I heard from a couple people that it was too hard to alternate nostrils without using fingers.

Then I found a drop-in beginners Yoga class near where we’re staying in Texas. The first teacher told us to use the “Sun and Moon Breath.” And she demonstrated by using her fingers to close first one nostril and then the other. “Oops,” I thought, “better send an addendum telling people to use their fingers. After all, here’s a bona fide Yoga teacher saying to use fingers.”

Then we went to the second class, with a different teacher. She told us to breathe with alternate nostrils using just our awareness. I bit the insides of my cheeks to keep from laughing out loud. Alternate nostril breathing is everywhere around me, in every form possible!

Please, take everything I say as a suggestion. Use it in any way that suits you. Use your fingers if that works, use just your awareness if that works.

There are two reasons I’m suggesting these different breathing techniques. One, we are all working to change our habitual patterns of thinking and acting. We want to let go of those patterns that no longer serve us, and create new patterns that more closely reflect the truth of who we can be. The fundamental pattern of our life is the pattern of our breath. Become aware of your habitual way of breathing, interrupt that pattern, and replace it with a way of breathing that allows for expansion. Change the pattern of your breathing, and you’ll change other patterns with more ease.

The second reason for using these breathing techniques is the one I mentioned in newsletter #7. I know how easy it is for my thinking to butt into any space I create. If I can focus some of my awareness on my breath, then my thinking may be placated and thus be less likely to take control. With part of my awareness on my breath, I can notice when my thinking wants to take over, and release it by returning to my breath.

With my thinking (my first attention) at ease, my insight (my second attention) has more freedom to expand. For myself, I found that using my awareness to alternate nostrils was more effective in keeping my thinking from butting in than using my fingers was.

Find what works best for you.

By the way, someone asked me about the terms first and second attention. I’m pretty sure I learned them from don Juan and don Carlos.

You may be familiar with the Don Juan books written by Carlos Castaneda: The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge was published in the late ’60s. I read it then, and read many of his other books as they became available. There were many.

I was fascinated with those books, although I’m not sure I understood them very well. Which means I’m not sure I use the terms in the way Castaneda did. Maybe I made up my own meaning. Which is: I think of “first attention” as my active, conscious, self-identified mind. My “second attention” is my less conscious, intuitive, less known mind.

Maybe it’s time to go back and read the don Juan books again, see if they make any more sense to me now. There must be hundreds of them in used bookstores.

Someone wrote:

I’m breathing and drinking lots of water (green tea, too). I am feeling better in many ways and probably in ways I don’t even know. Thank you for your help!

That phrase, “and probably in ways I don’t even know” brings to mind a question. I found this Yoga studio just down the street from the State Park where we’re staying. I found it by wandering into a pottery store, which I normally wouldn’t do. After all, what use is pottery to us in a 240 sq. ft. trailer where anything breakable breaks? For some reason I didn’t understand, it was important to me to go into that store. For once, I didn’t argue with myself. That’s where I found a flyer for the yoga studio.

Not only did I find their flyer, but they had drop-in classes for beginners. And, will wonders never cease, I actually called them up and went to a class. And this is no surprise, Deb and I both love the yoga classes. Lots of breathing! I’m happy to find that the Yoga practice is helping me meet some goals I had for myself unrelated to physical exercise.

Here’s the question: what is the connection between my Breath and Water practice and finding the yoga class? If I hadn’t been breathing and drinking water, would I have found the yoga studio? Would I have gone into that pottery store? Would I have called them up and gone to that first yoga class?

I suspect, actually I feel quite confident, that there is a direct cause and effect relationship between my Breath and Water practice and finding yoga, which, as it turns out, is just what I wanted. Now I have even more incentive to keep breathing and drinking water. Who knows what else I’ll find?