Great session tonight at Glad Day. This discussion group is about being gay and spiritual and the members are very interesting. Everybody has a fascinating story and point-of-view.
In tonight’s session, I learned something very helpful. At one point I told my story about how following the breath, an almost ubiquitous spiritual practice, could be all about the unique qualities of breathing in the body consciousness.
As our body consciousness, we have two kinds of actions we engage in, one is muscular/skeletal actions that we engage consciously, like picking up a cup of coffee or going for a run.
The other is autonomic actions that we engage at a subconscious level, like the beating of our heart or digesting our food. These actions occur at a level that is not normally directed consciously, although advanced yogis are able to affect some of these systems.
When the discussion turned to the power of breath work, I noted that breathing was one of only two bodily functions that straddle conscious and unconscious engagement.
We can choose consciously to breathe slowly, quickly, or not at all, for a short time. So many spiritual practices ask that we focus on our breathing and consciously direct it. ’Take a few deep breaths now.’
Why this is a bridge to the unconscious is that we can also forget about breathing entirely and focus on any number of other things. We will still continue to breathe as needed.
I then posed the question, ‘What is the other function that can straddle both conscious choice and automatic function?’
Here is where it got very interesting for me. One of our members said maybe it was how we can focus on something consciously, on the one hand, and we can also just let our focus flow with whatever was happening. Bazinga!
This was a new category that had never occurred to me. For me, the other thing was blinking. We can choose to blink fast or slow or close our eyes, or we can just relax and forget about blinking entirely and it will happen automatically.
However, this contribution from a member of the group was new and very interesting. My feeling now is that this is, in fact, the real benefit of these kinds of explorations. We can choose or react.
Understanding that I can choose to focus, or concentrate on, something that I value as opposed to just letting my attention bounce around amongst ‘all the usual suspects’ is very empowering.
Because, as we all know, you get what you concentrate on. Very helpful to understand that we can steer this usually autonomic process consciously in directions of our own choosing.