So I have a sneaking suspicion that all the clocks in the house actually read different times. [laughter] Which is very lovely in one way. [laughter] But at another level it doesn't work that well. So I've asked them to see if they can synchronize them. Okay, let's do another guided meditation today, another angle on the breath. And then, again, at the end I will sum up something to take with.
[00:43, guided meditation begins]
So again, really establishing yourself in the meditation posture, finding that balance that is expressed by the posture, poise -- upright, alert, energized but relaxed, open, soft. Feeling the body sitting, feeling the sense of the life of the body. And again, finding that connection with kindness, with the goodness of heart. How are we seeing this period of meditation? A gift for oneself, a gift for the world.
When you're ready, stretching the awareness, opening it out to spread, to fill the whole body, the whole space of the body -- that whole bubble, like air would fill a balloon, like the wind would fill the white sail of a ship at sea. Filling the body with awareness. Just feeling that space of the body, the texture of it.
We're going to do something slightly different today. We're not beginning with the long breath necessarily. But within this whole-body awareness, this stretched awareness, expansive awareness, feeling or even imagining, sensing, the breath coming in and out of the body at a point a few inches to the left and below the belly button. So finding your belly button, a little bit below and a little bit to the left. Breathing in and out from that place, into that place, with a sense of the whole body. So just play with this. Be open, be playful, light, receptive. What kind of breath feels best when we feel the breath moving in and out at that point? What kind of breath feels best for the whole body? Perhaps it wants to be long and really move, open the whole body from that point.
So centring the awareness at that point, but open to the whole body, and noticing: how does the body feel? What goes on as the breath comes in and out at that point? And what kind of breath feels best? Breathing that way.
If you feel ready, staying with that very open awareness that covers the whole space of the body, stretches over the body, moving the centre of the breath, the centre of the awareness even, to a similar point on the right side. So a couple of inches below the navel and a couple of inches to the right. Feeling, imagining, conceiving of the breath, the breath energy, entering and leaving the body at that point. And sensitive to the whole body, and sensitive to how the breath would like to be, how it would feel best there, and breathing that way.
[9:59] And then centring the awareness and centring the breath to a point on the midline a couple of inches below the navel, in between those first two points, in the hara centre, the dantian. How does it feel in the whole body for the breath to come in and out there? So including the whole body -- the legs, the torso, the head, everything. A bubble of awareness, a balloon of awareness. And just sensitive to how perhaps the energy moves or fills that space of the body, and what feels best, what feels most comfortable, most enjoyable. So letting yourself play with different kinds of breath.
And then, if you feel ready, moving that centre of awareness, centre of breathing, up to the solar plexus, just below the sternum or breastbone. Centring the awareness there, but radiating it out from there, and including the whole body, filling the space of the body with awareness. Perhaps from that point the breath wants to be different.
And again, when you feel ready, moving the centre of the breath higher up the midline to the heart centre in the centre of the chest, the upper chest. So centring the awareness there, stationing the awareness there, and then sensitive to the whole body, sensitive to the breath energy in the whole body. And letting yourself play, sensitive to what feels good there. It might be a long breath, it might be a much, much shorter breath, a very subtle breath, a very gentle breath.
[18:59] And again, in your own time, moving up a little further to centre the breath energy at the base of the throat. Feeling, imagining, the breath energy coming in and out there. So sensitive to how that place feels, but also the rest of the body and how the energy might fill or spread or ripple out or move out from that place.
And again, moving the centre of awareness and the source of the breath up to a point somewhere roughly in the middle of the head. So it could be that the breath energy enters that point from all around the head into that point, or it could be that it starts at that point, as a point, and then radiates out as an expanding sphere and collapses again. Play with it. It may be that the breath wants to be very, very, very gentle, very subtle. See for yourself, for right now, what feels best. Including the whole body, the whole balloon of awareness.
And again, moving the centre of awareness, the centre of breathing, to the top of the head, the crown point. And imagining, feeling, playing with the breath energy entering the body at the crown, the top of the head. What kind of breath feels best there? Might be a long breath that runs down the whole course of the body from the crown to the toes and back up. It might be a very, very subtle, gentle breath that barely moves. Sensitive, playful. So the whole body is filling with a luminous awareness and filled with the energy of the breath.
[29:05] And then, when you're ready, bring the centre down to the base of the spine. How does it feel to breathe from there? How does it feel to breathe in and out there, in the whole body? So perhaps it radiates out from that point, down the legs, up the spine. Really whatever you feel. Being open, using your imagination if you like. Finding the most enjoyable breath at that point.
And again, when you're ready, moving the centre up to a point along the spine, the middle of the back, in the middle of the upper back. So sort of the back of the heart centre. Open to the whole body. What kind of breath feels best there? Perhaps a very full, long breath. Perhaps just the most gentle stroking of a subtle breath. How does it ripple out from that point?
And if you want to stay with that point, that's fine. If there's a point that you want to return to as the centre, feel free. If there's another point anywhere, anywhere in the body, that you want to explore as a centre for the awareness, a centre for the breath, let yourself play with that. Let yourself explore that.
[38:05, guided meditation ends]
Okay, so there are lots of possibilities in working with the breath and the so-called breath energy in this way. Lots of possibilities. What we did just now might be very helpful for some people, different aspects of it, and not for others. I said in the opening talk, just approaching both these practices from different angles and at different times, you will receive things that feel helpful. Maybe what doesn't feel helpful now, six months from now will feel very helpful.
It's possible, working with the breath in this way, to play with different kinds of breath as we began to yesterday -- long breath, short breath, very gentle breath, very subtle breath, etc. It's also possible as we just did to play with different ways of conceiving the breath or the breath energy. Of course we tend to think, very naturally, that it comes in here, the nose and the mouth. What else is there? But we're working with some other aspect of the breath energy, you could say. And actually the whole body is involved and we can conceive it anywhere. Let yourself play with that if it feels helpful.
I want to talk a little bit now, just a little bit, about working with physical discomfort. This is, of course, a part of being a human being, but of course a part of being a meditator, sitting, walking, sitting, walking. At times it's outright pain. It's very clear, it's pain somewhere in the body -- the back, or the knees, or the legs, or the hips, or whatever. Sometimes it's just discomfort. Sometimes it's not even that; it's more like some area of the body feels contracted or constricted. It doesn't actually feel like there's a smooth flow of energy there. It feels blocked. That can be anywhere in the body. Often it's somewhere along the midline, but actually it can be anywhere.
I'm going to throw out some information here, what to do when that's the case.
(1) First thing is actually to make sure that you're relaxing the rest of the body. Okay? So oftentimes when there is difficulty somewhere in the body, the rest of the body tenses. It's only jamming up the works more. So go to the rest of the body and relax. Very helpful. And that's the place to start.
(2) Second thing. When there's difficulty in some area of the body -- and you may have noticed this already -- this spacious awareness that we're trying to work with actually shrinks. It contracts around the difficulty, and the whole thing kind of gets knotted. So notice that, notice that the awareness has shrunk almost definitely, and expand it again, fill that whole body, the balloon of awareness, the balloon of energy. Fill it out. It will really help. So use these images, a sail of a ship that the wind has caught, a balloon filled with air. Don't let the awareness shrink too much when there's difficulty. Just keep expanding it.
(3) Third thing. Again, when there's difficulty somewhere in the body, we, as human beings, unfortunately -- the habit of mind is to get sucked right into that difficulty like a magnet, just straight into it, and we get entangled there. Sometimes we say, "Well, I'm trying to be aware of it," etc. But sometimes that going to it, getting pulled towards it, is actually not helpful. And in the context of this practice right now, what might be helpful is actually noticing that in the space of awareness that we call the body, in the body awareness, there might be a region that actually feels quite okay and quite comfortable even, or even more than okay, at the same time that there's a place that feels difficult. Is it possible to stay more centred in the comfortable place and not get so pulled? I get pulled and I come back. Without fighting the discomfort, actually learn to have the choice to stay and dwell in what's comfortable and not always get sucked into what's difficult. Of course it's helpful to look at what's difficult, but it's much more helpful to have a choice: I can go there, I can not go there. I can just dwell in what's okay. That can kind of keep what's difficult at the edges and not so taking over and intruding. Sometimes, for example, I might have a constriction in my throat. It feels tight and sort of blocked. The breath feels blocked. But the belly might actually feel quite nice, and I haven't noticed that. So first of all to notice it, and then just play with the imagination. Imagine that there's a connection here, there's a connection between the belly and the throat, a channel of energy or something. Just imagining that they're connected, what's comfortable may begin flowing along that connection and spread, move into what's uncomfortable and dissolve it. Possible.
(4) Number four. We've had this before. But play with different kinds of breath. An area of the body might really need very, very gentle soothing, okay? Sometimes we just feel like we're stuck in pain and the victim of it and we can't do anything. It's very rarely true. Play with it. Maybe I need to fill the whole body with breath, with a very full breath, and energize it. Maybe I need to just stroke something with the most gentle breath.
(5) Number five. We can also move the breath through a constriction. If there's a block somewhere or if there's actual pain, say, in the knee, actually imagine the breath, for instance, coming in the hara, the belly, and moving through, the breath energy moves through. Just imagine it moving right through the constriction, and perhaps out the feet even. If we talk in energetic terms, pain, discomfort, is actually either a block of energy or it's like the energy hasn't reached there. So sometimes you can kind of ask, well, what parts of the body need to be bathed in energy now, need that flow of energy?
(6) Number six. You can breathe directly into the place of difficulty. So if it's the hip or the lower back, one of the options is you can play with imagining the breath coming in and out there. What kind of breath feels helpful? It's funny. Often the most constricted place ends up being the place that feels the most pleasant. It's like a lot of energy is there and it's waiting to just be dissolved. When it's dissolved, it ends up being the nicest place. So there's a lot in our -- whatever you want to call it -- energetic body, there's a lot to be discovered.
If none of that helps, move. [laughter] I keep saying, the whole practice is in the climate of kindness. But experimentation -- what's possible? A lot more, going back to the opening talk, a lot more is possible than we tend to think and we tend to believe. Play with it. But if it feels like it just hurts too much, I can't do anything, move the body. Be kind to yourself. But you can move slowly and quietly, as people are doing already, very considerate. Just meditate in the new posture and come back. Remember, as I said to some of you, there are plenty of chairs. There may be more at the back, and there's more -- you can grab some even from the dining room. Very skilful to alternate postures. In other words, one period of meditation on a chair, one period on the floor, one period on the chair, one period on the floor. Very, very skilful. So not to put too much stress and too much strain on the body for now.
Okay? I put some interview groups. Earlier very few people had signed up for the earlier ones, but please sign up, okay? It's up to you when you come. There should be enough slots in the whole week for everyone to come, just about everyone to come twice. Not everyone is going to want to come twice. But the thing about these practices is that there's so much to them and they're really refinable. There's a lot you can discover. So if you have any question at all, come to a group. I really don't want you to be sitting there not really clear what you're doing or with a question or certainly with a problem. But you don't have to come just because there's a problem, okay? Even if you feel, "I understand everything," come anyway, because you're probably going to learn something from someone else. It's also important for me just to know how you're doing and that you're okay and where you're at, because that obviously affects what I'll put out in the teaching. Okay. So these practices are almost infinitely refinable. There's a group now. You might want to start thinking about that now. And if there's still space -- I didn't check, but if there's still space, now's a good time, later on, tomorrow, etc., the next day ...