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Touching the Body with the Breath.

Michael R Finch

This essay continues my project to explain and make precise my own meditation - both what it is, and why I do it. The language I use is again inspired by the philosophy of Gene Gendlin. However, if you don't know what that is, there are only one or two paragraphs in this essay (towards the beginning) that you will find difficult, or incomprehensible even, and which you can just gloss over. If you are interested in Gene's philosophy, you can browse the Gendlin Online Library, and in particular you will see three recent articles there from 2009 which summarize his thinking.

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0 - Introduction

Gene Gendlin's latest two papers - What First and Third Person Processes Really Are and The Implicitly Functioning Body (references above) 'propose certain concepts', as he summarizes the second. I find these concepts and how they are laid out to be foundational. This paper is an attempt to build on that foundation, and describe the meditation that I do - what it is, its purpose, and how to do it - using these concepts.

 

1 - A Personal Note

I have been meditating as a committed practice for forty years. In that time I have meditated under several very different meditation teachers. But now I am evolving my own style of meditation independent of allegiance to any teacher, school or style.

Although the activity of meditation is just one amongst many of my daily activities, I find that it is an activity of a different order, since to meditate I need to place my meditation in a life context. This involves answering, to my own satisfaction, such basic questions as What is meditation?, Why am I doing it?, and How should I do it? I have found answering these kinds of question difficult - at least, I find them open-ended with any definitive answers unsatisfactory - and my project, if you will, for the last few years has been to find a resolution to these seemingly simple and basic questions.

 

2 - The Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life? is one of these basic questions.

In some philosophical systems, the question What is the meaning or purpose of life? itself has no meaning and is thus not a legitimate question. However, many people still ask themselves and others this kind of question, and I am one.

It is a yearning for a foundation, a Descartes-like certainty, from which to live and make sense of ourselves and the world. When I try to do a Descartes-type exercise - 'commencing anew the work of building from the foundation' as Descartes described his project - I arrive at 'I am, I exist' in the same way. But it does not seem to me to be enough of a foundation, at least not enough of a foundation to live from. I need a second certainty to go anywhere, in the same way that I have two feet, and can only walk when both of them meet solid ground.

So I arrive at two certainties that appear to me to be undeniable: the fact that I exist and am living now, breathing this very breath; and the fact that at some point in the future my breath will cease and I will die. I consider my life to be the process whereby I move from the one to the other, a thread between two fixed points, a stream or river flowing from the first to the second or from source to ocean.

My foundation or starting point is then that my aim or life-purpose is to allow or enhance this process or stream to be just right. My next two sections make this precise: first, to describe the process(es), and secondly what I mean by 'just right'.

 

3 - Life Processes

To begin with a preliminary remark, following Gene I find it a great relief to philosophize with verbs as primary rather than with nouns. I am not sure why we think nouns and names are primary. Perhaps it is because we learned language that way, first articulating the words for things as people pointed to them - 'mommy', 'cat', 'tree' - and then the words for actions and processes later. In any case, I find it liberating to think about what is happening as primary, rather than trying to create a network of nouns and things as being metaphysically primary.

In Gene's use of verbs, one way to describe the life process is what he terms an interaffecting between the implicit and explicit as played out in the body and the environment. He describes the process of living of a plant body, and he then describes two 'detours' or 'doublings' whereby as a part of this body-process is derived the process of the behaving of the animal, and then from that is derived the process of the thinking of the human.

In the human these three processes, being implicit functioning, cross with each other and interaffect; we only distinguish 'them' for the purpose of analysis; they are all three body-process. However, distinguishing them thus is very fruitful - at least, I find it so. I can then see my life process, taking me from this present moment to death, as composed of three processes, or three strands or streams of my body-process - how I live biologically, how I behave, and how I think.

Each functions implicitly, as part of the organism (the organic order), and explicit forms, patterns, and activity occur from each (the actual growth, health and decay of my bodily tissues; my actual behavior and what I do; and the actual thoughts that I have and words that I say in my situation). The crossing, or interaffecting, or zig-zagging from one to the other is itself natural and part of the organic order - it is how living organisms live. But with the development of human cognition - that 'detour' of the body process onto a new level that it appears only humans possess - we have a new opportunity to live in and from this 'crossing and dipping' on our cognitive level.

But we can also miss it and think that our explicit formulations capture adequately what is happening, and we can thus allow them to float free of the implicit ground from whence they came and have a life of their own, without our checking them back into the organic order from time to time. In many situations this is fine, or even productive. For example, science is a result of this - explicit formulations floating free of any one body, and being related to and worked with other explicit formulations (that is, logic) in the public arena.

But in many situations it is not fine, and for myself certainly (and I suspect for most people) there is a need to pay attention to the balance of my implicit functioning and explicit formulations. Each process in itself needs to be 'just right' (biology, behavior and cognition), as well as the whole process. Meditation, as I describe it below, is one activity that massages each of the three processes, which I hope to demonstrate. But first, I need to say more about being 'right'.

 

4 - Just Right

The Buddhist path consists of eight 'right' activities: right view, right intention, right effort, right concentration etc. The actual Pali word often translated as 'right' is samma. However, samma was also used as a term in Indian music of that time, to mean 'in tune'. Before a performance Indian musicians would tune their instruments up to obtain samma.

The Buddha, or whoever compiled the Pali Canon, was clearly a musician or appreciated the music of that time, and many examples in the Pali Canon are taken from 5th century BC Indian music, a fact which does not often come through in western translations. It thus seems likely that the word samma was chosen for its musical connotations, and the 'right' in 'right view, right effort, right concentration...etc' can be taken to mean 'in tune' - views that are in tune, effort in tune, concentration in tune - or as we might say colloquially 'just right'. [I am indebted to Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Tan Geoff) for this etymology and the just right phrasing.]

We can follow the analogy further to make two more points. First, Indian music has many different scales and tunings - far more than the western chromatic scale of twelve notes with subsets of eight notes defining different keys (octaves). The choice of suitable tunings for any given piece was substantial, and not just differences of key (as in western music). So for any one piece of music there was not one 'just right', but a whole range of possible 'just rights'.

Secondly, when Indian musicians played in a given situation to a given audience, it was considered important to tune up appropriately to the time, place and setting, in addition to the music. So of all the musical 'just rights' available to them, only one was considered 'just right' for that occasion. The process of getting in tune had itself to be in tune; the obtaining of samma had itself to be samma.

This sense of rightness for a musician when tuning or playing his instrument is something that has to be felt. You can define 'in tune' explicitly as a certain pitch or wavelength, but a musician brings much more to the judgment than an explicit fact. Aligning the pitch to, say, a mechanical tuner, is not enough. He or she brings the whole situation, and the tuning needs to be felt to be 'just right' in that lived-in situation. Even if they are using a mechanical tuner, a good musician may feel that their actual tuning needs to be a little sharper, or flatter, and their sense of the whole is what makes the tuning right, even if it disagrees with the mechanical tuner.

So when I say that my ongoing life process, or each of the living, behavioral and thinking processes, has to be 'just right', I am meaning it in this sense. The judgment I make as to whether any implicit-explicit interaffection that I sense is 'right', is a judgment that is itself generated out of implicit-explicit interaffection. In other words, the judging and what is being judged are the same, or at least interact in a very tight way and implicit way.

In short, I cannot define what is 'just right' in terms outside of itself. It is not, and cannot be, an explicit judgment only. Just as a musician can sense when a pitch is tuned just right - both from the explicit sound and from the implicit sense of the situation - as a human being I have the capacity to do the same of my lived-in body, and I do it with my lived-in body.

 

5 - The Inner Touch

Tuning an instrument is not merely a case of recognizing when a pitch is just right, but also of making it just right. And the way that one makes something just right is to recognize when it is just wrong.

This is surely a basic human skill. In fact, you might say it is the essence of what it means to become skillful. A skill is when you recognize that something you are doing, or saying, or thinking, or feeling, is just wrong and you take the responsibility to nudge it to make it just right. 'Just wrong' means that it is a smidgeon away from being 'just right', and 'nudging' seems an appropriate metaphor here.

Another way of saying the same thing is that the judgment what is just right, and the nudging of a not-quite-right process back to being just right, are closely connected - recursive, one might say. As far as my life-processes are concerned, I find that these two coalesce most naturally in my breath, and it is in my breath that I can touch as intimately as possible each of Gene's three body-processes, and in so doing nudge each one towards being just right. This is what I call 'meditation'.

'Touched' is a metaphor I like. The Stoics used the phrase the 'inner touch', and Aristotle thought that we are rational animals through our sense of touch. In touching my life-process it fills me. As an immediate experiment, just touch whatever is near to your finger tips right now, such as the paper or your clothing. When I do so, I don't feel my finger tips touching the material. I feel the material filling my finger tips. It is as if my finger tips, and my sensation of them, give way or disappear in favor of the material I am touching.

In the same way, my breath is the finger tip that touches my life processes. At one end it is formed, patterned, voluntary, handleable, and as explicit as you can get; but it reaches back into another end that is formless, involuntary, and as implicit as I can find. It is not quite a bridge between the explicit and the implicit - that would imply they are two distinct processes, which they only are conceptually - but rather an instrument that anyone can be aware of and get a handle on. As a process, breathing itself exemplifies the implicit-explicit interaffection, and with it I can touch and explore my body-as-lived-in explicitly, implicitly, and both together, as intimately as I care to.

How to use the breath in this way?

 

6 - How To Meditate

I don't currently discuss or present my breath meditation formally or publicly, but if I were to do so, this is how I would do it.

To begin with, there is an optional first point, and then three essential points, to be clear on:

1) Have a life context, or meaning, or framework, or philosophy, within which to practice meditation. This is important for myself, and this essay to this point is my containing framework. But for others it may well be unnecessary, which is why I call it optional. However, the next three are essential to accept:

2) My meditation on the breath has an immediate purpose - for me to become still. While much meditation is taught with a grandiose ultimate goal (release from dukka, gaining enlightenment, touching God, whatever) the usual teachings emphasize that you must not have an immediate goal - no expectations, no thinking, no trying for a near-term result. Instructions such as 'just be aware of what is', 'let it be', 'relax and let go', 'be choicelessly aware' and 'don't listen to the mind/ego' proliferate. While such instructions have their place, they are not starting points.

My starting point in meditation - both in meditation generally, and in each actual meditation sitting - is to work for an immediate result, best described as being still. If I don't achieve that in a sitting, that is fine, but I then try to examine why I did not, and work to achieve it better in the next sitting.

3) You cannot be taught meditation; you can only learn it. I find the phrases 'meditation teacher' or 'spiritual master' contradictions. You can no more be taught to meditate than you were taught to walk or how to ride the proverbial bicycle. At most, all such a 'teacher' can do is make suggestions, and provide a context, within which the other learns and discovers.

This point is as important for veteran meditators as for novice ones. In my experience, most meditation is trying to actualize in your breath, body, or experience, what ajahn X or roshi Y or guru Z told you. It is the taking in of someone else's belief-system (the explicit) and trying to make your implicit understanding conform to it. That is not to say that others' ideas and beliefs can not be constructive and helpful, but only if I check them into my own implicit understanding and let them emerge into the explicit as my own, which is exactly this point #3.

4) Spaciousness: Efficient concentration is not laser-like one-pointedness, having all your attention on one object to the exclusion of all else, as is often thought. Laser-like concentration is difficult (impossible) to maintain, rather like a searchlight trying to pick up and then keep in its beam an airplane on a dark night - the area of darkness is vast compared to the tiny patch of light provided by the beam, and even if the plane is caught in the beam it can with a tiny wiggle escape the beam and regain the darkness.

Efficient concentration is rather like a flashlight or torch, with a central focused area of brightness but with a large surrounding halo or area of lesser brightness or annulus around it. It is the surrounding diffuse light that gives you a broad awareness of what you are looking at, where exactly the object of interest is in the surrounding darkness, and keeps the central brightness on track. Without the wide area of halo, and only the bright central beam, you cannot get a fix on your target, and even if you manage to get it in that narrow central beam, you cannot maintain it there.

Another way of saying the same thing, is that the awareness of my breath in meditation needs to be expansive and spacious. This is a refinement of my first point: to be still. Stillness could be interpreted as a narrow zoning out of awareness, often accompanied by what I called above a laser-like one-pointedness, a restriction or shutting down of consciousness. This is not what I mean by stillness, although the shutting down and exclusion can of course be beneficial - taken to its extreme it is called 'sleep', but it is not meditation.

So my aim in meditation is to be still, but in a spacious way. There are a number of metaphors for this: a lake, silence, physical space, the blue sky. A still lake is itself motionless but contains in its still and encompassing waters much that is moving. Similarly with silence: with a little practice it is fairly easy to 'hear' an essential silence from which all sound is born and to which all sound returns - an example is hearing a car approach on a silent night, beginning as a faint sound in the distance, become a crescendo as it passes you, and then fading into the silence again. With more practice you can even hold loud and grating sounds - a nearby continuous pneumatic drill, for instance - as something distinct from the background silence. Physical space is another metaphor: there are practices to separate out physical space from what it contains, and to 'see' the space - still and everywhere - as the embracing arena for all things and all activity. You can refine this metaphor to the blue sky: looking up at the blue sky above, you can see it as a hemisphere, which stretches beyond and includes the horizon, and in which you are always at the center.

But in addition to these metaphors for spacious stillness, there is a literal way to feel it as well - and that is in the movement of my body as I breathe, which takes us directly into the next section:

 

7 - The Practice

Armed with these four, or at least the last three, points, what then is the practice? I have two main suggestions - the heart or essence of the practice, as it were - and then a number of subsidiary suggestions to back up the main ones.

The essence of the practice can be stated simply: Breathe so as to be still.

We can breathe in a number of different ways for different purposes. Certainly our predominant feeling or emotion will drive how we breathe, but the reverse is also true to a large extent - we can breathe to create a feeling. My suggestion is to breathe to be still.

How do we do that? It can be thought of as a koan, but not a traditional or mental koan from the Zen tradition ('what is the sound of one hand clapping' etc) but a body koan, or as my friend Will Johnson calls it, a somatic koan. Here as an example is a simple somatic or body koan: Stand or sit as upright and tall as you can, and as relaxed as you can (a common meditation instruction). These appear superficially to be opposites: if I sit as tall as I can I will typically make effort and strain my muscles to do so; if I relax, I will typically slump. How to do both at the same time? There are lots of detailed instructions by bodyworkers and meditation teachers how to do both. I personally find them confusing, and I always end up straining to relax. But if I stand or sit with this suggestion (be as tall as possible and as relaxed as possible) and just give this suggestion to my lived-in body, and ask it to sort it out for me, I find I can contain bodily as one whole what my mind thought of as two opposites. And I start to stand or sit straighter, and be more relaxed, at the same time.

I am not suggesting that sitting or standing like this is necessary for meditation; in fact, I don't think posture is important, at least not the kind of posture that teacher X tells you is necessary and that you try to adopt simply because teacher X tells you to. I only mention it as an example of what I mean by 'body koan'.

The body koan that I am suggesting is necessary is this: find a stillness in the breath's motion. Note that this encapsulates both my points 2 and 3 above. There is a short-term goal that I work for, to be still (point #2); and I approach it not through external instructions, but through figuring it out for myself bodily (point #3).

My second main suggestion is to concentrate on the breath as in my point #4, with a focused central beam of attention, surrounded by a wider expansive halo of awareness. Initially I find a central point to concentrate on: a movement in my body due to the breathing - belly motion, midriff, chest, or throat; or the feeling of air in my nostrils, throat or upper lip; or the sound of air coming in and out. I focus on that point, but simultaneously be aware of the breath and body around that central point using my concentration's diffuse wider halo, with the suggestion to my organism (body + mind) that I breathe so as to be still. If my chosen point does not work, I try another one.

Here are some subsidiary suggestions that might help. Note, these are emphatically suggestions, not instructions. Probably only a few will be relevant to any one person:

-- Pretend that you are breathing through parts of the body other than the nose or mouth; for example, breathe with the whole body through the skin's pores. Breathe with the whole body.

-- Feel the abdomen as a sponge: accentuate your out-breath to squeeze this sponge in, and then let go and feel the in-breath as a natural result of the sponge expanding.

-- Feel the stillness at the end of the out-breath and make no attempt to either breathe or not breathe; let your body take the next in-breath (the sponge expanding) on its own.

-- Experience being breathed, rather than being the breather.

-- Breathe slower, longer, deeper, and quieter (Andrew Weil's suggestion).

-- Think of the breath as your friend wanting to teach you.

-- Think intimately of the breath as an inner lover caressing you, or even God touching you inside.

-- Think expansively of your in-breath as the universe's out-breath into you; your out-breath as the universe drawing its in-breath.

-- Experiment with metaphors of the breath, and different ways of relating to it; for example, riding the breath, surfing the breath, dancing with the breath, entering inside the breath etc

-- Be a connoisseur of the breath, like of fine wine.

-- Sense your weight being supported by the ground or the earth or the chair or the cushion, and your breath interacting with that support.

-- Learn some basic anatomy concerning the lungs, diaphragm, chest, and belly, and try to feel it in operation as you breathe.

-- Instead of focusing on one point, try two points at once, say the sound of the breath and the belly movement, or the feel of the breath in the nose or on the lip and chest movement, or in the head and at the base of the spine (the perineum).

-- Try putting your attention on two processes (rather than two points); for example, on the in-breath feel the outward and expansive movement of your trunk (belly, chest, back) at the same time as the downward movement of your breath through the nose or mouth into the lungs, and the diaphram's move down into the belly; on the out-breath, feel the inward and contracting movement of your trunk at the same time as the upward movement of the diaphragm and air out of the lungs and through the nose or mouth.

-- Try counting the breaths: either a set number of out-breaths (say 4 or 10) and start again when you reach that number; or continue counting and see how high a number you can get to.

-- Hear the sound of ocean waves or water lapping in your breathing.

-- Lightly touch and feel your belly, chest, or throat as you breathe; perhaps one hand on your belly, another on the upper chest.

-- If being with the breath is just too confusing, drop it and try body-scanning. Give your attention to parts of your body in a predetermined sequence, say feet on up, or crown of head on down. You can scan the body surface, your skin (perhaps God or your lover is caressing you); you can scan the body inside, perhaps following each bone one after the other, even naming them mentally as you do so, or each muscle group, or try to feel the visceral organs; you can scan your body in horizontal (transverse or axial) slices, like a hospital scanning machine (Goenka's method).

-- Feel free to move and squirm around. There is no need to maintain an unmoving rigid posture. Stand up for five minutes (if you are sitting) half way through your session.

-- A good length of time for a meditation session is five minutes longer than you are comfortable with.

-- Feel free to give up before that. If nothing works, nothing works. Try toning, singing, chanting, drumming, dancing, philosophizing.

-- Don't demonize the ego/mind. There is nothing to conquer or overcome. There is only a request to your organism as a whole (body+breath+mind) to fulfill the somatic or body koan to find stillness in the breath. If it doesn't comply, it doesn't; try again later.

-- Above all, experiment; this is both an accepting process (being with what is) and at the same time an active one, rolling up your sleeves to try things out and discover for yourself what works for you. Approaching your breath is like approaching a bird or animal in the wild - it seems to have a mind of its own, and will do what it will, and you have to accept that. At the same time, there is an outcome you want (spacious stillness), which you need to work towards.

-- There is no right or wrong way of doing it as far as following instructions (including these suggestions). The only right and wrong is from the whole body+mind's feedback relating to the overall goal of becoming still.

Summary of the practice: Breathe to be still, using both explicit ideas and experiments (as in the above bullets) and implicit felt-sense, feeding each off the other, to both discover and create what is just right. Trust and use your whole organism - all of it: body, mind, breath, ego, self, soul, spirit and any other parts you conceptually divide it into.

 

8 - The Stillness

I believe that most people who carry out the above program, or something very like it, will get to a stillness. The meditation process I have outlined, and the stillness that is its first fruit, are both the result of a zig-zag between the implicit body-as-lived-in and explicit judgments, thoughts and activity - both are contained in the phrase 'the whole organism' that I mention above. I use the phrase 'body koan' to encapsulate this implicit-explicit zig-zag of the meditation process. Now I need to say a little about the stillness.

Meditation is often considered a way to 'peak experiences', a phrase originated by Abraham Maslow. The intense exhilaration and the 'high' of peak experiences give the name, whereby the experiencer feels they are standing on a peak well above the normal ground of everyday experience. Peak experiences can be life-transforming, but I find that most are fireworks, dazzling at the time but go nowhere, meaning that after a little while the experience becomes but a memory, and meditation can then become a desperate effort to regain that one-off experience that you remember having had in the past.

The stillness I am writing about is not a peak experience; to keep the geographical metaphor, I might call it (after Douglas Harding) a valley experience. Life on a peak is unstable and unsustainable, whereas in a valley, being the lowest point, it is easy to come to an equilibrium and rest there long-term.

What is still when I say I am still? 'Stillness' is a metaphor, since while I am meditating much remains moving - internal body parts, the breath itself, thoughts and my body making small movements to adjust to my posture. When I touch the implicit functioning of my body as intimately as I can, I feel it as a stillness, even though there is motion. Other metaphors might be 'nothing', 'emptiness', 'void' etc, but those can get Buddhist-like, and can carry considerable conceptual baggage.

The point is, I think, that I cannot experience directly the implicit understanding or functioning itself - that is almost a definition of the implicit. I can feel a 'directly felt datum' (Gene's phrase) that it generates, but not what it is in itself (for a start it is just too much). But I can approach it asymptotically, as it were, in the meditation I describe, get closer and closer to what it is, without actually getting there. As I approach it, my experience of 'it' becomes more an absence, more the 'not this, not that' of Advaita Vedanta, and thus with no explicit formulations of what I feel, I have to use metaphors of absence. In the past I have related to this experience as nothing or emptiness: when I turn my back on the explicit and face the implicit up close, I see...nothing (literally 'no thing') . But in this essay I use 'stillness'.

Using metaphors of absence in this way is similar to the apophatic discourse of mystics. Apophasis (literally 'un-saying') was originally a move in Greek rhetoric, where you drew attention to something while claiming not to ('my opponent is a fine, upstanding, honorable man; I will not dwell on the absurd accusations of his drunkenness...'). Plotinus used the term to refer to his discourse where he would make a statement which posits a seeming contradiction or illogicality, which a succeeding sentence has to 'unsay'.

For example, a statement of the form 'X is nothing' inevitably leads to a reifying of X as an object in the world of distinctions or explication, so that it would need to be followed by the speaker or writer reaching back into that sentence, as it were, and removing the referent 'X' in an attempt to prevent reification. That action itself would probably need to be unsaid as well. The move has similarities to the erasure of Heidegger and Derrida. Plotinus gave the example of a translucent sphere at the center of which is a glowing mass, lighting up the sphere. The speaker then reaches in and removes the glowing mass, yet preserves the illumination of the sphere. Apophatic discourse is thus a performance in time, rather than a set of static unit-model self-identical statements.

Gene's implication-explication model makes this kind of discourse much more precise, and I find that reading the medieval mystics (roughly from Plotinus through pseudo-Dionysius and Eckhart, up to St John of the Cross) now makes more sense to me. Previously, I found there to be a conflict between the unsayable and logical discourse, and I think the mystics themselves found it a conflict as well. Now that Gene has separated the two, and shown how each are necessary, and more importantly how they relate to each other, much that was confused is now clear to me.

Gene remarks that by mixing both, postmodernists lose both. I think the same is true of mystics and mystical discourse, and that by making Gene's foundational distinction, fruitful thinking and talking is now possible about mystical experience, or as I call it here: my meditation.

 

9 - Both ends of the breath

However, the value of the meditation I outline here is not to turn my back on the explicit and face the implicit alone, and then talk about it. Both are one whole, and it is that whole which drives my life process from here to there and onwards to my death. So while I do need metaphors of absence or 'unsaying' to speak about my meditation, the actual explication is itself one with the meditation, is part of the practice, as my meditation suggestions hopefully make clear. The implicit-explicit zig-zag happens both after meditation, to talk and think about it having happened; but more importantly during the meditation as well, as part of the process.

In his Implicit Understanding paper Gene writes that meditators observe 'what comes up' and do not explicate what is implicit. Certainly I agree that many meditators, if they understood Gene's terminology, would say this or something like it. However, I don't believe that touching the implicit without explicating is possible, or desirable even if it were possible - at least for human beings.

When you philosophize with nouns, you think in terms of things and states, and the purpose of meditation is then to get to an eternal state, an end point (Enlightenment, Awakening), just as it is with religions (Heaven, Paradise). Using Gene's terminology, you might call this state 'the implicit' or something similar, and think that your meditation should put you in that state. Humdrum workaday thinking and doing are then obstacles, what you do in the 'worldly' or everyday state that we need to escape from.

The belief that you can escape from, or branch out of, this birth-to-death process into some other end point - nirvana or similar - is a belief system that meditators are often spoon-fed, and is what I want to put aside. For myself, as I have said, I only find my present existence and the end point of my physical death, and so my only real choice is how I move from the first to the second. Thinking this way is comfortable when you philosophize with verbs, where the primary is my life-process, or processes. If 'enlightenment' means anything, it is a process not a state. And in this process the primary activity is the zig-zag between the implicit and the explicit, honoring both, using both, and needing both.

Recognizing only the explicit and the already-formed for one's thinking, meaning, enjoyment and love of life seems to me overly restrictive. But to disdain the patterns and forms and attempt to throw oneself into the unformed or the void is an over-correction and an equal error in the opposite direction, Welwood's 'spiritual bypassing'.

So in my meditation I want to dive deep into both, and have each inform the other. The nothing (literally, 'no thing') I find when I approach my implicit functioning can never stand on its own; as a human I need explicated things as well (thoughts, actions). My meditation I outline in this paper recognizes this fact, uses it, and revels in it. And it is in riding my breath, using each 'end' of it, that I can touch both intimately.


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