The work involves the meditative, compassionate working with the breath in the body—indeed, it involves consciously bathing oneself and immersing oneself and specific areas of the body in the conscious breath energy. It's an incredibly powerful practice, in my experience, and has brought me much mental and physical healing.
This morning, when I got up, I noticed that I seemed to be "floating" -- kind of disconnected from my feelings and ungrounded. I got to work with mindfulness of the breath in the body, and found, to my surprise, there were certain bodily areas that my breath energy couldn't reach, so to speak. (If you know how to feel the breath energy in the body and guide its movement in the body, you will know what I mean. If not, the instructional article I mentioned, above, will big a tremendous introduction to this wonderful and highly skillful practice.)
My meditative work was to make contact with where the blockage seemed to begin—the energetic "wall," as it were—and to just patiently hold that blockage place in my breath, with my breath energy. At the same time I was doing this, I was always bringing metta—great loving-kindness—to this blockage place. Not surprisingly, when I paid more attention, the place where I had the sensation of blockage was actually physically painful, too. So, patiently, patiently, patiently, with each in-breath and out-breath, I just came back to the stuck place and embraced it with my full attention and mindfulness, bathing it in my breath, with love.
Sometimes, I would, so to speak, back away from the barrier, and just embrace my whole body with the breath. As the Thanissaro Bhikkhu article explains:
"So think of yourself as totally surrounded by the breath, bathed in the breath, and then survey the whole body to see where there are still sections of the body that are tense or tight, that are preventing the breath from coming in and going out. Allow them to loosen up. This way you allow for the fullness of the breath to come in, go out, each time there’s an in-breath, each time there’s an out-breath. Actually the fullness doesn’t go in and out. There’s just a quality of fullness that’s bathed by the breath coming in, bathed by the breath going out. It’s not squeezed out by the breath. It’s not forced out by the breath. Each nerve in the body is allowed to relax and have a sense of fullness, right here, right now. Then simply try to maintain that sense of fullness by the way you breathe. Your focus is on the breath, but you can’t help but notice the fullness."right effort—samma vayama—and at times, doing the work meant being willing to be totally present with a lot of stress, mental pain, and nameless mental angst. Sometimes, I would be able to identify the source of that mental pain, look into it, and let it go by insight into its causes and conditions, and its "not-self," impermanent nature. But often, the mental pain's "name" (nature) was hidden from me, so I just held the pain in the breath, bathed it in the breath, holding the pain like a crying baby, with great compassion and loving-kindness.
Gradually, the feeling of blockage began to dissolve and melt in the fervent but gentle heat of right effort, mindfulness, and loving-kindness. When I felt myself grasping or clinging at some moment of release, or disbanding of a mental knot, I noticed that the pain would come back—a clear signal of the unskillfulness of grasping at the release itself or some goal of breaking the barrier or dissolving the blockage. Instead, I saw I had to let go of all of that—all grasping and desire to be free, or to be anywhere else than right where I was—and just be with the breath. The attention, the loving-kindness, would do the work, without regard to a "self," suffering or not.
Refreshed, it was back to the breath work in the body! It's very important to be intuitive and listen to the body and to watch the mind for clues as to right action. Sometimes you may need to leave the blocked area and work in other parts of the body that are more open to the breath. Often, doing this, you may find that there were small blockages even there and you can work through them. This success seems to energize the mind and the whole body, and you can often return to the big hurting, blocked areas with more energy and happiness and assurance.
As I looked back over the morning's work, I thought I would share some of my experience, and the great article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, as a help to others. I like to hear how others work, and I think it's encouraging to hear how others in the path of awakening make progress. I hope you've found this sharing helpful and that it inspires you to try this practice for yourself. The blog post at Metta Refuge shares some terrific and highly skillful instruction. Check it out! May all beings be free of pain and know the happiness beyond all suffering!
"Bathing in the Breath to Heal Body and Mind"