and hopefully will do no harm!
Once, in a talk James said… ‘keep your dosh in your pocket, sit on your bum and get enlightened!
That’s pretty simple eh?… but it doesn’t happen so often.
So many distractions, emotional obscurations, karmic propensities limit the time on the cushion…
and then the time spent there, although different in location posture and initial intention, is often not so very different from ‘samsaric-time’ off the cushion.
Time is spent fusing with arisings and chewing on them. Sitting there making ‘something’ from nothing – as if that were possible…waiting for it to be over, falling asleep…drifting.
It can be so very hard to let go of old habits…
Although, in believing in, validating and identifying with thoughts we give up our freedom, feel locked-up and suffer the consequences, because they feel ‘just right’ – there’s no questioning them, whether snug and cosy like wrapping up a soft cardigan or putting the usual straight jacket. What to do?…What I usually do!
Yet in this lifetime, as meditators, the goal is to realise our true nature. To succeed we need good teachings, and good examples, application and time. We are so lucky to have the first two for sure, the third to a lesser or greater degree depending on circumstances, the fourth i’m hoping to influence a bit with this article.
We need time to see how we obstruct ourselves; time to have our ‘bum on the cushion’ sufficiently long for the knots to dissolve, and to look in the relaxed way and recognise the ground to which we apply our interpretive matrices…
So my practical suggestions below will not cause you to realise your pre-existing lightness… but they may buy you just a little extra time for this realisation to occur!
Basic biological knowledge tells us that our nose is good at filtering out ‘stuff’ in the air we breathe. It also warms the air going down into our lungs so that the oxygen exchange there is more efficient.
Some more in-depth thinking and research has shown that nitric oxide is produced in the nasopharynx and that this gas has excellent anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-microbial effects (1)acting as first line of dense against micro-organims.
This article (2) Nasal nitric oxide in man – Thorax BMJ suggests that a function of nitrous oxide is to keep the sinuses sterile under ordinary conditions. Nitrous oxide also has an effect on the ability of haemoglobin to release oxygen (3).
Severely afflicted Covid patients, until they become very weak, have no difficulty in breathing…so oxygen is getting down into the lungs…yet they present as breathless. The problem is that the oxygen is not able to be utilised for exchange in the normal way.
Lately this realisation has been having an impact on when and how ventilation is offered …seeing that increased pressure is not the answer and may increase damage to lungs which are particularly fragile in this state.
A New York ER/ICU doctor who had noticed how different this condition was from anything he had seen before voiced the idea of the use of nitrous oxide…and maybe he is onto something.
Certainly (2) nasal air(containing NO) added to the ventilation of intubated patients increases oxygenation and decreases vascular resistance. Although its rôle in inflammation is not really known and is debatable, this article in thorax leans towards the beneficial.
Long-term ventilation can result in cilliary dysfunction and bacterial infection both of which effects, it suggests, may be mitigated by the addition of nitric oxide.
So, particularly under current circumstances, it makes good sense for us to utilise the nitric oxide produced in the nasopharynx to cleanse the incoming air for our own benefit… and the outgoing air for the benefit of others. Also to ‘disinfect’ the lower lungs (which is where maximal exchange occurs) and to maximise the efficiency of oxygen exchange.
If you breathe through the mouth these beneficial effects are bypassed (and diminished if you smoke)… so, if you are able, it’s much better to use the nose for breathing at all times… including exercise and… sleep … (do ask if you are interested in this or any other aspect!)
Also the benefits of using a surgical mask will be greater if you breathe like this… and it is a good reason, if you make your own, for ensuring that it is not so dense that you cannot breathe sufficiently easily through your nose that you start to breathe through your mouth to get more air. We can survive on less breath than we imagine (see below).
There is another factor to consider… that is the rate of breathing. Aiming for a soft, slow, and light (ssl!) even flow … yet taking the air down deep – to make the lower ribs move in and out slightly…
The concentration of nitric oxide is higher at lower flow rates (2) So this way, which may seem like underbreathing if you are used to taking big breaths, may not only be perfectly adequate but may concomitantly increase oxygen exchange by not over-saturating with oxygen.
You can match the flow of breath to a mantra, or to the increasing breathing timing (4 6 4 etc), or Tong Len, or just allow the flow to flow. The breath will naturally regularise if you practice shiné …… as explained with other practices in James low’s latest zoom videos on How to make use of solitude.
Simple mindfulness of the breath…noticing as it comes and goes… takes you out of thinking, brings you into the present, is relaxing and increases the capacity for non-distracted attention to the boring…! so we are not so easily seduced by ‘exciting’ arisings
and maybe buys… not so much, more days for ‘fun in the sun’… but maybe some extra time for sitting on the bum!!!
P.S. I have a bit of a cough at the moment but rather then express it to no point, i’m holding my nose for a few secs. then breathing in… seems to do the trick just now…(though to match this with the very reasonable ‘keep hands away from face’ instructions… you’d be keeping up with the hand washing instructions, ideally before and after!)
I thank Patrick Mackeown for that tip and some of the other ideas around breathing… in a video offering breathing techniques for covid prevention/ recovery… there are others on the advantages of nasal breathing for asthma and athletes. His training for athletes…effectively taking them three miles high to practice… linked in my mind with the E.R.doctors sense that some patients seemed to be like those suffering from altitude sickness.
Whilst some of our notions, particularly of the purpose of meditation, may differ… his words like mine, are i’m sure, well intentioned gestures in the flow…arising and passing… with meaning (if any) imbued by the mind of the listener
Being calm and clear, breathing well, facilitates relaxation and ease with whatever circumstances arise for us.
P.P.S.Humming may clear the nasal passages….(and produce nitrous oxide). There’s some pubmed research on that which you can google if you like…i’m done googling, it can swallow a lot of time, this just seemed worthwhile… off to dinner and my cushion
P.P.P.S! The photo i found in my album… entitled ‘Go without regrets’…sounds good to me. Just built a ramp for the mouse to exit under the defunct dishwasher but sounds like he wants to use the back door… Thanks to whoever sent that to me or, if i filched it in my ignorance, apologies and please let me know if you are unhappy and i will remove it. Looks good the other way up too, i think.