Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tonglen


Maybe this blog is supposed to be about painting, but my, my do I find so many other things that relate to art!

So, this entire past weekend I suffered from a pretty bad tension headache. To keep it short, I have a lot of headaches, and also have problems sleeping. When I was younger, a school nurse told me I needed to breathe when I was in pain. I was never really told HOW to breathe, I just figured to do what I did naturally, but, well, more of it and deeper.

Well, as I said before, I have been reading another fabulous book by Pema Chodron called "Start Where You Are". Throughout this book, she talks about tonglen breathing. This is a type of breathing that Buddhists use not only to center themselves, but also to connect to pain.
Yesterday morning, at my wits end, I decided to try it. Sitting in my little bedroom at around 8 a.m, I closed my eyes, put my hands on my legs, and tried to breathe this way. What is so unusual about tonglen breathing is that when you inhale, you take IN the pain. Supposedly, this connects you to your own pain, as well as all the pain others are feeling at that moment. You breathe it in, and sit with it for a minute. You allow it to be with you and in you. Then on the exhale, you send peace and good thoughts OUT. This is almost like the prayer part of the breath. You send good energy to yourself and to all.
Ok, so you may be reading this post and rolling your eyes at my new-age-ness. But it dawned on my yesterday that all day long, especially when I am in pain or sadness, I breathe in the COMPLETE OPPOSITE WAY. I breathe in, almost like sucking air for survival, like a taking of sorts. Then I exhale and try to get rid of all the bad crap inside and put it out to the universe.

hmm. Inhale. Exhale. All. Day. Long.

So when I tried this new way of breathing, it was like trying to rewrite that one sentence that defines the whole plot of a book. It's hard. I had "monkey mind" for at least half of it (swinging from thought to thought like limbs of a tree). But I was nice to myself, didn't judge that I suck at this, and kept trying.
Within 30 minutes of doing this, my headache was gone, and I fell into one of the deepest, most-needed sleeps I have ever had.

Ok, it may have been too much oxygen to the brain. It may have been that I just stopped for the first time in a while. It may have been how I was sitting.... whatever. It doesn't matter. I was given an insight into something about me that I don't even NOTICE. Something so ingrained, I've been doing it blindly for almost 30 years.

So here is my dare to everyone reading this. You don't have to be new-age oriented. You don't have to be a Buddhist, or believe in anything else for that matter. But right now, pay attention not only to the rate in which you breathe, but HOW you breathe. Try ten breaths like what I mentioned. If you are not in pain, great! Then breathe in all the good you are feeling, and send it out to others too.

I feel like I should market this exercise in conjunction to some sort of cool breath mint.... what do you think? ;) Tonglen tingle mints???

What, you may be asking, does this breathing stuff have to do with art? Well, when I am painting at my best, I am not trying to be in any other moment than the one I am in. I accept the difficult passages I have to paint, the ones that nature has made confusing for me. I accept it, wish myself luck, and know that it's ok if I mess up. I let in the things I fear, rather than freaking out and telling myself "THERE IS NO WAY I CAN PAINT THAT! LOOK AT IT!". Usually when I just let myself be where I am, I paint like a ninja, if I don't say so myself. Unfortunately, the ninja part of me is a VERY little ninja that only comes out every once in a while.

I couldn't let you think I was getting too serious......

1 comment:

  1. I love it! breathing is super important and something that I've been working on lately too. It's amazing how much your mood can adjust if you just close your eyes and count out ten breaths. In my new line of work, I've found that whenever I start messing a lot of putts, I just stop for the ten breaths and afterwords it's like an entire new day. But, I've never tried it for falling asleep, will have to tonight!
    Thanks Mia!
    Dan M.

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