How to Meditate, Interview – April 16, 2010
HTM: Can you describe how you meditate?
Yvonne: I simply do conscious breathing whenever I *think* of it. It is especially helpful for me when I am in challenging situations. Breathe in ... Gap ... Breathe out ... Gap ... The gaps are thoughtless, an oasis to rest in peace and silence. The only time I do it regularly somehow is shortly before sleeping and in the morning after I wake up. I deliberately get up about half an hour earlier than I have to, to just sit in bed, with something to drink and just breathe and let come (and go!) to my mind whatever arises.
Sometimes I try to get conscious of my inner body simultaneously. Very rarely I do guided meditations, for example by Adyashanti or maybe when I am attending a workshop. But it always comes down to breathing for me! I love it! It is so simple and can be done where-ever I am, however I move or sit or lie...
HTM: I too am most fond of unstructured and unguided (or rather what I call self-guided) meditation. Have you been involved in more structured or guided meditations in the past?
Yvonne: Yes, I did structured and guided meditations. A few years ago I participated in a yoga group and there we sat in meditation in addition to the yoga exercises. It was nice in a way, but ultimately not my style. From time to time I visit workshops, where mostly one part is meditation. But for me the most profound way is like I described in my last response.
HTM: I want to understand more about the breathing. I have actually tried this method with some interesting results. I notice that the timeless moment at the end of exhale is easy for me, whereas the one that follows the inhale feels very emotional, tight and forced. Have you had similar experiences, can you recommend a solution, and do you ideas about what the imbalance of the two cycles is related to?
Yvonne: The first gap (after inhale) is much shorter than the other, yes! That is physiological. I don't feel any tightness or something else. Maybe it is because the compression in the lungs after inhale is larger. The *need* to exhale is bigger than to inhale. Another physiological aspect for the *forced feeling* could be that the heart rate increases during the inhale.
HTM: I hear what you are saying and that all makes sense. However, I believe that part of the problem is emotional—that the two cycles are distinct in some way—perhaps conscious and unconscious meeting in the stillness. One cycle inclined to be more deliberate and so more difficult to surrender. Tell me more about the heart racing during inhale.
Yvonne: Absolutely, an emotional issue going hand in hand with a physiological fact maybe? The increase of the heart rate is associated with the so called *Frank-Starling-mechanism* Too difficult to explain :-), anyway the increase is *normal*.
HTM: Do you get to a point in this breathing meditation where you feel as if you are being breathed by the whole, or does your breathing simply fall into the background of your experience and a deeper awareness take over?
Yvonne: Hui, that's a tough one :-) No, it is not a _feeling_ *being breathed*, rather a *knowing* (difficult to explain). I would describe the feeling rather as a deep peace and confidence (but here also *feeling* doesn't match it completely accurate, hmmmm, a *felt knowing*???) In addition, especially when I do the breathing in challenging situations, a certain *clearness* appears.
HTM: Would you say you are relatively free of sensation in the body? What is the mood? Is the clearness like an internal fog clearing?
Yvonne: Concerning meditation I am quite free of sensation in the body in a common sense, yes. For example I never/rarely had so called energy-flows, chakra feelings and so on. The clearness appears when before there was for example fear, felt as indisposition in the stomach-area and heart-area. For me it is like a sudden realization to be not attached to the situation (like the mind wanted me to believe) and comes along with peace and happiness. Where before I felt *heavy* in my whole body, then I feel light and free again.
HTM: As far as meditation goes, In terms of mood, what goes on for you emotionally while in the midst of it—anything? I would like to add another question now, as I have just played with the breathing exercise or meditation that we have been talking about and I am clearer on my problems with it. Between exhale and inhale the body is its most relaxed and so it easy for me at least to surrender to nature taking its course and the breath coming back in.
There is a noticeable gap there. However, between inhale and exhale as the lungs are filling it is very difficult to refrain from stepping in and "deciding" the lungs are filled enough, etc. As the lungs can fill further, for some reason I intervene, instead of allowing. This is when it feels particularly emotional for me because something in me wants desperately to let nature do its thing. This gap is therefore practically non-existent or at least unnoticeable to me. Do you experience a difference between the two gaps in terms of length or quality of peacefulness?
Yvonne: Regarding mood, mostly I feel very peaceful and still. Sometimes a great feeling of non-directional love arises. As far as the gaps go, the gap after inhale is definitely shorter, yes, I can enjoy the other one more, but it is also peaceful. When I read your question I remembered that I practiced breathing for a while, without a background of meditation at that time, it was to make breathing more conscious to me and stop the superficial/shallow breathing I was used to.
The practice was to count to 7 whilst inhale and exhale and consciously make a break between both. Like I said, nothing to do with meditation at that time, it was stressful in the beginning. But maybe therefore the gap is no problem for me?? There is another crazy thing I did to become more aware of my breathing throughout the day in general :-) Last autumn I got me a wristwatch with a programmable self-repeating vibration alarm. I programmed it to 15 minutes and every time it buzzed I consciously took 4-5 deep breaths.
I followed this procedure for about 6 weeks or so. After that time breathing was somehow *established* in me and I could leave away the watch (besides from that you won't *feel* the buzzing any longer after a period of time, in the end I had to change the wrists or put it into my trouser pocket) After all a quite unspiritual action and quite *mindful* too, but it helped me to de-condition my old breathing habits.
HTM: I don’t believe I have ever heard the phrase “non-directional love”. I love this. It implies no beginning, no ending, nowhere to go, and all-pervasive—all in two words. And yet it arises, which I take to be more of it being always present, but the breathing gets you in touch with it, is that it? Thank you for sharing your exercise to do with the seven minute intervals. I want to try that. I do have a question regarding this. What prompted you to deepen your breath that was not related to meditation? I did even more of the breathing exercise and had a little more success.
Perhaps over time it will improve. We are dealing with the oxygenation of the blood here. On an esoteric level I believe that this relationship is associated with body/mind connection—or rather energy/consciousness. I also feel that the cycles are opposites—one dealing with the conscious and the other with the unconscious—just a gut feeling on this. The end of the exhale feels like surrender to the unconscious, whereas the end of the inhale feels quite conscious and more difficult to do non-deliberately. I don’t suppose it even matters.
Yvonne: Thank you for your kind words, I feel a poem coming to non-directional love now :-) Yes, I think you are right, it brings me in touch with it. What prompted me was, that I had more or less huge panic attacks at that time and my breathing during those states was very quick and flat/hackling (right word?). re: conscious and unconscious aspect, yes that’s a good point. In addition for me it is also a question of giving and taking. I *take* during inhale, I *give away* during exhale.
HTM: So what started as an approach to dissolving anxiety led to your current meditative practice, is that so? There is someone I am currently interviewing regarding Tantra Meditative Practices, and he offered this quote from Master Atisha. I am sharing it with you here because it refers to both breathing meditatively and the giving and taking with inhale and exhale.
As you breathe in, take in and accept all the sadness, pain, and negativity of the whole world, including yourself, and absorb it into your heart. As you breathe out, pour out all your joy and bliss; bless the whole of existence.
It feels as if we are coming close to the natural end of this interview. However, I want you to feel free to share anything that my directive questions have not allowed space for regarding your personal form of meditation. I do have one last question, and that is as to whether you have any desire to expand your meditation practice into other areas or if you feel that this one gives you all that you need.
Yvonne: In response to your question— “So what started as an approach to dissolving anxiety led to your current meditative practice, is that so?” In a way, yes, but it was also pushed a lot by Eckhart Tolle and his breathing and inner body *method*. (He doesn't like to call it method or technique) It is a beautiful quote, thank you.
In answer to your last question, it somehow gives me all that I need, but from time to time I really enjoy other meditation forms. For example in groups, or I want to try some guided meditations by Osho. But I have no *plan*, it unfolds. Thank you very much Benjamin. I enjoyed this. Some things got clearer for me!
HTM: Thank you.