Tuesday, April 17, 2012
"Breathe in, breathe out. Forget to do this, and achieving enlightenment will be the least of your problems."
From "Zen philosophy from your Jewish mother" -- a humorous post that circulated around the interwebs a few years ago
How wonderful that my breath does not depend on my mindfulness to keep itself going 24/7! I would never have lived this long. However, when I do decide to pay attention, it can be a trusted friend that helps me overcome my anxiety, clear my head, and keep me from injuring myself during yoga class.
Last night, my yoga teacher's theme was mindful breathing (pranayama). She reminded us that "inspiration" and "respiration" come from the same Latin root word. Our spirits and our breath have much in common. Inspiration is always there, ready to help us whenever we decide to pay attention, and nudging us subconsciously when we aren't paying attention. If we live in a toxic environment or we develop a case of "spiritual asthma", getting a fresh inspiration can be as difficult as getting a good, deep breath.
During last night's yoga class, we practiced "following the breath". This was a term that I had heard before, but never really processed the thought. I was pretty good at coordinating the bending and flexing with the inhaling and exhaling. No, our teacher said, first you start the inhalation, then you move into the pose. Let the exhalation begin before you start to come out of the pose. (Or vice versa, depending on which way we were moving.) Lead with the breath, let the body follow.
And appreciate the pause between inhalation and exhalation, as Joshua Rich reminds us. "It occurs to me today that within the waiting there is much happening .. that the world is affected and changed with every moment that I am alive, with every little and big thing I do .. and that while much of this effect is not seen or felt directly by me, it is happening nonetheless .."
In yesterday's blog post, I mentioned that I have some specific things in mind that I must do to move myself ahead on this path I have chosen. I have made small starts on these things, and I hope that once I have done them, the next steps ahead will become clear. But the start I have made is so small, and the days seem to slip by without my having accomplished much at all. (I'm still comparing my productivity to my exhausting days before I began this sabbatical.) Last night I thought, "Lead with the breath." The inspiration is here. The actions are following. Take another breath, move a little more. Let the actions follow the inspiration. If it works for spine-flexing exercises, why not try it with soul-flexing exercises?