Author Topic: Calming the body or calming the breath or observing?  (Read 1444 times)

Thomas D

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Calming the body or calming the breath or observing?
« on: June 03, 2016, 06:32:22 PM »
I know this has just been asked. Nicky says to calm the breathing by observation. Matthew says to calm the body and perhaps breathing. Correct me if I'm wrong.

When it comes to calming the body I can let go of tension in all the muscles, at least the tension I can feel. After that I sought of have this feeling of constantly letting go of tension. I don't feel that more tension is released, rather that new tension doesn't take hold. It's hard to describe. But I feel the whole body and I am trying to let go. Sometimes it causes an aching sensation.

I can also calm the breath by observing and letting the breath become more fluid. After I have done all this I let the rest be. If I am still tense or breathing rapid then I just accept it and observe, trying to steady the mind and being equal to whatever happens.

I'm interested to know if this sounds right and if anyone has anything to add. What do you do specifically? I expect everyone creates their own way and it would be fascinating to know what others do.


Dharmic Tui

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Re: Calming the body or calming the breath or observing?
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2016, 07:33:30 PM »
I don't do anything specifically, the focus of my practice seems to change somewhat. Previously when I felt anxious I would spend whole meditations trying to calm down or solve whatever mental life puzzles I'd created for myself. Now I am also having periods where I'm ok with everything, even if I "feel" anxious in my body, which in turn calms the mind, which calms the body.

As a general observation, I find bringing a level of kindness to my practice helps, and if I be mindful of making my body and breath as calm as possible then this not only relaxes me, but keeps me more focused on the breath.

This is not to say I can accomplish the above with accurate consistency. It's always a work in progress.

Attachless

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Re: Calming the body or calming the breath or observing?
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2016, 08:50:25 PM »
Usually what the practice would evolve to is accepting observation of what is, which in turn creates that calming of the body and mind because there is no more resistance to whatever is present to the moment which would create these tensions in the first line. SO whenever you are trying to "calm the body" by in fact resisting your body not being calm right now hence wanting it to be calm and trying (eventually hard) to calm your body and/or mind, this will obviously create more tension because you are not calming by accepting reality as it is.

To get from a tensious state into a calming state thereof the first step seems to be to accept any tensions being there fully without resisting them which in turn may eventually produce (in experience and as practice continues it certainly will) a calming, because you lessen your resistance more and more - and your tensions are in fact just that, resistances. You won`t get rid of them by resisting them, calm happens through acceptance, which is equanimity.

Thereof, "calming" is a more or less indirect path in my experience, which eventually becomes kind of direct once you get "the hang of it", which is the right amount of effort TO let go of resistances, a balance act of "letting go and putting effort into that" - which is kinda contradictory, because effortlessness is kind of implied in "letting go"; and it takes effort to get there oddly enough.

That`s the best way I could describe it, and in relation to that:


"I can also calm the breath by observing and letting the breath become more fluid. After I have done all this I let the rest be. If I am still tense or breathing rapid then I just accept it and observe, trying to steady the mind and being equal to whatever happens.

By accepting the tenseness or the rapidity of breath there is space created for calm/release to happen. That comes with broader sense of equanimity, so I think you`re on the right track by just accepting things as they are and let any consequences follow naturally without your influence, expectation or wishes. Whatever happens is bound to happen, and in that practice, it`s calm more often than not :-P If you have an initial sense of calming your mind/body (as a result of consistent practice), that's wonderful to do at the start before, as you say, you "let the rest be". That`s usually also how I handle it, not always - it differs from sitting to sitting. When I don`t feel it is necessary, which is when I feel my level of equanimity is stable and broad enough for calm to happen by itself over time, I just start scanning or being aware of all my body and/or breath and let itself release as an eventual consequence.

I feel like I have been too detailed here, but hey maybe it helps :-P Always good to not get hung up in the words but where they point you at, which you will find in your own personal experience of course!

Have fun practicing! :-)

Ps: Instead of equanimity, I have also invented the synonym of "non-resistance" to my practice, as in, whatever I encounter, I will not resist it in the first line. Which is basically the same as equanimity or acceptance, but gives another perspective or dimension to the way I practice, because I won`t forget to not-resist even when things get kinda.. messy or uncomfortable, and first impulse would be to resist that, because we are usually craving the goods (e.g. calm) and avoiding the bads (e.g. tensions). Especially when I think that I`m "done" now practicing, and feel like the urge to stand up now or stop earlier than the time set, I be like "I`m done not-resisting? really? how does that work?" :-D and I keep practicing, most of the time :-P Which will eventually bring calm again. But it`s easy to get hung up in stuff like that is it.
to be or not to be - one hardly notices the subtlety

Nicky

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Re: Calming the body or calming the breath or observing?
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2016, 09:57:34 PM »
Sounds very good to me (apart from aching sensation). Your post was like a guided meditation. I followed it to the letter & felt good.  :)

Try to be aware of & loosen up that aching sensation.

What sounded good about your post was the letting go of tension. 'Constantly letting go' of tension is good. In reality, you are not calming the body but calming the mind (since tension in the body is something mental). This is good. Awareness of your whole body keeps this letting go of tension (& your conscious awareness) broad & open. This is good. Then you can do (as you are doing) some settling on the breathing & equipoise. If feeling constricted, open up your field of awareness again & let go of tension in the body & in the mind. If there is tension in your concentration, let that go (calm it) also. Then settle again in equipoise and with the breathing.

The important thing is 'constantly letting go' since this is the path the Buddha actually taught. Let go of bodily tension; let go of mental tension. This is how 'right samadhi' is cultivated.

Good meditation... :)

Thomas D

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Re: Calming the body or calming the breath or observing?
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2016, 08:29:20 AM »
Quality input!

Attachless, you can't be too detailed on my part.

As for the aching sensation, I'm not sure what it is. I didn't notice it on my last meditation. Maybe it is just tension that I as of now can't release, but I also suspect that it is me doing it moment by moment.

If anyone else wants to share their nuts and bolts experience of meditation I would love to hear.

Matthew

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Re: Calming the body or calming the breath or observing?
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2016, 04:50:16 PM »
I know this has just been asked. Nicky says to calm the breathing by observation. Matthew says to calm the body and perhaps breathing. Correct me if I'm wrong.
...

I'm very specific in what I write about this: the breath itself cannot be sensed, what can be sensed is the physical sensations created in the body by the process of breathing. This includes the air touching the skin on the outside of your body, the contract between air and your throat, lungs, etc., the physical movements in the body of muscle: in the abdomen, chest, legs, arms, neck and even the head.

As others have written the emphasis is on letting go of tension/stress and developing calm/relaxation -  this is the fundamental basis upon which the development of many other factors depend including equanimity, insight and compassion.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Nicky

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Re: Calming the body or calming the breath or observing?
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2016, 08:50:16 PM »
...this is the fundamental basis upon which the development of many other factors depend including equanimity, insight and compassion.

...and jhana.

Quote
And what is the faculty of concentration? There is the case where a noble disciple, making it his object to let go (vossagga), attains concentration, attains singleness of mind.

Indriya-vibhanga Sutta

 

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