Monday, August 9, 2010

BREATHING FIERCELY


What am I doing?

Why am I doing it?

Am I getting the results I’m looking for?

If not, how can I do it differently?

Four simple questions. They came up yesterday in response to a question at our sangha’s monthly session with Than Geoff. They might be seen as the basics of his teaching about meditation.

At the end of the session—and without really thinking about this previous response—I myself asked a question that had been on my mind since the beginning. Is there any way, I wondered, in which I could use my meditation to be of help to a friend struggling with serious illness? I understood about metta, I said, and the practice of sending out goodwill and compassion, but in view of what my friend was going through, I added, that seemed a bit feeble just to be sending out good thoughts. Than Geoff laughed good-naturedly. “Then,” he said, “try meditating less feebly.”

As usual, his response came effortlessly out of his own clarity. But it was not a glib one. I laughed along with him at the obviousness of it. And then, this morning, coming to my daily sit, I saw the relevance of those four questions to my own. If I was not getting the results I wanted, how could I do it differently? Feeble was my own choice of words. And the opposite of feeble, I realized, is fierce…

Time, then, to summon up some of that inner warrior energy and breathe fiercely. I did. Instead of my usual body scan, directing the breath to different areas of the body and checking for unwanted stress and tension, I directed it exclusively, and fiercely, to the area of the heart, breathing in and allowing the breath to suffuse the entire body, breathing out through all the extremities. In those minutes I devoted to metta, I practiced fierce compassion rather than gentle goodwill.

The results were certainly different. I can’t speak for my friend, to whom my healing thoughts were directed. But I do know that the meditation was far more energized than my sits have been of late; and I do know that it was a mind-changer, to be focusing on fierceness rather than feebleness. I felt, in a curious way, more useful.

What am I doing?

Why am I doing it?

Am I getting the results I’m looking for?

If not, how can I do it differently?

3 comments:

TaraDharma said...

inspiring. those teachers...I suppose they have seen/heard it all, haven't they? He helped you turn that 'feeble' around -- good practice!

Jean said...

Thank you, this is very inspiring!

'Not getting the results I'm looking for' kind-of felt anathema to me. Results is not what meditation is about, is it? Or am I being too zennie here?

But the rest of the advice about being fierce is spot on. I could do with being fierce just now.

PeterAtLarge said...

Yes, Tara. That word really did it for me!

And Jean, thanks for the inspiration for today's continuation... Let me know what you think.