come back, again and again, to the breath.
this is a tried and tested meditation practice...as you sit meditating it is inevitable that your mind will wander. when it does, bring it back to focus on the breath.
today, though, breath awareness had a different quality. as i inhaled and exhaled i was filled with gratitude. suddenly the miracle that we call breathing became real to me. and i was overcome with awe.
on average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. this means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year. the person who lives to 80 will take about 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime.
breathing is a complex, integrated process involving muscles, bones, nerves, blood, gases. as long as we live it continues ceaselessly, with or without our conscious awareness.
we are aware of breath in meditation as well as at other times. after climbing a flight of stairs the breath becomes deeper, more full-bodied. any exercise will place a greater demand on the breath. breath also changes from its resting state when we are afraid, or embarrassed, or joyful, or passionate.
the breath is fine-tuned to our emotional state and to the state of our mind in addition to the needs of the body. when the mind is filled with a sense of equanimity and calm, the breath is even and regular. in an agitated state the breath is short and irregular. there is a great deal of research into the effect of mind on breath and breath on mind.
until our last exhalation, we can always return our awareness to the breath. no special equipment is needed. no fancy clothing, no accessories are required. only lungs are needed. by focusing on the breath we have the capacity to calm the mind, become aware of our immediate surroundings and become fully present.
as i reflect on my ageing, i notice the veins on the backs of my hands, the changes in skin and muscle, the changes in my capacities. i also notice the breath, unchanged, a stream reaching all the way back to my first inhalation.
and i am grateful for this breath.... and this breath... and this breath.
hopefully, i will continue to be grateful until my last exhalation.