Today, Sharon talked about how the way we pay attention to the breath is like seeing a friend in a crowd. I found this so helpful.
When we see our friend in the crowd, we are enthusiastic and interested. This is how we can be with the breath. There is no need to feel pressured, uptight, or judged. Coming into meditation with an attitude of friendliness, curiosity, and interest helps us to settle our energy in an open and easy way and to make a space within ourselves from which to direct our attention to the breath.
The breath is there in the midst of thoughts, and images, and emotions as they pass by, just as our friend is there in the middle of a throng of people hurrying and criss-crossing in front of her and obscuring her for a moment here and there. Our attention doesn’t wander off with each person as they pass by. There is no need to push anyone out of the either. We know she will still be there when the crowd passes. That’s how it is with the breath. We keep our attention on it as thoughts, images, feelings, and emotions pass by.
When I first began meditating and learning breath concentration, I would get a sharp pain in my back. At first, when I would sit, the first five or six breaths would be fine. Then, I would feel a jab in my back. My attention would immediately fly to it. With every breath, my body would tighten more and the jab would get stronger and deeper until all I could do was anticipate the next jab. To use Sharon’s analogy, it was like someone had walked up to my friend and put a gun to her head. This went on for awhile until I realized that as I sat down to meditate, I first had to adjust my attitude. Before beginning as I settled into my body and into my mediating posture, I would say to myself, “I am open and curious about my breath. I am open and curious about this jab.” By bringing this perspective of interest and openness, the jabs began to dissipate and after some time, disappeared altogether.
Being curious, open, and interested, just as we are when we see a friend in the crowd, frees us to be with the breath and whatever passes by.
Thank you Sharon for reminding me of the power of curiosity, interest, and openness.