For some reason I woke up thinking about breathing and the world, and I decided to share some of these thoughts with you.
It always amazes me how much lacking in insight people are about their own condition (yours truly included). We rarely know what truly moves us. We are incessantly rocked by emotions we do not control and are governed by thoughts that rule us like tyrants. We get angry, sad, depressed, overjoyed, thoughts course through us like wild-fire and turn happy days in blah days in a jiffy. We judge, condemn, appraise every second of our days without really knowing why. It’s almost like we are on autopilot, not really there, only acknowledging what happens within us and around us.
What is most striking to me is the negative impacts our not knowing ourselves have on our lives and on the world at large. I often wonder how things would be if people knew themselves better. Would we still be afraid of one another if we realized that most of our fears comes from our culture’s past, our families’ past, what we’ve seen around us in our youths, but not within us, that our fears are not us? Would we still use one another as we often do if we knew where our fears of not being in control came from? This applies to countless things.
“The truth will set you free,” the saying goes. The truth will, indeed, set you free. But it is your own truth that will. Or the truth of you, to put it differently. Your truth held close like an infant, pain, fear, anger, and everything else acknowledged and looked upon without judgement. That is the first step, like admitting that you are angry immediately soothes that anger, appeases it and diminishes its intensity. Things in us do not like being ignored. Ignoring them only strengthens them and makes you more likely to be carried away in their flow, again but a passive passenger.
And that is where following the breath enters the picture. I am indeed talking about meditation here,which, to me, is focusing on one thing, be it a thought or the breath. Meditation has two clear benefits in my mind.
The first and instant one is to recenter you, pull you out of whatever is going on around or within you, and reset to some extent our entanglement in situations or mental processes.
The second benefit comes with time and dedication. Consistently observing ourselves during these moments of focused quietness bestows upon us insight into our processes, teaches us ourselves to ourselves if you will. It grants us understanding of what truly moves us, where certain impulses come from. By being in the habit of stopping and following our breathes when situations unfold around us we can diffuse the tensions that would drive us to react in the same negative ways to these situations and to our thoughts. And with time, the intensity of our reactions diminishes and eventually the things of old lose their grips over us and we become freer. I think this is most useful in our romantic relationships, for, it seems that our past, unprocessed and raw, bottled up, and strong of many years of reinforced behaviors and thought patterns, manifests itself most powerfully and often destructively in our most intimate relationships.
Imagine if such a tool was handed to our children in school, for them to learn how to pause when emotions rise in them and threaten to overtake them, for them to take the time to retreat from the seemingly uncontrollable flow of thoughts and emotions by simple turning their attention to their breath the time of a few exhalations? That alone would change the world as we know it. How many of us are driven by unknown currents? Boiling with anger, sadness, losing ourselves in one unhealthy and destructive pursuit or another, without really knowing why? Most of us I would say do.
The ancient Greeks had it right, “Know thyself”. There is not much else to our lives. For, one who does not know him- or her-self is only living half a life, if that much, only a passenger in that finite and most precious of drives.
Meditation is one of the ways we can get to know ourselves and take back control of the proverbial car.
Breathing, and knowingly so, is all it takes.
I hope that wasn’t too verbose. I’m trying myself at a different type of post.
Happy 4th everybody!
Cyril Bussiere 07-04-2014