Bringing Body and Mind Together

posted in: Dharma Topics | 0
July 1, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Silver Spring, Maryland, community online on Thursday evening
July 2, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all online on Friday evening

Dear Still Water Friends,

Recently, a friend phoned me from the airport in Chicago on her way to visit her parents. While we were talking, she momentarily panicked when she realized she could not find the I.D. card she needed to board the plane. My stomach tightened as I listened, and my nausea and fear lingered even after she located her card and we said goodbye. Thanks to my mindfulness practice, I was able to breathe and stay with my emotions and physical sensations, feeling them as I allowed them flow through me. The intensity of my response to my friend’s experience caught me by surprise and it reminded me again why I practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes about mindfulness of breath inYou Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment:

Mindful breathing is a kind of bridge that brings the body and the mind together. If through mindfulness of the breath you generate harmony, depth, and calm, these will penetrate into your body and mind. In fact, whatever happens in the mind affects the body, and vice versa. If you generate peacefulness in your breathing, that peacefulness permeates your body and your state of mind. If you have practiced meditation, you have already discovered this. If you have been able to embrace your in-breath and your out-breath with tenderness, you know that they in turn embrace your body and your mind. Peace is contagious. Happiness is also contagious, because in the practice of meditation, the three elements of body, mind, and breath become one.

So as you breathe in, respect the in-breath. Light up the lamp of mindfulness so that it illuminates your in-breath. “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” It’s simple. When the in-breath is short, you take note of the fact that it is short. That’s all. You don’t need to judge. Just note very simply: my in-breath is short and I know that it is short. Do not try to make it longer. Let it be short. And when your in-breath is long, you simply say to yourself, “My in-breath is long.”

You respect your in-breath, your out-breath, your physical body, and your mental formations. The in-breath moves inward; the out-breath moves outward. In and out. It’s child’s play; but it provides a great deal of happiness. During the time you are doing it, there is no tension at all. You are here for life; and if you are here for life, life will be here for you. It’s simple.

Last year, when my mother was experiencing strong symptoms from dementia, she responded well to listening to the sound of the bell. She said it helped her feel calmer and quieter inside herself. Recently, I’ve been more aware of using all my senses to bring me into the present moment. In the spirit of child’s play, I have begun experimenting with rubbing a soft piece of cloth against my fingers when I meditate, as well as tuning into the subtle, underlying sound of my breath rising and falling.

This Thursday and Friday nights after our meditation we will practice with our breath and our senses as a bridge to the present moment. We will begin our Dharma sharing with these questions:

  • What helps you to be present in your body as you meditate?
  • Recently, have you made changes to how you meditate?
  • How has your practice changed over time?

A related excerpt on Strong Emotions by Thich Nhat Hanh is below.

Many Blessings,

Eliza King

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Strong Emotions
From Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thich Nhat Hanh

Every time sadness or anger or disappointment surface, you have the capacity to deal with it. Because your anger, your disappointment, is part of you, don’t fight against it or oppress it. To do so is to commit a violent act against yourself. Instead, each time a storm of strong emotion comes up, sit quietly, keep your back straight, return to your breath, return to your body, close all the windows of your senses.

You have six senses: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Don’t look, don’t listen, and don’t continue thinking about the thing that you believe is the source of your suffering: that one sentence, one letter, one action, or one piece of news. Return to yourself, take hold of your breathing, follow your breathing, hold tightly to your in-breath and out-breath, just like a captain holding tight to the wheel of a boat that is being tossed by the ocean waves. Mindful breathing is the anchor, the wheel, and the mast.

Breathe a long breath, paying complete attention to your breathing in and out. Pay attention to your lower belly, see that your belly contracts when you breathe out and expands when you’re breathing in. Keep your attention at the level of your lower belly, don’t let it wander in your head. Stop all thinking, only closely follow your breath. Remind yourself, “I have passed through many storms. Every storm has to pass, there is no storm that will stay there forever. This condition of the mind will also go by. Everything is impermanent. The storm is only a storm. We are not only a storm. We can find safety right in the storm. We will not let the storm create harm in us.” When you can see it like that, when you remember it like that, you already begin to be your own boss, and you’re no longer the victim of the emotional storm.

Looking at the top of a tree being tossed around by a storm, we have the feeling that the tree will be blown away by the storm at any moment. But if we look at the trunk and the base of the tree, we can see that the tree has many roots that attach deeply into the earth. We feel at ease, we know that the tree will stand strong. Dan tien is the Vietnamese word for the energy point just below our belly button; it is the root of the tree. Pay attention to the lower part of your belly and don’t let your thinking, seeing, or hearing pull you to the top of the tree. Practice breathing like that for five, ten, or fifteen minutes, keeping your mind focused only on your breathing and your lower belly, and let your emotions go by. When the storm of emotion passes, you know that you have the capacity to protect yourself, you have the ability to manage your emotional storms. You have faith in yourself, and you’re no longer fearful. You have ways to protect yourself every time an emotional storm comes up or surfaces; therefore, you are very much at peace.