Meditation, I think, is all about breath. Meditation isn’t really about breath at all.
Mind, consciousness, life seems to be most present in reaction. While any rock will roll when kicked, only life will get better at dodging the foot. There’s a feedback loop in there somewhere.
What happens when you tighten it? What happens when the experiencing/learning mind samples data more quickly and performs more tests on nature? The mind quickens.
Meditation is about quickening the mind. <At least until the mind gets up to speed>
Working backwards, we need some data to sample, ever more quickly. We need some kind of system to feed our evaluation-based choices back into.
Ahh, breath, there you are.
Breathing attentively is a rabbit’s hole, let’s be clear about that, though. Then, so is life. The number of details are astounding. So many things are happening as I write this. Different things are happening as you read it. Existence is literally buzzing with a bunch of stuff that cannot but be forgotten as it continues to pile and bubble up.
And yet, stepping back, absolutely nothing changes at all – electrons and their ilk whirl about as energy equilibrates. It’s been this way for a really long time and everything points to it continuing for a long time still. So it is with breath.
The way down a rabbit hole isn’t by thinking about the end of the tunnel, it’s forward into the shape just ahead. So it is with breath.
Breathing happens on many layers at once. The purpose of breathing is to oxygenate the blood and also to dispose of waste. This involves the coordination of almost all of the “sub” systems of the body and all of the systems of the body are tied into a very immediate dependency upon the breathing cycle.
Breath is interesting because, like blinking, it can be both automatic or intentional. Unlike blinking, however, breath requires coordination of large muscles of the body and involves a displacement of mass that actually impacts the center of balance of the body.
Breath is of further interest and utility because it changes aspects of our blood chemistry that in turn change aspects of the brain that in turn change aspects of our experience in stable, dependable ways; especially when we pay attention to the details.
Why? Why “especially when we pay attention to details”? Consider 2 exercisees:
- Exercisee 1 doesn’t pay attention to the sensations that come back from their limbs as they move them about. Pushing forwards is initiated in one conscious moment and consciousness does not return to the limb until sometime after the motion is complete. In between, perhaps, the mind flickers over lunch and dinner and the sky and rocks and a glimmer off somewhere in a distance they’re not quite sure the direction of.
- Exercisee 2 moves their limbs slowly and attentively through space sucking into awareness information about the relative location of the limbs based on proprioreception, the feeling of the air on the skin, the alignment of the body to gravity, and, generally, from moment to moment, this person’s awareness flickers over a sophisticated array of experiences that keep pointing back to what is happening as a consequence of itself.
The lifting of weight causes our muscles to strengthen. Moving attentively causes our nervous system to elaborate and refine. These are the effects of our choices.
With these tools we can pull at the mind behind/within/throughout the meat.