Breathing the body with the inimitable Ajahn Sucitto

Yesterday, I attended yet another terrific London Insight event; 'Breathing the body' was a day of meditation with Ajahn Sucitto, the very down-to-earth, funny and personable abbot of Cittaviveka, Chithurst Buddhist Monastery. The teaching took an approach to mindfulness of breathing meditation that is very different to how it is usually taught. It was a much more holistic, dynamic and embodied experience, very accessible for Westerners and not at all conceptual or esoteric. I expect that if Buddhism and Qi Gong were to marry and have offspring, this would be the result.

We did sitting, standing and walking meditation, interspersed with Ajahn Sucitto's wisdom and wit. Despite the fact that the teaching was very straightforward, and although participants couched their questions very differently, a general theme emerged, which was, "Am I doing it right?" Ah. The $6million meditation question. And the answers were provided with respect, patience and lovingkindness, with the overarching theme of, "There's no such thing as right or wrong in meditation". If you're sitting in mindful awareness for a nanosecond, you're meditating. If you're sitting with the intention of being in mindful awareness for a nanosecond, you're meditating. If you're sitting with the intention to have the intention of being in mindful awareness for a nanosecond, you're meditating. Well, you get it. If you're meditating, you're meditating.

Ajahn Sucitto explained that meditation is a process, not a thing. Moreover, it's a process that we all experience differently and what matters is that you feel comfortable and it feels right to you. He then further explained, hitting the proverbial nail on the head, that at the time of the Buddha's teaching India was a heart centred culture, whereas the culture here and now in the West is very mind centred, very scientific.

On the way home, I recalled when I first started meditating, how I didn't really get it, how I relentlessly over-intellectualised the life out of it and how I too was once doggedly determined to get it right. I then fast forwarded to the time when the penny dropped, the time when I first experienced bringing a loving presence to a challenging emotion, allowing it to soften and then dissolve. I remember ever so clearly the days that followed, wondering to myself, "Is that it? Is that pesky habitual emotional pattern that I've had as long as I can remember really gone? Can it really have just dissolved like that?" And this is the trouble. There is simply no way that these mere words can come even close to explaining what I have now experienced many a time. As the Ajahn said, "It's a process". And my tuppence? The freedom it brings is most certainly worth the time and effort.

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