(This is part 4 of a series called "Wax On, Wax Off!")
This continues our thread on the subject of distractions when you settle into your inner work:
OK. You have turned off the phone, the kids have gone outdoors or moved away, the menagerie is sleeping in another room, you have a room that people know not to disturb when the door is shut and you have found a time of day for your inner work when the house is quiet. Or you’ve moved into a monastery . . . But now there is another category of “distractions,” only this time they are inside you.
Here, too, in the world of inner distractions, you can find plenty of variety and there are ways of working with them. When we sit to do any kind of inner work—and this applies equally whether we're talking about meditation or energy exercises—it's natural that we encounter what's going on in our heads and hearts. If the point of inner work is to deepen your connection with yourself and the life moving through you, learn how you tick and dip into your inner resources, then it's not a good idea to forcefully try to silence them.
The big trap here is the tendency to fight your own thinking and attempt to turn it off. It's a trap, and ultimately a lost cause, because it doesn't work. Yes, it's possible to repress your mental functions, while pretending that you're "dropping your mind" and becoming quiet inside, but that usually takes superimposing some kind of energetic straitjacket on your inner processes. (I've met people who have "dropped their minds" so effectively that they've forgotten where they left them.)
Instead of fretting about all the thoughts, try directing your attention towards something that isn't a thought. A handy way to do this is to shift your attention to your kinesthetic feeling functions, your ability to sense what's going on in your body. This allows you, in a sense, to "drop down" through the floor of the cage of your thinking into what's "underneath" it. If you can do that, you may well find the traffic in your head thinning out.
Let's try something in this vein. This is one of my personal "wax on, wax off" practices. Here's a simple breathing practice that I use all the time as a segue into inner stillness.
Energetically Balanced Breathing: Four Modes of Breathing
Here is a simple breathing practice that combines four modes of breathing. This is intended to introduce an energetically balanced blend of forces to your energetic system and, in so doing, positively influence your ability to drop in.
Do this exercise consciously and slowly, paying attention to every part of the breath and the pauses between your inhalation and your exhalation. You might want to breathe a bit more intensely when you do this, but remember, the purpose here is not to rev up your energy system, but rather to balance it.
The Basic Exercise: Twelve Breaths
This is our basic exercise for energetically balanced breathing, using a twelve-breath cycle: Take three long, slow, conscious breaths in each mode. The four modes of breathing are:
IN through your NOSE and OUT through your NOSE;
IN through your NOSE and OUT through your MOUTH;
IN through your MOUTH and OUT through your NOSE;
IN through your MOUTH and OUT through your MOUTH.
Try this basic twelve-breath cycle before you launch off into other practices. Go slowly and when you're done, go back to your normal, spontaneous breathing. Sit with what comes up in you.
There is an audio version of this balanced breathing exercise in which I walk you through the steps with my mellifluous voice. This is available in:
For more context, discussion and many, many variations on the twelve-breath breathing exercise:
See "Energetically Balanced Breathing: A Ritual of the Meeting of Heaven and Earth," pp. 35 - 40 in A Pilgrim in Your Body: Energy Healing and Spiritual Process.
Next Posting in the "Wax On, Wax Off" Series: "Inner Distractions: Some are Useful"
Illustration by Aimee Eldridge. Used by permission.
Copyright ©, 2017 by Jim Gilkeson. All rights reserved.