6:30, very quiet morning. The steady hiss of the fireplace; associations: warmth, superficial fire, comfort… slipping into thought. Open again, listen. Can I hear space? the hiss is to my left. To my right, far away, faint, barely audible, cannot distinguish anything. Breath breathing me… slipping into the breath, that familiar breath. The sensations sweeping through the body…familiar. Open again, listen.
The breath is now a familiar practice that I refine, but listening is a new meditation skill. I find myself in all kinds of interesting “other” states, thinking, feeling, breathing, and find my way back to open again, and listen.
Breathing alerts me to sensations.
Listening opens me.
Breathing – body regulation.
Listening – tuning, attuned.
I jumped ship and found myself back in waves of thought, in the past or in the future, over and over again. Coming back to listening, back to the breath, back to the moment, with care, I recognize that I live – inside and out – in a river of constant change. This realization is a dynamic and freeing experience when I hold it kindly.
Breathing and listening help reinforce body regulation and attuned communication, two essential mechanisms of mindfulness according to Siegal. Body regulation helps sensitize us to the simple, immediate, and always accessible messages that the body delivers. Some people disassociate themselves from the body. They come to yoga thinking that our classes will help them, but we all know the student who is just not in their skin. The breath meditation supports awakening to a deep felt sense in the body. Attuned communication is what I would call active listening, resonance, or having a wide antennae. We tune in to one another so that they feel really heard, and we have a felt sense of resonating with them.
I begin again and again. Wait, watch, and witness how I embrace the practice, how I rewire the brain, how I open to conscious choice. Over time I have cultivated the patience that enables me to pause before reacting and that has encouraged some emotional balance. The channel I choose to listen to is my choice. I can listen to music and watch the sky at the same time. I can engage in a conversation and be attentive to inner messages of harmony or discord simultaneously. This is a skill I have built over time, witnessing the intuitive response in my body as I interact with the world around me. I do not consider it multi-tasking or splitting my attention. Rather, it is being more fully present and using more completely the range of skills this magnificent instrument my body-brain-mind offer. Conscious choice comes with and from the emotional balance that Siegal lists as another skill of mindfulness.
Body regulation – breath
Attuned communication – listening
Emotional balance – reflection