For the next few weeks I’m doing a little bit of CPD (continuing professional development)- and some necessary wellbeing management for myself. I’m taking part in a Mindfulness course at the Buddhist centre in East London. So far, I am happy to report it is not only useful, relaxing and calming to listen to the soothing voices of the trainers, it is also beneficial to my health and hugely enjoyable. It was in this same place twenty years ago that I learned how to meditate, and it is so lovely to be back there, albeit briefly, on a weekly basis.
One of the most valuable natural resources for health is the air we breathe. How often do you think about that? Hardly ever I’ll bet – unless its either hot and dusty or there is a chill in the wind, or perhaps when there’s a strong smell in the air! Then what about the amazingly complex yet totally automatic action of breathing itself – how often are we aware of that? We breathe in and we breathe out from the first moment of birth. As we are born we gasp our first in breath, and as we pass away we expel our final out breath. And everything in between is held in that mysterious experience we call our ‘life’.
The Buddhist concept of breathing meditation is simply to sit comfortably and follow the breath in and out (either through the nose or mouth)with full awareness. If your mind wanders, as it will, you are asked to gently bring it back to the breathing and focussing on the breath and the act of breathing. They recommend breathing like this at least once or twice a day, just for a few minutes. This is a huge help in stressful situations, with many physical benefits (such as reducing blood pressure) as well as calming the mind and relaxing the body.
In the Essene tradition the breath is considered holy too and the Friday communion is with the Angel of Air:
“In the midst of the fresh air of the fields and the forests, there shall you find the Angel of Air. Patiently she waits for thee to quit the dank and crowded holes of the city. Seek her then, and quaff deeply of the healing draught that she does offer thee. Breathe long and deeply. That the Angel of Air may be brought within you. For the rhythm of thy breath is the key of knowledge which doth reveal the Holy Law…”
I’m enjoying my extra bit of CPD immensely – funny really, that sometimes we have to find the space to really breathe!