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tension = way of breathing?

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tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/2/12 3:38 PM
When you breathe a sigh of relief, what exactly happens, is the relief actually equivalent to (not a cause of or a result of) the sigh?

Tension is simply a way of directing 'breath energy,' or the sense of having a part of the body physically refreshed by oxygen. It is similar to the focus of attention. When something "I" deem important happens, "I" tense up part of the body where it's happening to make sure that 'it knows' that it has something to do and can't just lay around being refreshed by breath. This is why focusing on the anapana spot causes tension up there, we are conceptualizing nostrils/face as pulling in the breath, giving that spot a 'task' and cutting it off from receiving 'breath energy.' If we take conscious control away from our craving and create our own picture, or best of all - no picture, of the breath we can influence tension, because physical tension is the result of the way we mentally disallow breath energy's flow. Relaxing tension is subconsciously allowing breath energy to enter it, we can't directly tell that body part to stop tensing, we can only tell it to allow breath in.

how does this square with others' experience?

by breath energy i mean the felt experience of allowing a body part to be oxygenated (subjective), i.e. physical relief

RE: tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/2/12 5:39 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
When you breathe a sigh of relief, what exactly happens, is the relief actually equivalent to (not a cause of or a result of) the sigh?

How often do you consciously breathe a "sigh of relief"? Look at what's implied by those words; what's being added to the natural process of the breath by sectioning it off from the preceding breath, labelling it as a "sigh of relief" and thus differentiating between them? All that's changed is the speed, force and depth within the abdomen of the breath being exhaled; where's the "relief" in that? It's the association of this sort of breath, which you could possibly interpret as being representative of the first breath one takes after birth and so triggering a deep-seated affective response, that leads you to relate it to the release of physical tension but in itself is not the cause or result of that tension.

Try just sitting and allowing the body to breathe by itself; you'll almost certainly get a weird, panicky sort of feeling in the solar plexus and/or chest at first but just stay with it and see how, even though your mind is going "shit, i need air, i need to breathe, i want to take a deeper breath" the body is actually quite comfortable and knows exactly how much air it needs. If you catch yourself mentally trying to control the breath, just notice it, remember it's a fabrication and let it go.

The idea of "allowing a body part to be oxygenated" is another fabrication, you're not allowing anything here. What's actually happening is that the breath is happening of it's own accord, the circulatory system is processing and distributing that oxygenated blood into those areas without any effort from "you", and the "relief" felt is a mental association based on a misperception; "you" are trying to lay claim to this empty, luminous process when really, if you investigate your experience directly and sincerely, there never was a "you" in the first place. It's like a skilful effortlessness that's required, which may sound paradoxical but there's a balance involved until you reach the point that "you" can let go, then the process unfolds by itself.

Was that of any use to you or am I just bumping my gums here? emoticon

RE: tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/2/12 7:17 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
All that's changed is the speed, force and depth within the abdomen of the breath being exhaled


The main thing i was talking about was changing the mental fabrication of tensing off one body part against the breath. the breath isn't just the abdomen, depending on where you focus on the feeling of it, how you mentally fabricate where the breath is going, how you fabricate what is powering the process of pulling in air and pushing it back out etc.

Try just sitting and allowing the body to breathe by itself

if i could pull that off at will i'm sure i'd be free of suffering by now, the self process goes on whether or not one tries to shape it. but yea, i've done plenty of allowing the fabrications to fabricate as they naturally would, and observing it happening, but when i was doing that you posted on my thread that i should

Just watching emotional states pass away does not lead to the end of suffering, you need to find out how and why they arise in the first place so that you can cut the chain of dependent origination at it's root.


i said

that is sort of what i am doing, being aware of the suffering as a sensation until it is clear that it is tension


i think there are two viable approaches here - simply watch the fabrication fabricate without consciously shaping it in order to understand it... or try to undermine the fabrications and 'tranquilize' them as i described in the above post. i think i was doing more of the former a couple weeks ago and you suggested that i should try to 'find out' how and why they arise to 'cut the chain' which is basically what i am going for now. i figure if i keep undermining the fabrication enough i keep figuring it out and move closer to its root. i guess me and you just switched to each other's techniques (or something like)? or am i misinterpreting something



edit: rewrote whole answer =0

edit2: btw, for some reason whenever i read your replies to me i assume that they will be an attack on me, i really don't know why.. lol i don't seem to have the same preconceived notion about anyone else's posts so i'm trying especially hard to keep myself from thinking like this.. it helps to read it in a strong scottish accent =D

RE: tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/3/12 4:31 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
how does this square with others' experience?

by breath energy i mean the felt experience of allowing a body part to be oxygenated (subjective), i.e. physical relief


I too have had the impression that there is a connection between tissue oxigenation and tension, just as you describe. It is hard to say why, but sometimes it just seems that, when a tension is released (even a miniscule tension) this happens simultaneously with an increased blood flow (and hence oxigen) through that area [2].

However, I find no way of confirming or denying this connection. Or of making any practical use of it, assuming it is accurate [1]. Has anyone?

[1] Edit: Except for aerobic exercise, which does seem to help decreasing the tension.

[2] Edit: I should probably not say "increased blood flow" but rather "a physical sensation which is suggestive of an increased blood flow".

RE: tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/3/12 6:22 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
i dont really care so much about any scientific understanding, and it's very useful because one can change the way one breathes, 'breathing into' an area or 'letting the sense of refreshment permeate' to release tension. one is basically calming the fabrications of 'blockage' of energy - energy which is the sense of breathing.

RE: tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/3/12 11:01 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Whenever I try to "breath into" wherever, the best I seem to be able to do is imagine stuff, in that images come to my mind, of air, blood, chi or whatever, flowing into imaginary wherever. Tension then usually remains the same, but sometimes a new layer of "doing stuff" covers it, as if I was tensing somewhere "above" the previous tension (to try and get breath to "flow into it"), just causing more stuff to arise, a cloud covering another cloud.

While this could be only tangentially related, I have posted about a self-kindness-based way of releasing tension in this thread

RE: tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/3/12 11:45 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
I get that sometimes too, but if i keep working with it i can start clearing the sense of blockage. it often helps to think of the breath flowing through the tension, or coming in&out at the spot of the tension... this stuff is all pretty difficult to explain, it's something you get better at if you just keep experimenting. 'breathe into' is less helpful than 'breathe through' though.

RE: tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/3/12 4:41 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
I seem to have tendency to pick your posts up incorrectly too, it's not your fault or a criticism on your writing though 'cause it's up to me to read it properly. I can assure you though, I mean no harm at all and my responses are always offered with a helpful intent. The way I write seems to give the impression that I'm trying to be authoritative or dismissive of what's being said, it's not the case though and anything I write is subject to change or correction at any time 'cause I'm still learning too. I think we just communicate in different ways so perhaps my way of pointing stuff out wouldn't be of use to you, besides your practice looks like it's coming along fine anyway so I'll back out and leave you to it.

By the way, I appreciate your honesty. emoticon

Edited to add...

Adam L:
I can appreciate this, but may I also remind you that there are others (well, at least one other...ha) that are benefiting from access to all of the participating perspectives

I know what you mean, it can be useful but I just figure that it'd be more appropriate to comment directly on someone's thread if I see something I think they might benefit from knowing about. In this case though, Adam and I seem to be prone to miscommunication and so the benefits are likely to be lessened by the need to go back and forth to explain things in different ways. However, this one point which Adam made is something I would like to clarify and which will hopefully be of use to anyone interested in using it:

Tommy:
Try just sitting and allowing the body to breathe by itself
Adam . .:
if i could pull that off at will i'm sure i'd be free of suffering by now, the self process goes on whether or not one tries to shape it. but yea, i've done plenty of allowing the fabrications to fabricate as they naturally would, and observing it happening,

I should really have explained this a bit better, I didn't mean it as some sort of "do nothing" technique or just simply observing fabrications; what I'm talking about is getting involved in the process of breathing and investigating what it is that seems to control it. It's not "advanced" and doesn't require lots of subtle mental stuff, I'll give a little bit of background to this 'cause it's something I've found useful and reckon it's worth experimenting with.

I used to do a lot of Hindu-inspired yogic breathing stuff; breath cycles counted in unusual intervals like 8-4-4-8 of inhale-hold-exhale-hold and all that sort of thing. It did wonders for my subsequent concentration practices but I didn't fully understand what I was doing at that time to fully benefit from the techniques and eventually gave up. What I did notice was the way that a feeling of panic, loss of control or anxiety would arise when I held the breath past, what seemed to be, the natural point until I felt I had to breathe again really quickly, sort of like when you come up from being underwater for a long time. With practice I learned how to control that urge to breathe and began to notice how, if I paid attention to how the body felt, there wasn't actually any lack of oxygen in anywhere near the way that such a reaction would suggest.

A few months ago, I'd been investigating that feeling and noticing it appearing in all sorts of unusual situations. Part of the reason why this particular phenomena was of interest to me was that I almost died through drowning as a baby and I'd developed something of a phobia about swimming. Over time that was unravelled and I got to the bottom of how it happened for me, but there were a few general points I remembered that seemed worth mentioning:

- The idea of controlling the breath is illusory, the body knows by itself how much oxygen it requires and will respond accordingly. Even when you think you're controlling it, you're not actually doing anything other than creating a story about how "you" were going to breathe in a certain way. Just let the body breathe, don't try to change it and just notice how "you" try to lay claim to that impersonal, transient process.

- The loss-of-control and anxiety are part of the same thing: fear of death. This is pretty much what it always comes down to when fear, in whatever manifestation, appears on the scene, it's opposite is stability which, as you already know via the 3C's, is also an illusion.

- Look at all of the possible ways in which that fear or panic can manifest physically and mentally. It's like being able to see the entire 'range' of that emotional 'frequency' but without actually endangering your life.

- The manifestations of tension which arise can be incredibly obvious, from physically lurching forwards to weird abdominal tensions, just notice how that happens. These are gross forms of it, obviously, but they may provide enough of a 'taste' of that feeling to allow you to identify its more subtle aspects.

I hope that's a little clearer and more explanatory than my initial suggestion, I didn't intend to be so vague as I can't be bothered with that whole approach. It's got it's place, don't get me wrong, but sometimes you need to take a sledgehammer to the fucker and be done with it. emoticon

Drop me a PM if you've got any questions about it so that this thread can continue without going off on any further tangents.

A'ra best.

RE: tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/3/12 3:32 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
besides your practice looks like it's coming along fine anyway so I'll back out and leave you to it.


I can appreciate this, but may I also remind you that there are others (well, at least one other...ha) that are benefiting from access to all of the participating perspectives.

RE: tension = way of breathing?
Answer
5/3/12 6:56 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
I think we are coming at this with very different ways of conceiving things - i always thought that when people said that their communication style didn't fit with someone they just wanted to get out of the conversation - but now i see it's really true, i definitely have disagreements but it's hard to find where to start because we are just looking at this from different perspectives. With that said i'll still make an attempt, maybe it will be less of a problem with both of us having acknowledged it. At the end of the day though, i know my practice is going fine right now, whatever else is happening the physical tension is definitely being relaxed which results in lots of clarity equanimity and all that good stuff.

what I'm talking about is getting involved in the process of breathing and investigating what it is that seems to control it


with you so far

if I paid attention to how the body felt, there wasn't actually any lack of oxygen in anywhere near the way that such a reaction would suggest


perhaps we start deviating here - where was that sense of fear going on if not in the body and what was it made out of if not bodily tension?

The idea of controlling the breath is illusory, the body knows by itself how much oxygen it requires and will respond accordingly. Even when you think you're controlling it, you're not actually doing anything other than creating a story about how "you" were going to breathe in a certain way. Just let the body breathe, don't try to change it and just notice how "you" try to lay claim to that impersonal, transient process.


with this model - what is going on when i hold my breath like you were talking about with the hindu practice? there is the intention to hold it back, not that there is a 'true self' directing that holding back, but there is intention shaping the way one breathes. the question in this thread is whether others experience affective tension as caused by an intention to control the breath - and the suggestion in this thread is that people calm those intentions and thus calm those affective tensions - i.e. calm bodily fabrication which is defined by the buddha as breath, you calm down the sense of blocking off part of the body from taking in breath.

the intentions go on directed by the various 'adams' in the mind, when the meditator 'adam' experiences sensual thoughts he might squeeze off something in the chest causing a 'frustration' breath... when the teenager 'adam' experiences some girls looking over at him meditating he might clench something in the abdomen to create a gasp of fear. i think the reason you feel fear when you hold your breath isn't that you are afraid of dying, you know very well that you can just breathe in at any time, but it is that the bodily experience of fear *is* the same thing as holding the breath in a certain way, it's also not loss of control because you are quite consciously using intention to shape the way of breathing.

like attentional focus, the way of breathing (meaning the parts of the body are getting blocked off) is always directed by intention, by a sense of 'i' until there is no more sense of 'i' and then they are just directed by the body's need for oxygen, and there is no more tension because there is no 'i' to try to control this body to get certain results.

i think i've explained it as clearly as i can - but perhaps our way of thinking truly is irreconcilable. if that's the case then you look at things in a way that's useful to end suffering and i'll do the same emoticon