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Extra Body Breath Exercises
My first and central advice is always meditate experimentally to avoid closed mindedness ... and only do any exercise if it is interesting or enjoyable, because the practical question is : how to meditate in a pleasurable and thus self generating, self perpetuating way, so that we want to repeat it.
Focussing and concentrating on a beautific image, a new lover, anything awesome, is easy. But i find focussing single pointed on something which has no emotional or spiritual meaning, is pointless and i get bored. I don't enjoy meditating with concentration and will power, maybe you do.
There are so many different needs people have and so many different forms of meditation, but there seems to be a basic choice, we can either
a) use will power, disipline and concentration, or
b) develop a meditation sequence, to give us something slow but interesting to do.
The sequence i use these days - head arms legs torso - is good for comparisons - the head, arms and legs all similar structures, nerves for feeling the outside world, hard at the ends. Compare how all the little bones in the hands feel, to how it feels in the neck, as though an animal might imagine around ten little thin bones running through the neck. Then the central part, the torso, surrounded by hard shoulders rib-cage, hips with softness in the middle.
To explore all the relative degrees of 'blubber'. Compare the feel of the intestines to the lungs and the sheets of muscle in the lower back, and the thigh muscle.
A FLEXIBLE ROUTINE
I have a number of different exercises which have developed over the years. I use them flexibly, meditation develops and changes each time i do it. I find the element of creativity (instead of a fixed routine) keeps me interested, so i enjoy doing it, so then it is self perpetuating, i.e. i repeat it and enjoy repeating it.
I wouldn't generally advise continually repeating the same routine, not straight away, because then the possibility of needing will power to concentrate arises, - but it alll depends on the individual.
My basic sequence is : Breathing in conscious. Breathing out letting go (or relaxing). Breathing in conscious of the belly, breathing out letting go of the belly.
As a basic exercise combining being aware of all the little fingers and toes to all the big fingers and toes. Sometime later, it's a whole new dimension to go through the spaces inbetween the fingers where all the soft parts are.
When you've more time and motivation, - going through the vertebrae in the spinal column is invigorating, and going through the spaces between the vertebrae is the next step.
IMAGINATION HEALING continued
Healing can involve imagining colours or sounds inside and around your body. Or imagining someone you love and trust laying their hands on your body, or even feeling inside your body, imagine being massaged. Imagine inserting acupuncture needles, or anything you have found to be helpful in practice. Then there's the childhood fantasy of hundreds of little people working in your body, get them working again. But there's one specific subect.
It is outside the scope of this site but i find this worth noting. Most people agree that there must be some sort of electrical bio-magnetic lines swirling around such a complex chemically active neurological system as the human body. I find most ways of proving this are suspect. But among 20 people who i've asked: "If there is a bio-magnetic energy round your wrist, which way would the energy go round?", everyone answers the same, without more than a seconds thought.
So, ask yourself and your friends - and see if they all agree ... The stomach-belly area seems to have a predominant direction, but mainly i find it appropriate and healthy to imagine energy going round both ways at the same time, swirling around my body, sometimes like double helixes.
THE WHOLE BREATH BODY (Buddhism)
I experience a clear distinction between my outside body, and my breath body - the inside feeling under my skin. So the idea of "the whole breath body" makes perfect sense to me.
There is a valuable passage right at the beginning of the Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna, in Section 1. "Breathing In and Out". The original translation is wonderfully unclear about if body or breath is intended, or if the two are infact intrinsically connected as in my experience of getting bigger and smaller.
The first German translation from the 1890s was translated in English as follows. " 'Conscious of the whole (breath-) body. I shall breathe in', thus he trains himself. 'Conscious of the whole (breath-) body. I shall breathe out', thus he trains himself." (1962 - page 130)
A modern translation by U Jotika & U Dhamminda (1986)
"Aware of the whole breath body, I shall breathe in", thus he trains himself; "Aware of the whole breath body, I shall breathe out", thus he trains himself.
This "whole breath body" idea is lost in all other modern translations which give just "whole body' or 'entire body". (More info on translations and Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna References).