‘Linear breathing’ – De-fragmenting your flow of time

Integral Meditators,

Mindfulness could be thought of in some ways as a de-fragmentation process for your mind and attention. the article below explores how, specifically with reference to our sense of time.

In the spirit of de-fragmentation,


PS: Final call for those in Singapore for Meditations for creating a mind of ease, relaxed concentration and positive intention – A six week course beginning this Tuesday/Wednesday, and for the afternoon talk this Saturday  ‘How to develop your capacity for inner sight, and seeing inner worlds’

‘Linear breathing’ – De-fragmenting your flow of time

Often we hear of mindfulness in terms of being more present, less in the past and future, as if the present moment is something static or fixed. In reality however the present moment in time is an ever-changing flow, from this moment, to the next to the next. To stay ‘in the present’ from this point of view therefore means to keep with this ever-moving flow, rather than remain stuck statically in one place.

If we were to observe our mind for a period, often if not always we would see that our sense of time is fragmented or broken. Our mind leaps from something happening in the present to something that we are planning, to something that happened in the past, followed by something imagined in a non-linear stream-of-consciousness manner, often accompanied by anxiety, fear or stress. Experiencing time like this is like looking into a broken mirror; our reality appears in ‘bits’ and pieces’, as fragments, all jumbled together. This fragmentation adds to our anxiety and stress, as it makes our reality appear chaotic, unpredictable and uncontrollable.

One of the reasons that the breathing is such a good basic object of mindfulness is that it proceeds in a linear flow from past to present to future in a predictable, rhythmic manner. The breath of this moment was preceded by the breath of the previous moment, which looked quite a lot like it (!) The breath of the next moment will succeed this present one in a predictable manner in a steady stream, or flow.

When we start to practice mindfulness of the breathing, one effect is our sense of time starts to de-fragment, to heal and to come together as a linear flow, from this moment to the next in a steady, sane way. To practice what I call ‘linear breathing’ means to focus on the breathing from moment to moment in order to heal our fragmented sense of time. Using the predictable, linear flow of the breathing flowing from past to present to future, where we are always at the point of ‘this moment’ and ‘this breath’. By doing this our mind starts to settle down into a rhythm of calming linear time that is both relaxing, clarifying and strengthening.

Practicing linear breathing

Stage one: Observing fragmented time – Spend time watching your mind and becoming aware of how your present experience of time is broken up, chaotic and fragmented. Don’t try to fix it, just recognize it and see it. As you watch in this way you might also observe how these fragmented thoughts-in-time are also related to feelings and tensions in your physical body.
Stage two: Watching the linear flow of the breathing – Observe how the breathing progresses in a linear fashion, one after the other, from moment to moment, moving in a predictable, rhythmic flow from past to present to future. Allow your attention to follow the breathing, allowing your fragmented experience of time to start to heal and come together into a linear flow.
You can alternate between stages one and two several times in a single meditation. For example, you could spend five minutes on stage one followed by five minutes on stage two. Then you could return to stage one for five minutes, followed by another five minutes of stage two.
Stage three: Watching the non-linear flow of time from the stable flow of the linear breathing – a final stage involves watching the non-linear movement of your mind using the breathing as a rudder or anchor. Here you allow your mind to move more slowly, mindfully and contemplatively to thoughts of past and future in an organic way, whilst returning regularly to the breathing for stability.

© Toby Ouvry 2017, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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