People who are interested in meditation and spirituality are often looking for something magical and mystical. Maybe enlightenment. All my study of the great teachers and traditions tells me the opposite. In order to have, seek or find a spiritual experience you must first go to something very simple, very ordinary, very present: the body and the breath.
Our breath is the link between the body and the mind, when we cultivate awareness of breathing we begin to become present and increase our concentration and capacity for insight. Insight will lead us to enlightenment.
So there is a path to enlightenment, but the path begins with the practical step of mindful breathing.
Mindfulness of breathing will help us right away. It will enable us to calm down, to slow our heart rate, activate the parasympathetic nervous system enabling us to release and relax tension. Healing. Eventually we can learn to turn off what in Plum Village they call the NST – the non-stop thinking radio of the mind.
If we continue to practice over time, neuroscience shows that this type of meditation will shrink the areas of our brain to do with anxiety and stress, (the amygdala) and will thicken the parts of our brain to do with happiness and contentment (the right pre-frontal cortex).
How amazing is that? Just from making an unconscious process (breathing) conscious we are changing our brain, rewiring the mind for happiness. Once this begins to happen perhaps we will no longer feel the need for enlightenment or perhaps this is enlightenment?
To be happy and contented in our own skin, to have the capacity to bounce back from disappointment and failure (resilience) and to handle all of life’s vicissitudes with equanimity… This is the kind of enlightenment I’m seeking. J
Try some mindful breathing right now:
Breathing in I know I am breathing in, Breathing out I know I am breathing out. In, Out… repeat and enjoy.