Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Returning to the Breath

Last Monday, J and I watched a show on our PBS channel called "Horses". (You can watch it for yourself here.) The show included the story of a nervous dressage horse named "Chamont". The rider asks the horse to make a particular move, and Chamont rebells, threatening to buck the rider off. Her coach praises her response, and tells her that every time he does that, but she sits quietly, and brings him back, that she strengthenss his confidence and their bond. He shys, she sits quietly. He rears, she sits quietly.

We know that's what meditation actually is. Some people mistakenly think that meditation is sitting really still and having no thoughts. They think that they can't meditate because when they try, thoughts arise. But in reality, meditation is the act of returning our focus to the breath. When thoughts arise, we label them as thought and return our focus to the breath. And return the focus to the breath. And return the focus to the breath. Its that returning that is the important part, nothing else.

In fact, when we look at our life, if we can think of our failures not as failures but as opportunities to return our focus to the breath, to repeat over and over that return, then our failures become a secret treasure. The relapse, the anger, the jealousy, the self cherishing behaviors are all the opportunity to return our focus. Instead of using the precious opportunities to practice self-hatred and guilt, we can use these opportunities to return to the present moment and practice. You can't buy that kind of opportunities. Rejoice in them!

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