Return to the Breath

Return to the Breath

My teacher says that a good meditation is one that you did. She also says we get the meditation we need, not always the one we want. I am participating in an 8‑week training based on Buddha’s Brahma-Viharas, also known as the Four Virtues. These are: Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity/Peace. (The breath work is sometimes called affectionate breathing or mindful self compassion.)

I begin by noticing my breathing, letting my body breathe me. In and out, my chest rises and falls. When my mind wanders, I return my focus to the breath. Then I release the breath-focus and whisper four phrases in my mind.

May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful.

Whom am I asking? Some omniscient god who bestows wishes? Is it my god or your god? Is it all one? I don’t want to share my god right now. Just let me have these minutes with god to myself. Leave us alone please. I bring my attention back to my breath, then repeat the phrases.

May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful.

Perhaps it is not god I am asking, but myself. In what ways do I deny myself? Block myself? Not allow myself to receive?

May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful.

The phrases remind me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but with safety as the foundation, necessary before all else. Is happiness essential before being healthy or peaceful? Is it even a hierarchy? Or are they all equal, interconnected, like Olympic rings?

Return to the breath.

May I be safe.

I breathe in and out. The energy of Safe resonates through my beingness. I hear: I am that. I cognize the truth—that I am safe, and Safe is embodied in me. I marvel at the oddity of feeling so completely safe in these times.

May I be happy.

There is an expectation to feel the emotion in my beingness, just as I had previously with Safe. Instead, there is silence. Darkness. The breath breathes me as I resist both the silence and darkness. Impatient, I move on.

May I be healthy.

Once again, I feel the truth of it, feel Healthy resonate, a part of every cell of my being. I am that. Again, how strange, yet marvelous, that I feel healthy in these times.

May I be peaceful.

I feel the energy of Peace. It is different than that of Safe and Healthy. Peace is thing, overlapping my right side, slightly off to the side. It is attached to my beingness, but not centered with me. Or perhaps  I am not centered in peace. Did peace move away or did I? Pulling Peace to me, centering it with me, it covers me like a hollow shell. It does not fill my beingness, but waits for me to welcome it in more fully. Instead, I return to the breath.

May I be happy.

Silence. Darkness. Am I unhappy? Am I blocking happiness? What’s wrong with me? My breath quickens. I grab Peace which I have let wander off. I pull it over me like a shroud. Try modified versions of the phrase, my teacher had suggested.

May I be happy just as I am. May I be happy with things as they are.

Silence. Darkness. What if I find my own phrase, my own words?

May I be joyful.

The earth opens. A geyser of joy shoots up my body, erupting out my crown chakra in crystal droplets of happiness.

May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful.

I return to the breath.

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