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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Resting in the Pause

Meditation teachers often speak of the pause that occurs after one out breath ends but before the next in breath begins and also after the in breath ends but before the next out breath. Contrary to what many of us believe, breathing is not continuous. To be honest, while I have always found that fact interesting and an aid in maintaining mindfulness, I wasn't sure that it had benefit beyond the meditation cushion or (in my case) chair. Then I noticed a change in myself. I noticed I wasn't reacting nearly as fast as I used to, and that is loaded with benefits.

When we can learn to pause before responding to a situation, from relatively benign to potentially violent, we are more likely to respond in a way that is actually helpful rather than one that exacerbates the situation. Part of the reason we are able to do this is that we see the actions of the other more clearly and discover that they are most likely responding from their pain and/or fear rather than what is actually happening. This helps us to respond with compassion even to potentially violent people because we understand that nothing personal is happening. In fact, when I think back on the times that I have responded in ways that were less than helpful, I was almost always responding to what I perceived was a personal attack. Over time spiritual practice helps us to see that there really is no such thing as a personal attack because attacks are always the result of distorted perceptions.

This reveals the problem with those programs such as CDs that claim to put you in the meditative state of a long term meditator. Even if they actually put us in that state, they cannot give us the experience of sitting with our lives year after year. There are no shortcuts, but the benefits of sustained effort are more than worth the time!

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