Guided Stillness: Releasing Fear in the Breath
The Famous Philosopher and Psychiatrist C.G. Jung wrote a masterwork titled "Synchronicity," bringing to light with it the phenomena that reoccurrences unfold throughout our lives. Jung goes as far as to examine the phenomena between the relation of mankind and nature itself.
But what exactly are we talking about here, and what does all of this have to do with meditation? For our purposes, we will address synchronicity as a nature of the mind that uses patterns and symbols that recur until it is recognized and confronted. To understand our minds, we must start with the brain.
The brain is an organ that interprets sensory information from the body and from within the body. The brain has no experience other than the raw impulses that are being transmitted through neural pathways. First by way of the five senses, which make their way to the spinal cord, and finally into the neocortex of the brain.
It's in the neocortex that complex thought occurs. Through this process, our brain creates the illusion of what we believe happened rather than perfect recordings of reality. Everything we know, or rather that we think we know, is coming from the immediate here and now. Our brains are like a sponge that soaks up all the sensory information around us, and when untrained, the mind gives meaning to seemingly anything and everything around us.
There is an old parable about a monk and his master. One day, the two monks go walking in the courtyard of a monastery. The monk says to his master, “There is going to be so much anguish at the market this year due to the short supply of grain from the east. There is no telling how much higher prices will rise as the war continues!” The master replies, “Ah yes, the Cyprus tree.”
In this parable, there is no reason for the monk to be so worried about commerce and trade, yet he becomes deeply concerned having come across the Cyprus tree in the courtyard. In this way, our brain creates grand stories and illusions out of anything it can interpret. And it is from this nature that our brain gives rise to predominant symbols and illusions that occur “coincidentally."
However, it is not the function of our brain alone that makes synchronicity a phenomenon. While we may have a psychological theory as to how this occurs, the actual purpose of synchronicity remains a mystery to Western sciences.
In Buddhist meditation, synchronicity is synonymous with the way of Samsara (Sam Sa-R rah) reincarnation. It is the cycles by which our soul confronts us with lessons in order to move on from them and transcend our natures. It's only when we sit down and come face to face with that which we try to run from that we are able to end Samsara and leave our attachments behind.
In our meditational exercise for this month, we will begin to work through our fears as they appear within our breath. The first step to end repeating cycles is to ask ourselves: "What is it that we are running from in the first place?" To do this, we will recognize the first Chakra: The Muladhara (Moo Lah Ha-R rah), and work to release any attachment of fear that may be blocking the flow of energy.
The Muladhara is the first Chakra of the Seven Master Chakras we will cover in this series. It is commonly referred to as the "Root Chakra," and is represented by the color red. This metaphysical center of the body is associated with the communal family aspects of our life and our relationship to the physical qualities of reality. It is physically represented in the body at the base of the spine in the perineal area. It governs the health of our reproductive systems.
When a person’s Muladhara is open, they feel safe and at peace with their physical existence. When it is closed off, a person becomes fearful of others, unable to connect with their family or community, and they may run into or become frustrated with everyday physical objects.
Please note that if you are intending to work through fears that are connected to traumatic memories during this meditation exercise, it is best done under the supervision of a meditational therapist, emotional healer, or somatic therapist. Some fears are best lifted by two. Remember, "While it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing." -Uncle Iroh
Muladhara Meditation, The Flow of Fear
1. First, find a moment of stillness. This is going to look different for each body and what is available for the individual. If sitting in a meditational posture is uncomfortable, I recommend using a chair, a comfortable stance, or even laying down on the floor. Whatever is most comfortable, none is better than the other for this meditation.
2. Start again by calling your attention to the in-flowing breath. Meeting the sensation of air at the nose during your inhale and following its path through the respiratory tract. Breathing deeper and deeper, relaxing further and further with every breath.
3. Once you feel at ease both physically and mentally, begin to ask yourself, “What is it that you are most afraid of in this life?” Don’t look to answer this question with words. Instead, let your mind bring to light the emotions and sensations that you recognize as fear.
4. Continue to breathe. As these fearful sensations and thoughts arise in the mind, bring your attention back to your breathing. You may notice that you suddenly hold your breath as your fears come up. That is a true fear.
5. Each stop in your breath reveals the work that is to be done here at the Muladhara. You do not need to force yourself to delve deeply into these fears. Instead, look for the moment your breath stops and work there.
6. To work through your fear, continue the flow of breath all the way through exhalation. On the exhalation, push the breath out until you feel the fears subsiding. You are letting go of these fearful illusions through every exhale. Some fears require that you exhale multiple times for them to leave your mind, while others only require one.
7. Continue to focus on your breathing until you return to a feeling of relaxation and safety. You can work with as many fears as you would like within a meditation session. One teaching I use in my own practice is to never make the conscious decision to stop a meditation. Instead, let the universe call you from your meditation.
Our breath is more connected to our thoughts and feelings than most people realize. When we experience deep emotions, the pattern of our breath changes. We begin to breathe more shallowly when we become depressed, we show patterns mimicking hyperventilation when we become stressed or worried, and we hold our breath when we are afraid.
As if holding our breath will make things suddenly stop. Or maybe, our fears won’t find us if they can't hear us breathing... Let your breath go! You are safe, you are whole, you are at peace with the physical reality. You are loved, and you are present forever here and now.
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