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Remembering To Breathe

By Richard Burford

I like to wake early, when sunlight breaks in rays among the branches of trees outside my window. While I lie listening to the birds chorusing a new day, night dreams wash over me like waves, from somewhere deep and close.

The morning is a good time for me to sit, and be quiet. Coming out of sleep, I am still connected to a larger experience of myself that is normally unconsciously outside my awareness.

Watching the rise and falling of my breathing, I have an opportunity to untangle my thoughts and feelings, and observe whatever shows up.

I like to practise mindfulness, by bringing awareness to my breathing, observing sounds, allowing space for the sensations in my body, and letting thoughts come and go.

It is simple, yet challenging. Inevitably, thoughts and feelings pull my attention. They carry me away, until, noting that is happening, I unhook my attention and return awareness to my breathing and the present moment.

After a while, relaxation and clarity usually come, and I find I am more psychologically present throughout the day than when I spring mindlessly out of bed on autopilot.

When I’m distracted during the day, I come back to the awareness of my breathing and slip back into observing what’s happening inside.

Let’s face it, I do get lost and disorientated sometimes in Byron Shire – dining out with old friends, shopping at the farmer’s market, going to events at country halls.

Returning to a sense of quiet and spaciousness is a useful thing for me to do.

Lately my experience is further enhanced by the way mindfulness is now spreading through Australia. Many teachers continue taking classes and leading retreats, for those restlessly seeking an answer to ‘who am I?’.

And now, Western psychology is discovering the witness, the experiencer, the observing self, or whatever words we want to put to that conscious awareness within us all.

It has been a notion known, but largely ignored. This is a paradigm shift, and with it, come new possibilities for healing and living that are benefiting the broader community.

Various modalities of psychology recognise that, within the context of counselling and therapy, mindfulness may safely ease pain, for clients suffering trauma and intense emotional experiences.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Behaviourism have both integrated mindfulness to augment strategies in a range of conditions.

Australian State and Federal Government departments now acknowledge mindfulness as an effective stand-alone intervention in certain cases, for clients recovering from problematic alcohol and drug abuse.

Knowing a thought is a thought and not a truth, in itself brings enormous relief.

All this is happening in my lifetime, and, as a dear friend often remarks, ‘It’s a wonderful thing.’

‘Rest in natural great peace this exhausted mind,
Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thoughts
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara.
Rest in natural great peace’.
—  Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

By Richard Burford

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