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Control And Breath During Conscious Mental Rest

by Sasha
(Tel-Aviv, Israel)

Sasha asks about the correct practice of Conscious Mental Rest in respect of feeling in control, and also about being aware of her breath and breathing ing rhythms during CMR, and whether this is okay.

So the point now is whether I'm doing OK with my CMR practice, or continue making mistakes by not letting my mind really relax. This is more or less what I meant to ask in my second question.

I can think of two aspects of "not relaxing".

The first one is a general feeling that I still remain in control of the situation. Though I generally succeed surprisingly well in having little *explicit* thinking during CMR, I am aware of the state I'm in. I assume that is has much to do with the expectations to reach that "special" state (that you wrote me about its possible non-existence). These expectations lead to analysing my current state and asking myself (again, probably without explicit thoughts or words) whether "I'm there". I assume that this characteristic of remaining control pretty much characterizes me - it isn't easy to completely let go.

The second aspect of remaining in control, is that issue of breath - about which you asked me to elaborate.
I think both are correct - I both remain in actual control of my breathing (it doesn't happen "automatically"), as well as keeping noticing it. So, some awareness always remains attracted to the process of breathing. I think it is similar to some other meditation techniques, where one is given specific instructions about how to breathe and concentrates attention on the process.

I'm unsure whether the following is related, but it is perhaps relevant to understand myself:
I have a habit which some may consider weird. While walking, I am often aware to the sort-of rhythm created by my footsteps, as if it is the background beat giving a rhythm for some song (usually dividing it to fours, as in most modern songs). During my CMR sessions, I noticed that I often give attention to my breathing, and sometimes even tend to unintentionally keep dividing it to fours, just like I do with my steps while walking...

Hope it makes sense.

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Gavin answers:

Sasha, with regard to analysing everything, as they say in the US: Enough already! :-)

However, I do appreciate your desire to fully understand what is happening and how it might affect the results you obtain from your daily sessions of Conscious Mental Rest. So I will try to clarify.

Firstly, there is no 'state' you need to get to. So forget about that idea. Your intention should simply be to allow your mind to rest, that's all. When you are being aware of what state you're in, or how your mind is resting, and so on, you are in effect thinking, though perhaps not explicitly in words.

Nonetheless, your attention is related to what is going on. That can in turn lead to other thoughts and into explicit thinking and a whole lot of analysis and wondering and speculating -- am I doing this correctly? Is it working for me? What happens next? Will my mind go blank? Will I experience something unusual?

That is all thoughts and thinking. As with any other thought during CMR, when you realize that you are engaged in thinking, that your attention is caught up in something, shift your attention back to the comfort zone and let go. That's all. Simple. And if it happens again, shift your attention again. There is nothing else to 'do' during CMR; nothing to wonder about. If you do just that, you cannot get it 'wrong'.

Breathing: With regard to the breathing, again, this is where your attention seems to be going during your CMR sessions. Consider the focus on your breathing, and the slipping into conscious rhythms with it, as being like any thoughts or sounds you may have during CMR. When you become aware that your attention is caught up in or attracted to your breathing and its rhythms, disengage by bringing your attention back to the comfort zone, and letting go.

Remember what was said in the course materials: thoughts and the like are part of the process, stirred by the activity going on in the system as stresses get released. It's part of that washing machine cycle I mentioned in the course. We don't bother about thoughts that come and go. Likewise, we don't bother about our breathing. It just happens. We allow it.

But, when we become aware that we are giving our attention to it (thoughts, sounds, breathing, etc.) that's our cue to come back to the comfort zone again and let go. Each time we do that, the mind is given the opportunity to let go of thinking and to move inwards towards more subtle states of awareness.

I know this may sound frustrating, or a non-technique technique. We are so accustomed to having to 'do' something to get results that it feels strange to be told to do virtually nothing. But that is how falling asleep at night happens. We set up the right conditions and let go ... and the mind takes us out of the waking state into sleep. It's something like that with CMR. We set up the right conditions, and the mind takes us from a superficial level of thinking to subtler and subtler levels. Yet, unlike sleeping, we remain awake while this takes place.

I hope this helps.

~ Gavin

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