A little more than ten years ago, I sat in a clearing surrounded by Redwoods. The late morning mist dripped from their branches. I could feel the wetness on my skin. Not like my Tennessee home where the humidity covers you like a hot wet blanket. The California morning mist entered my lungs with each breath, fresh and cool. I could taste the forest loam flavor. I had come to this clearing to do a specific exercise as part of a class I was attending taught by Tom Brown Jr.
I sat on a log seat. My back was straight. My feet touched the ground. I tried to let my arms fall natuarlly to my sides with my hands uncrossed in my lap. I began the exercise. The first breath he called the Command Breath. I inhaled slowly and deeply, filling my lungs to capacity. I concentrated on putting all my stress, all my anxiety, all my fear, all my doubt…everything I needed to get out of my way into, that breath. I imagined the emotions and distractions becoming suspended in the air in my lungs. Then, I exhaled sharply pushing out all the air, now saturated with wase, out of my body. I tried to see the air rising up, dispersing all my crap into the pale cloudy sky.
Next, I began to concentrate on my feet. I took a breath in calm and relaxed, then tensed the muscles in my feet to quarter strength, just enough to feel the grip in the soles of my shoes and notice my feet were little cold and a little wet in the stiff leather. I let the breath out easily, relaxing my feet feel at the same time. The stress and tension flow our of them. I could feel the difference in my feet compared to the rest of my body. It was like slowly walking into warm pool. I breathed in again and tensed my ankles and calves, again to quarter strength, relaxing the muscles as I exhaled. Next, my knees and thighs all the way up my body even to my head, face and ears. This is the Body Segment Relaxation part of this exercise. The second step.
Then I imagined a star shinning in the blue-grey sky. It’s light shone down on me blue, a little warm and glistening in the thick fresh air. The blue light shone on my feet first and slowly spread up my body until my whole form glowed with this blue light. This is called the Blue Light Sequence.
I tried to avoid distracting thoughts. At this time in my life I was pretty young and ignorant to these kind of things. Song lyrics were a constant demon of distraction to me. As was thoughts of travel and distance. While these distractions never really go away, we can learn to turn down the volume to near inaudible levels.
Next in the exercise was called the Pain Sequence. This is taking a pain in your body and removing it. This is also body control. While it is optional and not always necessary, I went though it this morning because my muscle were sore. I don’t remember doing this part very well.
After the optional part, came the Body Position Sequence. I tried to notice and be very aware of my position, how my arms fell, how my legs sat, I noticed my posture. I took another deep breath in and tried to feel the weight of my body in gravity. I tried to feel how heavy my form sat against the log underneath me. I noticed the additional weight of my feet on the ground. This is called the Gravity. The next step is to reverse the feeling and feel weigh-LESS. Allow the sensation of floating in space the come upon you. I remember imagining our place in space, how the atmosphere starts where the ground stops. I imagined floating in the ether. This is the Weightlessness.
Finally I relaxed and took another deep breath in, again filling my lungs to capacity but with a bit more calmness that the beginning breath. This time I pushed everything that still held me back. I put all final doubt of questioning and stress into the air in my lungs. Once built up as much as I could, I exhaled sparply but calmly. He called this the Breath to Surrender. We give up and give over to the universe, to Spirit, to whatever our intention is from there.
I would later learn that the end of this “Long Form Meditiation” is only a starting point. There is no finish.