The breath is the most important tool we have when meditating. By practicing paying attention to our breathing, and labeling the breath as it flows in and out, we can allow our mind to take a break from the ongoing stream of chatter that is running incessantly in our heads! Just the simple act of observing and labeling breathing is enough to feel an immediate sense of relief and peace!

We can go even further with the observation of breath, we can observe if it’s deep or shallow, fast or slow, if it feels like a lot of effort or effortless. The deeper we go with our observations the deeper our sense of relaxation goes! One observation I have made with observing the breath is that in the beginning it feels a bit like I am trying to control each inhale and exhale, it feels like a lot of effort just to breathe. But the longer I stay with it the more I relax into the simple automatic action of the breath itself. It doesn’t need me to be in charge. I won’t stop breathing simply because I stop trying so hard! This is a great metaphor and really a great “aha” moment that meditating give us! I don’t have to control life; it won’t stop if I don’t micromanage every moment of it!

 

As we continue to practice focusing on the breath, and begin to let go of control, we can get the sense of following the breath, like walking through a meadow and following a butterfly as it lands and flits from flower to flower. The beauty of it is that we can both observe and follow the breath, and we can feel the movement of breath in our bodies as it flows in and out. This is the next great gift our breath gives us in meditation.   It teaches us that we can closely and gently follow the flow of life and we can feel it happening in our bodies at the same time, we have a deeper sense of connection to our life with ease instead of effort, which is always comforting and what most of us long for.

 

The next deeper layer of awareness as we practice following the breath is where we begin to notice the spaces between the breaths, particularly at the end of the exhale and just before the next inhale begins! It is a bit like watching the ocean as the waves gather volume, rolling and peaking and arcing and then breaking and flowing to shore where all the energy spreads out and dissolves! There is a moment where the water washes ashore and before it flows back out to gather energy for the next wave that there is a gap, a pause, a small subtle moment where nothing is happening. This is the same with the breath, as you follow it, noticing when the breath begins to build as you inhale, peaks at the top of the inhale and arcs and releases to the exhale completely emptying out into a space where there is stillness in both your mind and body.

We can learn a lot from this stillness, we know its temporary but we know we will return there again and again just as the waves continue to build and flow.

We also learn that that stillness is both within us, and working in the nature of things around us all the time. We can begin to observe the flow and rest in the stillness that is our true nature and that of life with a little less control and resistance and find the peace we’ve been looking for!

 

 

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