I have talked a good deal recently in these pages--I hope not tediously--about the effects of the aging process on the body. They are omnipresent, principally, but not exclusively, in the aching joints. The trick is to be aware of them without allowing them to become the source of constant complaint. Than Geoff's talk was a reminder that the breath can be an indispensable tool in achieving this: it can be directed intentionally toward the point of pain, bringing its healing energy to release the hurt; failing this, it can be directed to some other, painless place in the body, allowing the mind to dwell on that painlessness instead; it can suffuse the entire body all at once, head to toe and fingertip to fingertip, so that particular aches and pains are soon absorbed into the whole breathing network of millions upon millions of individual molecules.
When mind becomes breath and breath becomes mind, pain becomes less the source of suffering and more the object of interested observation. Aha, there's that knee again! It becomes, too, the source of wisdom--and compassion.
I like to imagine, once I manage to get into this healing mode, that my breath can be directed far beyond my own wounds to the wounds of the world. There is so much pain and suffering out there, everywhere one looks in this deeply troubled planet at this moment in its history. There is warfare, rebellion, the struggle to be free from tyranny. There is hunger, poverty, homelessness, disease. Once I have allowed the healing power of the breath to suffuse my own body, I try sending it out in all directions, as far as I can possibly imagine, trusting that its boundless energy can play some small part in healing the pain of my fellow-travelers; indeed, of the ailing planet itself.
A conceit, perhaps, but one that can certainly cause no harm, and brings with it a measure of serenity.