One of the most challenging aspects about life as a human being is the sense of tightness, stress and the oppressive solidity we feel whenever we constrict around our emotions - especially those that are afflictive, like fear, anxiety, anger and loneliness. As we all know, we generally can't make those emotions disappear. They have a life of their own and are not very easily convinced to move on. However, what we CAN do is use our exhalations to put space around them and to breathe space THROUGH them, until they feel more light and transparent. Many of the world's great spiritual traditions identify Spirit or Divinity with breath or wind, and this realization can aid us in our quest to find greater tranquility.
In addition, vistas - either imagined or physically present - that include vast, wide-open spaces are an essential element in the calming of our emotions. National Parks and Wilderness Areas provide exactly this kind of healing, and that is one of the major reasons why they were originally set up. I love standing on a mountain peak or mesa top - like here, in this photo, at Canyonlands National Park - and just gazing out across seemingly endless miles of open wilderness. I find this experience so transformative that I've included imagining such vistas as a major element of Wilderness Insight Meditation. Here, we use awareness of our exhalations to "mix mind with space," as some Tibetan meditation teachers put it. We bring up an image of a vast landscape, allow our attention to melt into it, and let go. Then, whenever a thought or emotion arises, we gently label it "echo, echo," and imagine that it is arising from far, far away - echoing like intriguing coyote or raven calls in canyon country - yet having NO original sound as its source!
Photo: The La Sal Mountains and miles of canyons, buttes and mesas, Canyonlands National Park, UT, November 30, 2015
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.