breathing in the overwhelm

Recently my practice has been like this.   I have gotten pretty grounded in being able to focus my mind and stay present in the experience I am having, and when I find myself distracted, I just simply shift my awareness back into my body.  I say simply because it has become that now, although it has taken some practice of continually bringing myself back from fantasy and daydreaming, once I notice I have drifted, to make it second nature to bring myself back.  And often I don’t even have to bring myself back, I just come back.  Because that is the practice at first, being able to stay present inside of the direct experience I am having, rather than spiraling off into the discursive thought that is describing the experience to me, or following the sound or the thought or the visual stimulation on a tangent away from the present experience.  That sound, or thought, or visual is just a part of the experience I am having, so there is no need to block it, and yet when I follow it away from being in this experience it becomes a distraction.  So I just bring myself back.

So as this has started to stabilize in myself, I am incrementally more aware of everything else in my consciousness, not just the interworkings of my mind that talks to me most if not all of the time.  I find writing can help with this too – I can put down on paper all the chit chat of my mind and then my mind feels respected and can rest for a little while.  And incrementally I come into longer periods of pure awareness, just being in the experience as it unfolds.  And when I drift off, I just bring myself back.

The part that is becoming really interesting and useful to me is now that I’ve stabilized myself a little bit, when thoughts or emotions come up that are strong or overwhelming in some way – both desire and aversion – I have been playing with breathing the sensation in, really feeling what the thought or emotion feels like in every cell of my body, like it is soaking in, integrating.   And breathing out the calm to go through it.   This is really potent if you can actually do it, as opposed to just thinking about doing it.  Which can take some practice.  So, rather than pushing the sensation away or following the story around it, I am breathing in the sensation and experiencing it fully without reacting, and breathing out calm to support myself to go through it as best I can.  Not to stifle the overwhelm, but to integrate it.  And really experience the sensation as I am going through it.  Wow.  It often feels like the wave is moving right through me, rather than me resisting and it it getting stuck inside me and rattling my composure.

I do this in meditation practice, although where it is particularly interesting is in the moment.  When stuff comes up in realtime of daily life.  I can do the breath real quick when I need to respond more immediately, often giving me the ability to respond more usefully than reacting on a gut emotional level.  And no one can tell I’m doing it.  Which makes it a really useful technique.  And when there is time to pause, it helps me take that time to let the sensation evolve into perspective, and often respond more appropriately, or not at all.  Rather than just compulsively reacting.

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