Last week in meditation, it was just my teacher, KJ and I. We talked about the 4… mahasatipatthana suttas, which if followed fully for 7 days, are believed to lead to enlightenment. The first of these, is to be aware of one’s body – the breath and postures, of the elements and then onto the sensations (the second sutta). We talked mainly about this first one, and then about how he used to/I currently feel very uncomfortable with mindfulness of breathing. I do not watch the breath, but control it the moment I give it attention.
A few years ago, I spent three days in hospital. I remember not being able to eat on the 25th, and was admitted on 26th December. I hadn’t eaten solid food in a couple of days, and was barely able to swallow water, let alone soup or milk. I couldn’t swallow my own saliva and thus couldn’t sleep – as I’d choke on it and ‘wake’ before I reached dreams.
When I mentioned this, KJ explained that that was a trauma where my body learnt to associate deep breathing and hyper-awareness/sensitivity of it to not being able to breathe.
I’d never thought of it as a trauma, but it endured for almost 9 months. Every week I’d get a different anti-biotic and it would clear up for the 2 week-course and a week later, I’d be back at the doctor’s – now immune to the previous medication.
Luckily for me, the most likely ‘cure’ is a lot of mindfulness of breathing meditation. I’ve got some beads to focus on so I can sneak glimpses of my breath – before my consciousness notices and begins to control it.
This week, KJ suggested we do a body-scanning meditation. The others really enjoyed it, which is great. I was fine until we got to the Diaphragm, Ribs and Lungs. Then I went back to my beads and had to focus on them. In psychology, we call this form of conditioning vicarious and it’s hard to undo – though quick to learn. However, I’m hoping that by being more comfortable in say, my feet, I’ll slowly warm to the feeling of being aware of my lungs too.
After meditation, we looked at ethics – at the five precepts. We discussed how following them would lead to skilful action; and how the world would be if everyone followed them. Each has both a positive and negative phrasing:
– The first is Kindness. If we were to act in every situation with kindness, it’s unlikely our action could be deemed “wrong”. Thus Abstain from Harming.
– The second precept is Generosity. This is about giving – not craving; about sharing and connecting. Abstain from stealing.
– Third, we come to Contentment. It was explained that this about not craving or taking – Abstain from sexual malpractice/misconduct [rape, abduction].
– The forth precept is Truth. Honesty. We discussed white lies and found that it is better to find a way of being honest. In the case of the truth hurting – that is not Kind, so best to stay silent. Abstain from lying.
– Finally, Mindfulness – for what is a worldview without attention to ourselves and others? Abstain from intoxication. In this sense, if you can keep your head with a glass of wine, that’s fine; for it is the state of mind we are abstaining from-not necessarily the substance.
In the midst of exams, I’m in need of these precepts. As housemates play music at 2am and I find myself irritable, I need to remember to follow them as best I can. Alongside this, my body is rebelling- telling me that it hurts: Sitting in that exam hall telling me that my knees are in pain, that my neck hurts and please-stop-writing-now-because-my-wrist-needs-to-click.
At a time when I wish to shut it out, my mind and body are reminding me that I’m not separate from it. That this is not a body to carry me forward, but a section of me; moving. At times of stress, perhaps we’d be better off aware – able to catch the signs of neglect and pain faster- in order to prevent deterioration.
If I could give myself patience- I would take deep breathes, dance when the mood struck and forgive myself.
And then; stuck, I surfed on over to Havi’s pirate ship, and found this:
“Safety — for me — is found in going inward. This is not true for many of my people, for whom turning inward feels really unsafe.
Working with people who are curious about their internal workings — about Very Interior Design — means finding ways to create safety for this process.
Entry and exit points: what do we know about them?
They need to be more defined. They need ritual. Transitioning is special. Moving out and in is a space where things happen.
These spaces are … huh the word that’s coming is “blessed” that’s totally not something I would ever say but okay.
I did not know that.
These spaces need extra love and attention. Rituals to start. Rituals to end. Rituals of re-entry.
Where do I find protection?
In the dance. In my self.”
I can find protection in myself, and can define exits and entries for this looking-inward-sensation-seeking movement dance. I can protect myself, despite knowing intellectually, that it is safe.
I’m allowed to be afraid, and allowed to ask for protection.