As a long-time meditator, I have trained in noticing the beginning and ending of a breath, again and again. One technique that helps sustain the attention is to closely observe the middle of the breath, and to the gap that is often there at each end of the in and out parts of each breath.
So now we have beginning-middle-end-gap-beginning-middle-end-gap, and with any luck, it starts up all over again!
Inevitably the mind wanders off to fantasy, memory, planning, and a myriad of other mental activities. This is a different kind of “middle,” the space between mindful awareness and being lost.
Recently my nephew and I got lost taking a walk in his neighborhood of curved, winding streets. Absorbed in our conversation, it took awhile for us to notice, just like in meditation it may take awhile before we notice our attention has wandered. What to do in that moment?
Living in a culture of constant assessment and criticism, it can be easy to get lost in questioning and doubt: Why didn’t we bring a cell phone? Why don’t you know your address? Why didn’t we pay better attention? Why did I let my mind wander off the breath?
A better idea? Celebrate the moment of awakening and begin again! We’re lost; how will we find our way home? What resources are available (a vague memory of the street name, yard workers and neighbors, the confidence that family will come looking if we’re gone too long)? And, oh, I lost the breath; how wonderful to notice. I wonder, where is it now—beginning, middle, end?
And on it goes….
Photos: Sunset over Gulf of Mexico at Redington Beach, Florida