Anapanasati lessons & blessings

Anapanasati includes lessons that focus on “experiencing rapture” and “gladdening mind” while breathing in and out. Experience with these aspects of practice has been very helpful for me on a just completed meditation retreat (December 4-9 in Thailand) during which gastrointestinal issues were a constant source of discomfort and pain, at times intense. Attention naturally fixes on pain, which is easy to wish away or fear that it will continue without ever being mindful of it. Such reactions add mental anxiety and stress to the physical pain.

With training, a practitioner can shift attention elsewhere, such as “gladdening mind.” One can draw on experience with this lesson to uplift mind out of its worry, fear, frustration, or sadness. The pain may still throb, yet there’s more serenity, balance, and even joy. One can be mindful of it without getting sucked into it. Shot by the dart of pain, the second, more poisonous dart of mental anguish doesn’t arrive.

Experience with rapture (piti, satisfaction, glee) allows one to summon it, even if only a moderate level, and expand it within body-mind. Gently, piti may pervade the areas that are sore, tense, or aching. This piti can be soothing and healing; sure beats being dominated by the pain. While one applies whatever medical knowledge, skills, and resources are available, application of understanding and skills from anapanasati diminishes the fear and anguish, and may even drop them away entirely.

Cultivating familiarity with these practices will put one in good stead when more stressful and difficult situations arrive. As they inevitably will.

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