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Abdominal Breathing Question

Al
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01/14/2010 - 8:30am
Abdominal Breathing Question
Hello Esther, I'm new here and I'd like to start by saying thank you for producing such an incredible book.  It really is wonderful. My question:  I'm a practicing zen buddhist in the Soto tradition where posture is VERY important.  I noticed a lot of parallels between how I was taught to physically sit in meditation and the recommendations in your book.  The other thing that is heavily emphasized in zen and in most other forms of spiritual disciplines in the east is breathing from the "Hara" or the lower abdomen.  This has the effect of keeping one relaxed and deepening the breath. I noticed in your book that you emphasized not keeping the abdominal region relaxed and instead breathing with the rib cage.  I was wondering if you could expand on this and possibly offer some advice to someone who wants to utilized your principles while at the same time staying true to the meditative tradition they were taught. Deep regards, Al
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09/10/2008 - 8:36pm
Hi Al, Glad to hear from you. I used to be a member of the Rochester Zen Center and did sesshin there and at Green Gulch so I'm familiar with meditation positions. A couple of points: 1. I teach the default condition for the abdominal muscles to be relaxed but toned - definitely not continually tensed. They get toned from being engaged in activities like lifting, running, twisting - any activity that might compress the spine. 2. Abdominal breathing as a practice is very valuable as it encourages deeper and more controlled breathing. I don't, however,  think it should be the default way of breathing. You can find more about my views on this elsewhere on the forum, for example at  http://gokhalewellness.com/forum So by all means follow the guidelines from your teachers as they know more about the relationship between breathing and the particulars of meditation. But when you are washing your dishes, etc. I think it is useful to breathe in a baseline way. Meditation certainly affects your daily activities (that's the point, I think), but it isn't everything you do...Hope this is helpful.
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