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Lions Roar : May 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2011 54 without judging them. That took strength; what else can I tackle with that same strength? meditation lets us see that we can accomplish things we didn’t think ourselves capable of. you’ll rediscover a deeper sense of what’s really important to you. once you look beneath distractions and conditioned reac- tions, you’ll have a clearer view of your deepest, most en- during dreams, goals, and values. you’ll have a portable emergency resource. meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively. you’re likely to find yourself in situations—having a heated argument at work, say, or chauffeuring a crowd of rambunctious kids to a soccer game—when you can’t blow off steam by walking around the block, hitting the gym, or taking a time-out in the tub. but you can always follow your breath. you’ll be in closer touch with the best parts of yourself. meditation practice cultivates qualities such as kindness, trust, and wisdom that you may think are missing from your makeup but are actually undeveloped or obscured by stress and distractions. meditation practice gives us the chance to locate these qualities so we can access them more easily and frequently. you’ll recapture the energy you’ve been wasting trying to control the uncontrollable. i once led a retreat in California during a monsoonlike rain- storm. It’s so soggy and unpleasant that people aren’t going to have a good retreat, i thought. i felt bad for the participants; in fact, i felt responsible. For a few days i wanted to apologize to everybody for the rain until a thought flickered: Wait a minute. I’m not even from California; I’m from Massachusetts. This isn’t my weather. This is their weather. Maybe they should apologize to me! and then the voice of deeper wisdom arose: Weather is weather. This is what happens. we’ve all had weather moments—times when we’ve felt responsible for everyone’s good time or well-being. it’s our job, we think, to fix the temperature and humidity, or the people around us (if we could only get our partner to quit smoking, consult a map, stick to a diet). we even think we’re capable of totally controlling our own emotions—I shouldn’t ever feel envious, or resentful, or spiteful! That’s aw- ful! I’m going to stop. you might as well say, “i’m never going this ClassiC meDitation pRaCtiCe is designed to deepen concentration by teaching us to focus on the in-breath and out-breath. sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair. Keep your back erect, but without straining or overarching. (if you can’t sit, lie on your back, on a yoga mat or folded blanket, with your arms at your sides.) Close your eyes, if you’re comfortable with that. if not, gaze gently a few feet in front of you. aim for a state of alert relaxation. Deliberately take three or four deep breaths, feeling the air as it enters your nostrils, fills your chest and abdomen, and flows out again. then let your breathing settle into its natural rhythm, without forcing or controlling it. Just feel the breath as it happens, without trying to change it or improve it. you’re breathing any- way. all you have to do is feel it. notice where you feel your breath most vividly. perhaps it’s predominant at the nostrils, perhaps at the chest or abdomen. then rest your attention lightly—as lightly as a butterfly rests on a flower—on just that area. become aware of sensations there. if you’re focusing on the breath at the nostrils, for example, you may experience tingling, vibration, or warmth, itchiness. you may observe that the breath is cooler when it comes in through the nostrils and warmer when it goes out. if you’re focusing on the breath at the abdomen, you may feel movement, pressure, stretching, release. you don’t need to name these sensations— simply feel them. let your attention rest on the feeling of the natural breath, one breath at a time. (notice how often the word “rest” comes up in this instruction? this is a very restful practice.) you don’t need to change it, force it, or “do it right”: just feel it. you don’t need to make the breath deeper or longer or different from the way it is. simply be aware of it, one breath at a time. you may find that the rhythm of your breathing changes. Just allow it to be however it is. sometimes people get a little self-conscious, almost panicky, about watching themselves breathe—they start hyperventilating a little, or holding their breath without fully realizing what they’re doing. if that hap- pens, just breathe more gently. to help support your aware- Getting Started shaRon salzbeRg explains the ins and outs of meditating on the breath. ➢ page 89