When I sit in meditation and focus on my breath….that is “normal” breath at that point…I find the simple act of being there, the act of sitting coupled with watching the breath in its daily tides….that action brings me almost immediately into a meditative space….it’s a different consciousness…an internal realm of existence that I am always happy to visit …It reminds me of the limited world I inhabit in my daily life….a world free of form….unlimited energy …it’s a place of mental rest, hence relaxation…just me and my breath…ahhhhh.
Pema Chodron, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher and monastic, calls this first stage of sitting practice, accessing absolute boddhicitta. We begin calming the wild elephants of the mind and dedicate our practice to serve all beings. What follows this stage may not be so blissful, so I am sure to savor those first quiet moments. Truly, they are what bring me over and over again back to the practice.
In yoga class, we begin with a stage called centering, which is very similar and often engenders a similar blissful state in the practitioner. Consciously befriending your breath is a transformative experience in itself. Recently, a student remarked as we were transitioning to a more physically active practice, “Ahhh, this is why I come to class!” Truly, she hadn’t needed to say anything; bliss surrounded her in a warm glow.
If you’d like to hear more of Ani Pema Chodron’s explanation of Shambala Buddhist meditation, watch the inimitable Bill Moyers interview her on PBS. Here’s the link.