New Civilization News: Meditation on the Out-Breath    
 Meditation on the Out-Breath5 comments
picture12 Mar 2006 @ 18:58, by Gerald Vest

Learning to become kind, gentle, open, honest and nonjudgmental

What a great discovery I made yesterday while visiting the stacks of our used book store and finding The Pema Chodrin Collection. I was looking for some more resources on the engagement process to assist my students in learning how to more effectively interact with our elders and with individuals, couples, groups and families.

One of our primary approaches for serving others in our profession is to maintain a nonjudgmental mind so that those we interact with can feel free to be open and honest with us. Obviously, if we do not respect others and work on ourselves to maintain an open mind, how can we expect others to interact with us freely or with openness so that we can offer our best service and practice initiatives?

For many years my professional practice has been strengthened by the unitary orientation of our body-mind-emotions-spirit relationship as included in particle science and what is referred to as applied Buddhism. Tarthang Tulku, founder and head Lama for the Nyingma Center, has introduced numerous resources to guide his students in their search for clarity of meaning, purpose and right action. Please visit my other discussions on my web logs, bibliography and links page on my website for further details of this approach. [link]

In Master Tulku’s work with health professionals over many years, he accumulated some valuable knowledge and wisdom to help us with our skills and develop an open mind with meditation, physical exercise, massage, and other integrative practices. As he describes this learning experience:

Meditation is a way of opening our lives to the richness of experience, not an esoteric practice limited to certain times and places. Whether we live in the quiet of the country or in the turmoil of the city, meditation can actually become a way of life. In this kind of meditation, we learn to embrace and learn from whatever we experience.

This all-embracing form of meditation, however, is not as easy as it sounds, for it entails mindfulness in all we do. From the simple act of getting up in the morning to our dreams at night, everything is included in this meditation. We learn to open our senses to each nuance of experience, mindful of even the smallest details of our lives, such as how we walk and how we talk with others. In this way we open to the truth of our experience.
(Tarthang Tulku, Openness Mind)

This resource offers us even more opportunities to learn to open our mind and transcend our internal chatter and belief systems so that we can become more effective human service professionals. In this book, The Pema Chodron Collection, three lectures or discussions are introduced: “The Wisdom of No Escape,” Start Where You Are,” and “When Things Fall Apart.” In the first article, that I am focusing, she discusses the three qualities that we can cultivate and nurture to become more open, honest and nonjudgmental—precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go. [link]

I will briefly describe the breathing technique that Ani Pema Chodron introduces in this book; however, I recommend that you aquire this collection and follow her indications.


The technique to develop precision is to be mindful of our out-breath. “Be with the breath as it goes out, feel the breath go out, touch the breath as it goes out.” Be, feel and touch the breath are the key elements of awareness. For example, it develops our precision because we always return to this out-breath periodically. Thus, our mind becomes clear and accurate without other thoughts clouding our experience while interacting with others.


To assist us in supporting our basic principle and right of ‘self-determination,” this technique of observing our out-breath is done with gentleness. As Ani Pema describes,
the gentle attention of the breath produces relaxation and a quality of kindness so that we can be present in our relationships without judgment, manipulation and intrusion.

The focus on the out-breath is practiced with the eyes open and relaxed. She suggests that our focus on the out-breath is but 25 percent so that we can observe our entire environment with all of our senses. Everything in nature is also interacting with us as we engage others. There is no goal to silence the mind from thoughts. When we see or experience thoughts, just make an internal statement – “Thinking.” And, listen to your voice as you make this statement as it will tell us its quality of gentleness.

Letting Go

Ani describes letting go as a more difficult exercise as it requires the precision and gentleness to mature. “Rather, it’s something that happens as a result of working with precision and gentleness. In other words, as your work with being really faithful to the technique and being as precise as you can simultaneously as kind as you can, the ability to let go seems to happen to you.” Furthermore, she states that we don’t force any of these qualities or exercises. It’s a rediscovery of our original ability to let go and to be open.

With time and practice, Ani Pema gives us encouragement—“You will learn what it is to let go and what it is to open beyond limited beliefs and ideas about things.” You don’t repress thoughts; you just note that this is “thinking.”

Finally, she says that when we get the hang of this meditation, we will no longer be caught in the grip of our angry thoughts or passionate thoughts or worried thoughts or depressed thoughts. I appreciate the introduction to this technique and observance. Hopefully, with practice, we can all achieve our best possible condition and more effectively serve humanity with 'precision, gentleness and letting go.'

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13 Mar 2006 @ 03:12 by vibrani : Yup
it is the point between the in and out breath, when we are closest to being "dead" in a physical sense that is what I think they're talking about, that is the goal of SOME types of meditations.
Perhaps that is the case or it could also be the other -- closest to life as it truly is. This author and some others suggest that there is a pause between the in and out-breath that could be our point of awakening. For me it is very subtle and difficult to notice the out-breath, but am giving it a try for now.

Thanks for responding, Vibrani.  

13 Mar 2006 @ 11:58 by jstarrs : It' really seems to be..
..a question of developing mindfulness, doesn't it?
I think without this kind of training, getting to know what is our mind and how to develop it's qualities, it's extremely difficult to be able to help others fully.
Alex Berzin, one of the first western buddhist translator/practitioners has a fine section on his site on Sensitivity Training, in which he about sets about developing a set of meditative exercises for recognizing and enhancing the five types of awareness as a method for improving sensitivity skills.
Here's the section from his site (scroll down):

Thanks J. You have given me some very good articles to read. I do like the concept of "balanced sensitivity" as I have been overly sensitive most of life. Seems we do need to become mindful and find our equilibrium in all that we do. Like one of the articles suggested, we are often too quick to react and could become better listeners...something like that.

By the way, the piture shows several of my students giving our "stressout program" to students and others at a university event this past week. I believe that they gave over 40 free chair (type)massages. The giver and receiver were very positive about the experience and they left the event feeling very good about themselves and encouraged by the power of touch with the vitality of the breath--definitely a great mindful activity.  

17 Mar 2006 @ 05:40 by vibrani : While breath
can be used for a variety of reasons and meditations, I think it's more important what you get out of a meditation and what is your goal. For instance, when wanting to connect with the universal consciousness, your soul, I think that when you try to keep your brain focused on something during a meditation, you're not in a very receptive mode. It's like, oh I need to breathe in now, how many counts did I breathe, now I need to breathe out and hold it, and then I need to - it's all that chatter that is what one is supposed to let flow and release and hush during meditation. Similar to certain tantric exercises that are all brain and no heart. Missing the point!  

17 Mar 2006 @ 09:06 by jstarrs : Absolutely... depends on the goal, I agree.
If the goal is to develop concentration or samatha, then excercises such as concentrating on the breath can be very helpful - the chattering mind subsides after a while, to the deeper levels and as the breath is constant, is a good 'fixing' point.
Some paths don't posit the existence of a 'soul' and so wouldn't 'connect' with it but I guess that is not so important as having a kind heart.
Talking of which, I'd be interested to hear about those tantric excercises that are all brain & no heart?  

17 Mar 2006 @ 14:51 by jerryvest : Yes, I agree...however, these tools
can assist us when we are beginning to balance our energies. For example, I have been practicing some Tibetan "Kum Nye" methods for many years and periodically return to them for support. Last night, I introduced a couple of meditations to my students as meditation and relaxation is a new experience for most of them.

One exercise that I especially love is focusing on the throat chakra as I breathe evenly through my mouth and nose. I find that this center helps distribute the energy to the brain and to the heart in equal proportion. It's much like a switch that gets turned on when we become conscious of this center. As we know, academia is primarily a head trip so our heart and our love for one another is not often supported.

As I traditionally form a closing circle of unity in my classes, this evening as we held hands to experience our energies, I asked everyone to observe their out-breath. We all noticed that our energy was vibrating and pulsating in a very powerful way that did not occur while just holding hands during our previous sessions. Several students began to laugh with joy.

Obviously, there are many forms and goals for meditation. My experience has led me see that everything is my meditation and nothing is excluded when we are mindful.

Thanks for your contributions to this discussion. BTW, today is St. Patrick's Day, but more importantly, it is our special day to introduce our Global Touch Project with caregivers and professionals here in New Mexico. We have over 60 participants enrolled and expect that our new health promotion organization will get off to a great start. Do tune in to our energies as we will be sending our love and best wishes to you and to humanity as One.  

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