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Development, Decay and the Space Between

BuddhismIntegral Awakening admin-awakening-truth Tuesday, 09 November 2021 Hits
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I had the good fortune to attend Jayachitta’s movement meditation session where in a spirit of open inquiry and play, she effectively uses movement to accentuate our connection with our direct experience and each other. The title of this piece and the insights that follow were all inspired by her workshop. You can find out more about her work here: 


In North America, the sweet potatoes and pumpkins are ripe. Green grass is emerging on what has been a bone dry landscape. Shoots are emerging from the trees where the forest fires left their black charcoal charing signature. The deciduous trees leaves are falling.


For countires south of the equator it is Spring. For some, the weather is starting to warm up. Here in Hawaii, so close to the equator, there is much less oscillation in temperature than further north or south, yet I notice the turmeric leaves are dying back, and the pomegranates are ripe.


Wherever we are, we experience development and decay as a natural part of the cycle of life. It is all around us. It is also within.


Look at one breath cycle. The in-breath begins, fills, and then releases. The inhalation where there is filling and expansion, is the process that brings new oxygen to the body in the development phase. The exhalation, releasing the CO2, and collapsing the chest is the decay. One follows the other just like night follows day. As long as we breathe, we can see development and decay, rise and fall, uplift and release, expansion and contraction.


When we get curious and settled enough there is something else that becomes apparent. Right before the in-breathe begins, just after the inbreathe stops and before the out-breath begins, there is a pause, a space. Nothing is happening. More accurately, in the absence of expansion or contraction, there is a whole new thing to explore in which nothing is happening. Turning attention to this pause, the mind has no movement to watch, no shift in energy to notice. It is a portal. When there is enough steadiness, very quickly that absence of motion, absence of sensation, absence of change can allow the mind to rest, be still and know itself.


What does it mean the mind knowing itself? Here awareness relaxes from looking at something to noticing that which is noticing. This is a radical shift of orientation. Instead of me knowing it, the ‘me and it’ duality softens and then sometimes dissolves. This softening and dissolving is a type of letting go. When the next breath comes, it can come into a mind that has let go of identification with the subject. Without identification, the in-breathe is freed to be itself, like a dancer freed from self consciousness, and what remains is movement and flow. Then, after the completion of the in-breathe again, there is a moment of space and again, a moment where non-identification and rest are a little more available. Then exhalation.  With attention present, the out-breath is full, complete and lands in another place of rest, space, stop.  All of this can happen without a story about it.


This time of seasonal change is an opportunity to notice. What is asking for development? What is ending, dying back, taking on less prominence? Does it make you happy, sad, indifferent or tired? Is your inner experience in-sync or dissonant with the seasonal rhythm around you?  As you enter into this seasonal change, do you experience any space, place of rest, mystery? There is no right or wrong way to notice what you notice. Just an invitation to see what is alive for you now.


As we question what is present, there is wisdom in looking at nature’s example; look to the grass for an example of new growth,  to the fall leaves and turmeric as an example of dying back, letting go, falling. We would be wise to study the sky as a reminder of what it can be like when we stop taking the clouds too seriously, and wonder what it is like to trust vastness.


Sometimes our lives are filled more with one aspect of development, decay or space.  And yet in one full breath cycle, all are present. So the question becomes: is there a way to focus on the breath to bring balance, resilience and perspective at this moment? Then this moment? Then this moment?

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About the Author
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Amma Thanasanti is the founder of organizations Awakening Truth and Whole Life Path. She is a California born spiritual teacher dedicated to serving beings. She has been committed to awakening since she first encountered the Dharma in 1979. As a former Buddhist nun of 26 years, she combines the precision and rigor of the Ajahn Chah Forest Tradition and a passion for wholeness. Amma invites you to pause to see what is liberating at the core of your human condition while also considering your well-being, your ability to know and and advocate for successively complex needs and integrate these into all aspects of daily life.
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