Conscious practice

Moving my body is not enough for deep practice: consciousness of my breath is required. Without breath (it’s so much easier to say/write “breath”, but what I really mean is something that cannot be accurately spoken of…. something like… consciousness of what is inside the breath, which is consciousness itself)…. without breath my practice is bottom heavy. The axis of body — consciousness is overly weighted towards the body end of the spectrum.
Even worse, my ego gets a grip.
I can learn how to move, and that’s a real drag. For once I’ve learnt it, that piece of my mind gets its tentacles on the steering wheel and I lose consciousness of the truth (which is that I am agape at the edge of the great mystery with no idea what’s coming and at best just glimpsing the moment that is continually escaping us). That piece of my mind is the end of my peace of mind. Chatter chatter chatter it goes, while I flow, pump, come, fly, off into dreamland. Wtf?
When we first learn to dance our own dance, the experience of free movement is so radical that our internal dialogue gets swept away for a while and it’s relatively easy to find bliss. The rush of released energy makes us move pretty big and wild, so the breath comes in fuller than we’ve known, with no need for conscious choice. That incessant nagging shuts up, and for many people it’s the first time they’ve known inner silence in decades. But after a while it creeps back in, and before we know it we can dance our socks off whilst thinking about how great this all is, or whether that partner dance we just had was messed up, or what we’d like to cook for dinner.
We might choose to up the ante in order to recover that bliss. Try harder. More movement. A faster beat. Do a more ‘advanced’ workshop. Another ‘teacher’. Fuck it, let’s just take on a new practice altogether — this one isn’t working any more.
But add breath, and all that changes. The combination of physical movement and the silent presence inside the breath is too vast and internal dialogue is wiped out.
Not that it’s easy to pay attention to both polarities of body-movement and breath-consciousness. That piece of my mind is a ferocious training partner, leaping to the fray with seemingly boundless desire to sway me from the centre. It wants that steering wheel. It doesn’t want to die.
For whilst breath gives us life on a physical level, its spiritual medicine is death. Flowing is related to birth/body/feet, Stillness is related to death/consciousness/breath. Whereas Flowing gives us horizontal breadth, Stillness gives us vertical depth.
If I am conscious of the depth of my breath coupled with the expanse of my movement, then that piece of my mind is overwhelmed, pinned to the moment, unable to do anything other than pay attention. I am immediately slightly out of my depth, leaning over my edge, firmly back in the position of beginner. Consequently anything can happen — I may find myself suddenly in tears or outrageous laughter, I may find myself more powerful or more vulnerable than I believed possible, I may be confronted with utter emptiness, boredom or pain. That’s good practice. Until I forget again.
But just ‘breathe’, is not enough. It can become another way to try harder, and we move around the dance floor puffing and panting, exerting ourselves to breathe more passionately.
It’s not about the movement of air.
It’s about consciousness.
Just as the feet are the gateway to Flowing, the rhythm of the body, so the breath is the gateway to Stillness, the rhythm of consciousness itself. But it’s only the gateway. We have to walk through that gateway and imbibe what we find there. We have to find the pure empty consciousness that is inside the breath, and that means listening to the silence.
silence
 
Note: for a more complete picture of the way different aspects of the 5Rhythms maps intersect and cross-reference see the imagery here (desktop version only – a mobile display is too small), or read Maps to Ecstasy by Gabrielle Roth. 
With thanks to Lujan Matus, who opened this gateway so very much deeper. 

Moving my body is not enough for deep practice: consciousness of my breath is required. Without breath (it’s so much easier to say/write “breath”, but what I really mean is something that cannot be accurately spoken of…. something like… consciousness of what is inside the breath, which is consciousness itself)…. without breath my practice is bottom heavy. The axis of body — consciousness is overly weighted towards the body end of the spectrum.
Even worse, my ego gets a grip.
I can learn how to move, and that’s a real drag. For once I’ve learnt it, that piece of my mind gets its tentacles on the steering wheel and I lose consciousness of the truth (which is that I am agape at the edge of the great mystery with no idea what’s coming and at best just glimpsing the moment that is continually escaping us). That piece of my mind is the end of my peace of mind. Chatter chatter chatter it goes, while I flow, pump, come, fly, off into dreamland. Wtf?
When we first learn to dance our own dance, the experience of free movement is so radical that our internal dialogue gets swept away for a while and it’s relatively easy to find bliss. The rush of released energy makes us move pretty big and wild, so the breath comes in fuller than we’ve known, with no need for conscious choice. That incessant nagging shuts up, and for many people it’s the first time they’ve known inner silence in decades. But after a while it creeps back in, and before we know it we can dance our socks off whilst thinking about how great this all is, or whether that partner dance we just had was messed up, or what we’d like to cook for dinner.
We might choose to up the ante in order to recover that bliss. Try harder. More movement. A faster beat. Do a more ‘advanced’ workshop. Another ‘teacher’. Fuck it, let’s just take on a new practice altogether — this one isn’t working any more.
But add breath, and all that changes. The combination of physical movement and the silent presence inside the breath is too vast and internal dialogue is wiped out.
Not that it’s easy to pay attention to both polarities of body-movement and breath-consciousness. That piece of my mind is a ferocious training partner, leaping to the fray with seemingly boundless desire to sway me from the centre. It wants that steering wheel. It doesn’t want to die.
For whilst breath gives us life on a physical level, its spiritual medicine is death. Flowing is related to birth/body/feet, Stillness is related to death/consciousness/breath. Whereas Flowing gives us horizontal breadth, Stillness gives us vertical depth.
If I am conscious of the depth of my breath coupled with the expanse of my movement, then that piece of my mind is overwhelmed, pinned to the moment, unable to do anything other than pay attention. I am immediately slightly out of my depth, leaning over my edge, firmly back in the position of beginner. Consequently anything can happen — I may find myself suddenly in tears or outrageous laughter, I may find myself more powerful or more vulnerable than I believed possible, I may be confronted with utter emptiness, boredom or pain. That’s good practice. Until I forget again.
But just ‘breathe’, is not enough. It can become another way to try harder, and we move around the dance floor puffing and panting, exerting ourselves to breathe more passionately.
It’s not about the movement of air.
It’s about consciousness.
Just as the feet are the gateway to Flowing, the rhythm of the body, so the breath is the gateway to Stillness, the rhythm of consciousness itself. But it’s only the gateway. We have to walk through that gateway and imbibe what we find there. We have to find the pure empty consciousness that is inside the breath, and that means listening to the silence.
silence
 
Note: for a more complete picture of the way different aspects of the 5Rhythms maps intersect and cross-reference see the imagery here (desktop version only – a mobile display is too small), or read Maps to Ecstasy by Gabrielle Roth. 
With thanks to Lujan Matus, who opened this gateway so very much deeper.