Recently I’ve been reading books by Thich Nhat Hanh, one called The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings which is an excellent overview and introduction to Buddhism. Another is Awakening of the Heart which is an excellent guide to the sutras and helped me a great deal in becoming more aware of how breathing and mindfulness can be an excellent practice on many levels.
In the course of trying to make some kind of connection the the Higher Power I have found this to be the most practical and effective method for getting in touch with the infinite. Through Hanh’s books I finally have a concrete way of understanding that which for years I could barely grasp. I no longer need to think of this as some esoteric, mystical being but rather the life force of the universe, something I can barely comprehend but can still benefit from by making an earnest effort at connection.
Some of the sutras are deceptively simple, but even the act of breathing can dial me in to many things that I would never pay attention to. Things like the little aches and pains, the furrow in my brow, how long I go between taking a breath, and a general mindfulness of my surroundings; the smells, tastes, sights and sounds, and well as a general feeling. Often times I am completely unaware that I am in a state of dis-ease. If awareness is the key, then this book and these sutras are an excellent way to tune out the static of everyday life and all it’s pressures and spend a little time “sweeping in those hard to reach places”.
Perhaps most beneficial of all, practicing breathing has had tremendous benefit in my everyday life. Doing some mindful breathing before going on to sing helps me relax while singing, which helps to save my voice and put more emotion into the songs. While I’m working I can try to be mindful and focus more on what people are saying rather than having my mind racing around in a million other directions. I remember more clearly and am definitely more productive.
In my relationships, especially with my boys, I can tune out the distractions and be present. He doesn’t seem to require more than that, just the fact I’m there when he wants to show me something or ask a question seems to be of great comfort to him, and is a comfortable way to spend a day.
For a person with a short attention span and a propensity for being easily distracted, it is a very good form of therapy that only requires an ability to breathe. In merely focusing on each breath, I am in a deeper state of being and more in tune with my true self and purpose.