breathing cycle

31 05 2010

I’ve had a few observations of breathing while conducting meditation. Whether one attends to breathing in, breathing out, or the turning point between them. The texts (eg Foundation of Mindfulness Sutra) generally emphasise the process of breathing in and breathing out, rather than the turning points.

I relate this to cyclic systems such as classic central heating, with boiler and pipes and radiators and thermostats. In the cycle of regulation, which do we emphasise? We can think that the thermostat is the deciding point, but it is merely responding to the temperature change brought about through the heating of the air via the metal of the radiators. Or the chicken and egg, which came first, or in terms of the individual or social when considering change dynamic.

It all depends on where one puts one’s mind in the process. Let’s relate this to counting.

Had a very interesting chat with Esther, and when exploring XQ’s side to counting as a thought experiment, Esther took ten or fifteen minutes to finally recognise that the answer was the first thing that popped into her head — but she dismissed it because it was so obvious. (I love that:)

If counting is something to do with our internal processes (not the sheep counted, but the processing in our head), as Phil outlined, there are two aspects: temporal and distinction. That is, time and mind. So, when we count, we count the difference between one and two and three, differentiated through time. Beat, rhythm, etc, the basis for music… the pattern in time. Hence the relationship of maths to music.

So, when it comes to counting breaths, do we count at the turning point of in-breath to out-breath, or out-breath to in-breath. In the cycle, which do we place the point of distinction from another round of the cycle?

This goes for breathing, as if goes for a lot of things. Consider any cycle, and consider the point which you hook the mind so that one unique cycle can be distinguished from any other. There’s a lot of space between the labels of the events, all of which are necessary and causal in the cycle. (Including cycles that are oppositional, from p to not-p. If we reinforce the not-p, we are conspiring a negative state, whereas if we reinforce the p, we are conspiring a positive state. When really, we need to do both. At least, that’s what the buddhist approach suggests.)

This may sound academic, but it isn’t. When people talk about reading from the same page, we’re talking about being in synch. XQ is in a completely opposite phase to standard application of maths. There’s no point trying to communicate XQ to someone who wants to remain in the phase of normal maths… it just won’t make sense. I wonder if Brian Rotman is going to make sense of this? I think I am approaching the time when a review of his book might be useful.

The simple take-away here is, breathing cycles and counting, and how mind distinguishes difference in time.

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One response

4 07 2010
Leon Conrad

Where does a wave turn between ebb and flow?
Can you capture the point between night and dawn, the precise point at which the sun travels through the portal of night to illumine day?
Look at a sleeping child or animal, and you may well notice something different about the rhythm.
As I wrote this comment, I reflected on my reflections on breathing and enjoyed the mental cross-rhythm of being aware physically of the cycle of breath, but mentally, imagining the point at which the O2 / CO2 balance tipped at the middle of the cycle.
I thought of the Ancient Egyptian distinction between Osirian and Horian ways of looking at the setting and rising sun – and the fact that the ratio of their relationship is never equal.
I smiled. I was inspired.

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