Group March 2nd 2017

This time we began with a practice drawn from Pema Chödrön's book, 'When things fall apart', Chapter 4, 'Relax as it is'. This is a fundamental meditation instruction and includes instructions from her teacher Chögan Trungpa Rinpoche on posture, with the 6 points of 'good' posture being: 1. seat (flat) 2. legs crossed comfortably or flat on floor 3. torso upright, slightly away from back of chair 4. hands open, palms down 5. eyes open, gaze downwards 6. mouth very slightly open, jaw relaxed. As a group we discussed variations on these, such as palms up, eyes closed etc. and we agreed experimentation is probably always useful, but getting hung up about a fixed way probably isn't! If you have a physical difficulty or indeed anything that means you have a problem sitting for any period of time, then adapting and individualising practise makes complete sense:  Vidyamala Burch's 'Mindfulness for Health', for example, contains many practical insights and suggestions for working and practicing with chronic pain and conditions. Our practice continued with the instruction just to "touch the out-breath and let it go" or "be one with the breath as it relaxes outward", labelling any thoughts as "thinking", with no big deal, consciously cultivating unconditional friendliness whilst simply returning to the out-breath. 

In our enquiry, the focus on just the out-breath was brought up, and we discussed how our attachment to 'one way' - and 'one way only!'  often arises (in all aspects of life) - we fear letting go of the familiar in order to try something different, so staying constricted and closing ourselves off to other possibilities ... 

Pema Chödrön explains the impact on her of this meditation's focus on the outbreath:

"That was the first time I realised that built right into the instruction was the opportunity to completely let go. I'd heard Zen teachers talk of meditation as the willingness to die over and over again. And there it was - as each breath went out and dissolved, and there was the chance to die to all that had gone before and to relax instead of panic." (p.29)

Sometimes it seems necessary to go 'back to basics' (as with our practice today) maybe especially in times of upheaval and chaos, to reconnect and to work to embody our practice once more, moving away from all the 'headiness' of our world and its headlines and continual chatter...  great teachers like Pema Chödrön and Thich Nhat Hanh and indeed Jon Kabat-Zinn (and many others) can help 'bring us back' to ourselves and the wisdom that lies within us all.