The Breath

From Claudia Hansson:

The Breath (from MUB01: Monsters Under The Bed (retreat) 00:00:00.00 - 00:04:48.50)

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Claudia: I’m going to start by talking about the breath. Everything that you read about meditation, certainly in all the Buddhist literature, you see the focus on the breath, and for shamatha practice this is what we’re doing. We are moving into the experience of breathing. The breath can seem like a very ordinary process. It’s something that, if we don’t direct our attention to it, the body does it anyway. The body knows how to breathe. We don’t have to control it. We don’t have to regulate it. And if we let ourselves just move into that very deep experience of just feeling the breath, everything else tends to follow along.

Sometimes, I know I’ve gone there myself, we sit for a while, and we think, “This is kind of a boring thing, paying attention to my breath, what’s the big deal about this?” But I think if you reflect on it a little bit, you can move into an experience where breath is pretty amazing.

Any of you have children, in the room? Okay, I wonder if you can remember what that experience was like when you first heard your child take that breath. Anybody want to share what that felt like?

Student: One second.

Student: The interesting thing for me is that I kept waking up at night and checking on him to make sure that he was still breathing.

Claudia: Yes.

Student: And then later when I talked to other mothers, they had all had similar experiences with their children.

Claudia: And monitors make it even worse now because they’re sitting right there, and every breath is coming at you. Anyone else?

I remember it very, very clearly, and very distinctly. I don’t remember much about the pain. I don’t remember much about the process. It’s kind of faded over the years, but I don’t think I will ever forget those first breaths that my children took.

About a year and a half ago, my father passed away. He was 86, and he was out hiking. He simply collapsed in the mountains. Fortunately I happened to be on an airplane, on my way to San Diego, to go and visit him so I was there when he was airlifted to the hospital.

When I got there, he was on a respirator, which they removed later. I had the deep honor and privilege of sitting with him while he took those last breaths. I will tell you that it moved me so deeply that it actually shifted my practice when I was resting with the breath, because the breath is our life. It means we’re here. It means we’re alive. We have this wonderful opportunity to practice.

The thing about the breath is, to be in that experience, not to be trying to control it or move it or change it. As the breath settles, the entire physiology of the body also starts to change. George is going to be talking about the body when we sit, but everything is carried with the breath.