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My Tryst with My Breath (2)

When verbalised, the task of watching one’s breath appears is simpler than a walk in the park. After all, it is just about concentrating on an activity that happens unconsciously, whether one is awake or in deep slumber. And yet, that is the challenge, because within two or perhaps three rounds of inhalation and exhalation, the mind begins to hark back in time.

From my perspective, the shift from regulated breathing – something that one has done before in Yoga as well as at the gym – to its mere observation became a chasm too broad to cross. It took me about two sessions or so to get to the point of accepting this. To recognise that my first challenge here is to resist interfering with this natural process of breathing in and out. To observe the reality as it is, not as one would like it to be. 

Image courtesy: Root&

The first thought that diverted my attention was the yogic breathing techniques I had learnt. I fondly recalled my tryst with Pranayama and various types of breathing that is taught as part of Patanjali Yoga. And then suddenly it came back that I had lost touch with my breathing. Imagine what would have happened had nature made breathing a voluntary activity? But, more of that in future blog posts.

That the mind jumps from one topic to another is obvious. What came to my awareness is how quickly it begins to question and to judge. Was Pranayama not useful? Did those aerobics classes and controlled breathing during gym sessions go waste? Oh! But why am I thinking all of this? Wasn’t I supposed to be observing my breath? See! That’s all it takes to distract the mind.

As we took our first longish break, my mind went into siesta mode where I played out my earlier efforts to meditate. I recalled the mental verbalisations of repeating a mantra and immediately a feeling of calmness descended. I saw the images of Krishna, Jesus Christ and Buddha before me and the focus increased and tranquility followed. And when I returned to the meditation hall with these images, the breath lost out once again.

By the end of the day, the struggle within was so intense that I could feel a dull throbbing sensation in the temples. It was with this unpleasant feeling that one sat through an evening discourse, at the end of which the dichotomy of my dilemma became clear. I was forcibly attempting to discard my belief, an activity that was tearing me in half. One the one hand, I wanted to hold on to my learnings and on the other I wanted to empty the vessel.

…to be continued

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