Advertisement

Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

30 Days of Love: take a deep breath

breathe journalToday’s 30 Days of Love prompt is about the sacred pause. The breath, in other words. Breathing in <> breathing out. Buddhist & yogi Teo Drake reminds us that mindfulness needn’t be limited to sitting and following the breath. Just taking a single breath between what happens and what we do about it —  inhabiting that space of feeling, of impact — is a critical beginning.

Advertisement

I love this. We can do this, y’all! How hard is one breath? Just breathe in, deep and calming, when you remember. Not just when hurt comes calling, but whenever you remember. Maybe even set your phone to go off hourly? And just inhabit that one breath.

But of course, it’s also the best possible first step towards true compassion — my beloved practice of tonglen. As Pema Chodron details in her explanation of the process, you breathe for those who feel as you do. Which means, again, anyone can do this. You certainly don’t have to be enlightened. :) In fact, you can be mired in fearfulness.breathe

Advertisement

Once, at a meditation sitting, we were asked to think of what terrified us. Just one thing, that we were deeply frightened of, or worried about. I chose Alzheimer’s, which killed my mother, her elder sister, a few great-aunts, and looms on the horizon for me and/or my sisters. At that point in my life, it was a profound fear for me. Our meditation facilitator told us to locate that terror, and then breathe in, thinking of how it felt, and all the people who share it. Then we breathed out, sending peace to those others. Never thinking about our own fear except as it was common to all of us who fear losing our identity, losing our loved ones. Losing our memories…

tonglen2That pause, between breathing in my private, personal fear and the comfort I breathed out for everyone who shared a similar terror, was sacred, as Teo Drake notes. Not simply because I stopped to take it — that’s sacred enough, the intention to do good. But also because in my fragile, battered, too often inadequate, human heart, I transformed shrinking terror into the outreach of peace. Like a kind of spiritual alchemy. And all it took was that pause, the recognition that my terror is not unique, but shared by millions.tonglen3

Advertisement

Any of us can do this. We all have our private fears and troubles that can be transmuted into peace. But even joy can be recognised, affirmed, celebrated for the moment it is with us. Stop in the now, breathe in what is happening, and recognise it. Once you’ve done that, you’re well on the way to tonglen. Plus — you’ve created a moment of sacred space in your everyday life. How amazing is that?

Previous Posts

when people you love hurt
I have never known what to do when people I love hurt. Whether it's physical, mental, or spiritual, all I know how to do is hug, soothe, and cook. I prescribe ...

posted 4:45:33pm Aug. 04, 2015 | read full post »

unexpected treasures
This is a bat house. While this one isn't the one currently in my garage, awaiting its move to Virginia, it looks much like ours will look in a few years: ...

posted 1:15:47pm Jul. 30, 2015 | read full post »

making friends with (at?) work
Because of the upcoming move, I've scaled back on many activities I love, including several non-profits. Friday, the head of one I particularly enjoy asked if ...

posted 5:49:17pm Jul. 27, 2015 | read full post »

temper temper
I'm probably going to get a LOT of pushback on this, but at least in my family, men have worse tempers than the rest of us. And they don't believe ...

posted 12:36:21pm Jul. 24, 2015 | read full post »

In Praise of Teachers Under Attack, reprised
I am so sick of anti-teacher ignorance that I could spit, as my Aunt Bonnie would have said. “It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher.” No. No, no, ...

posted 1:52:52pm Jul. 23, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.