One of the joys of mindfulness meditation is coming to the realization that there is a refuge of peace, understanding and calm with you at all times. It’s one’s own body and breath. When one notices the mind catastrophizing, there’s the body to drop into: feet, butt, shoulders, jaw, breath. When the mind is reeling from a heavy emotion, there’s the breath in the belly to focus on. Breathing deep and slow, one begins to make friends with the feeling of the emotion itself, which aids in letting go of what the mind thinks it is. What’s happening is not what the response in the mind is, that can end up being a non-stop rerun reel, the reality of the emotion is the actual feeling in the body.
Even if there is an injury in the body, it’s still a refuge, as it’s there with you all the time. To come to that place of unpleasant sensation with the breath, to feel the sensation, to breathe with and through the sensation, one becomes friends with the actual reality of the situation. When doing this, knowledge rises and a calm abiding is born through acceptance and understanding.
As one’s practice continues to mature, there’s the simple pleasure, relief, and stability of residing in the breath. This elixir of life, ferrying energy throughout the body, provides a place of comfort, ease and spaciousness. With each moment, there is the ability to come to the breath, to notice what’s happening in reality at that time, to check in: “what is going on?” “what am I doing?” “how do I feel?” Stabilized in the moment while breathing in and breathing out, this reflection helps point the mind toward whatever the particular wholesome, kind, generous, loving response is called for in that situation.
No matter what, until the body gives out, there are these twin refuge points of body and breath. Coming back to the body, dropping in to visit the old friend, then turning attention to the breath over and over again throughout one’s life results in a collectedness of awareness, which leads to clearer seeing, which leads to deeper understanding, which leads to more skillful means in day to day living.