Swimming (training) as a meditation

Blog Category: meditation techniques
Blogged by: Jobst Schmalenbach
Created on: February 3, 2007 at 3:45 pm
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No kidding, it works!
First lets find out what meditation actually means:

Meditation describes a state of concentrated attention on some object of thought or awareness. It usually involves turning the attention inward to the mind itself and is usually defined as one of the following:

  • a state of relaxed concentration on the reality of the present moment
  • a state that is experienced when the mind dissolves and is free of all thoughts
  • focusing the mind on a single object (such as a religious statue, or one’s breath)
  • a mental “opening up” to the divine, invoking the guidance of a higher power
  • reasoned analysis of religious teachings (such as impermanence, for Buddhists).

From a Buddhist point of view the main aim of Medidation is to get rid of the clutter and internal chatter the mind produces bringing yourself into a state of calm, then being able to think about something without the internal clutter/chatter.
Now with all of those points I made above lets have a look what swimming training does.

  • Repeated laps (possibly in sets)
  • you breath at regular and defined intervals (e.g. every 3 strokes in freestyle)
  • you concentrate on your stroke technique to better it and do not think of anything else.
  • you release all the other thoughts you have at other times during the day, thus you are free of all thought (other off course the stroke technique)
  • Although you are straining your body (as in your muscles) you are reaching a state of relaxed concentration, due to the fact you are concentrating on swimming (as in one thing only).
  • as an add on bonus you do not get during other type of meditation you get a dose of a drug your own body produces (Enkephalins).
  • all you ever see is the black line on the bottom of the pool, and once again another “thing” you are concentrating upon … For backstrokers its the sky (even better) or the roof of the pool (but even that isnt terribly exiting 😉 )
  • as an add on bonus you are getting fit, thus hitting two birds with one stone.

I think it works, I go swimming training at least for times a week and I call it “Black Line Fever“.

jobst

The Attentive Heart Meditation

Blog Category: meditation techniques
Blogged by: Jobst Schmalenbach
Created on: February 2, 2007 at 1:51 pm
Comments Off on The Attentive Heart Meditation

Breathing in – breathing out, slow deep inhale, slow deep exhale. Quieting the body, quieting the mind.
Breathing in-breathing out, slow deep inhale, slow deep exhale

I woke this morning under the graceful arching branches
Of fir and cedar trees
All night the trees have been conversing under the full moon
Weaving me into their stories
Capturing my dreams with their leaning limbs
And generous trunks.
Breathing together as I slept,
As they rested
We danced in the spring night.
Their great confidence framed a circle for my waking
Their sturdy presence
Offered an invitation to be still.

Inside this large ring of trees lies an island of stillness
A protected area in a war zone
The central grassy area is open and spacious, framed by the comfort and stability of trees.
But this meditation is not about trees
It is about the attentive heart
The heart that feels the presence of others and the call to respond
The heart that lives in relationship with other beings

The capacity for compassion and response grows slowly from cultivation and practice
From mindfulness and attention. Breathing in – Breathing out – with awareness

I walk with bare feet,
Soaking up the sunlight in the grass
Crinkling the green leaves with my toes
In the centre of the soft lawn I bump into the roots of an old cedar stump.
A tiny seedling has taken shelter in the crack of the stump
Drawing on the tree’s remaining nourishment
The tree roots protrude a few centimeters above the ground
Worn and smooth they are like firm hands touching my feet
My feet the tree’s feet – we meet each other in the deep breathing that connects body to the ground.
In the slow time of meditation I practice observing each sound with attention.
A bee on the lawn
Gathering the morning pollen with self-absorbed buzzing
A large blue dragonfly whirs through the open air
Each sound is surrounded by a generous spaciousness
Each sound is connected
In the silence of walking I hear each relation.

Cultivating this practice of mindfulness is painstaking and demanding
In each moment of observing a leaf, a squawk, a firm touch
There is the temptation to make it something more than it is
An object of fascination
There is also the danger of thinking it something less than it is
Missing the context and history of the tiny event striking the senses
Either way one falls off the impossibly thin razor’s edge of bare attention

Each step – breathe
Each step – listen
Each step note what is actually happening
Breath – Relax
Observe the mind of resistance

It seems like an indulgence to take the time to cultivate mindfulness when so much is being lost …
But this is the tension
To find a considered way of acting not based on reaction
To be willing to breathe with the tension of emotional response
To be willing to cultivate tolerance for unresolved conflict

Stretching out in the midday sun
I let go of the strain of knowing so much
And paying attention with such discipline
I catnap on the warm rocks
Resting like a lizard -Wavering on the edge of consciousness
My mind drifts with the sounds of the stream and the warmth of the sun
Thoughts skim across the surface, finding no anchoring place in the ponds of my imagination
The tension of acting/not acting is swallowed up in a cat’s yawn
As I turn on my back to face the full sun – I am with my friends and companions

Absorbed in the practice of remembering where we are
Remembering our relations
We walk sharing the silence
Giving each other support as we investigate and celebrate our lives
We forget and remember – Moment after moment
We are breathing in a circle of companions and friends
In this steady silence we ask for help to walk more gracefully – for patience to cultivate an attentive heart.

Breathing in breathing out, slow deep inhale, slow deep exhale. Awakening the body, activating the mind. Breathing in breathing out, slow deep inhale, slow deep exhale.

Adapted from The attentive heart: conversations with trees by Stephanie Kaza – Shambhala 1993