jerusalem

Martine Batchelor's picture

Dear Ellen,

I found body sweeping useful but I am not a specialist of this technique.  People report similar experience about body scanning and points of tension and that breathing into it can help.  I am sorry that at this point in time I cannot think of a book to recommend specifically about this, possibly early books by Joseph Goldstein or Jon Kabat-Zinn could be helpful and refer to this, or "Breath by Breath" of Larry Rosenberg.  Personally I would also recommend at times to do other types of meditation where you would not specifically focus on the pain and special spots in your body, like listening and metta.  Warmly, Martine

ehoffserf's picture

Thanks, Martine--it is good to know that others have reported similar experiences. I will keep investigating.

I do other types of meditation--just sitting, or walking, as well, although I still find metta a challenge, I have much to learn. I seem to reserve the sweep for times when I am storing up alot of tension--I lead myself to it.

I look forward to your additional sessions, and I do appreciate your taking the time to reply.

Ellen

see-doubleyou's picture

Martine, 'merci beaucoup' for this first teaching of the retreat!

Just last evening I took advantage of our swimming pool being uncovered for the summer and sat upon the diving board as the sun faded and night fell and gazed out over the tranquil water with a warm cup of tea.  I used this exact method of focusing on the breath, and also experienced this drifting-off as I began to not only start to concern myself with how long I had been meditating for, but also began to battle the pain and nervous energy that began to accumulate within my legs.  My feeling is that through continued practice and self-discipline, I can overcome these distractions, including the thoughts of the past, present and future, and utilize the focus on the breath to maintain equanimity with the world around me.

From chanting various mantras to other means of concentration, I have always used the return to the breath as a convenient and effective means to meditate whether I am lying in bed at night, driving to work in the morning, or simply seeking peace during the chaos that is everyday life in America.

Again, many thanks for sharing your wisdom and guidance!

-Christian Williams

Martine Batchelor's picture

Dear Christian, Thank you for your appreciation.  I am glad that you find that the returning to the breath is helpful.

Warmly, Martine

Runningstream's picture

Thankyou Martine,

 

I found your talk very helpful especially to remember that things always change.  Sometimes when I do meditation I feel strong emotions and shake and this scares me a little and I don't know what exactly what to do, to stop, or just allow the emotions to come even if tears come; remembering that this will change is most helpful.

Martine Batchelor's picture

Dear Runningstream,

Yes, to know and remember that things can change can be helpful.  Do you often feel strong emotions when you meditate?  We can talk more about this privately if you want.  You can contact me directly via my email address on my website.  

Warmly, Martine

Runningstream's picture

Thankyou Martine,

I tried to email at your web site but it was returned to me, I'll try again.

 

Martine Batchelor's picture

I got an email.  I just answered it.  Did you receive it?

Runningstream's picture

Yes, thankyou Matine, I received it this morning and replied. 

 

Sheryl Hastalis's picture

Thank you Martine for this teaching. The concept of imagination vs. abstractive thought... that is truly a ' wake-up" lesson. Imagination being open hearted, and daydreaming normally based on passion and/or  aggression? 

Martine Batchelor's picture

I would see imagination as creative and having to do with the multiple reality of the here and now, and possibly the future.  I see daydreaming as being based on wishful thinking and on a seductive abstract reality that then one might compare with what is happening now, which might not be as pleasant and seductive and going the way one wishes as in the daydream. This in turn often makes us frustrated and discontent.  Daydreaming might come from desire and I would see rumination coming more from pain and negatively obsessing.