Using the benefit of insight observation I determined that deepening the breathing was purposeful. However where my meditation was concerned it had a detrimental effect because it blunted my awareness and hence my insightfulness, my mental vision of my heart muscles and as I had a great deal of clarity the change became very obvious. My high level of awareness was lost and the vision in my mind became blurred. However it had a seemingly beneficial effect with respect to the annoying thoughts, which I did not appreciate then were indicating danger. I was doing what all people do, and that is to seek a comfort zone. I realized as I read over my notes that a comfort zone is really nothing more than a zone of mental fuzz. We overcome the unpleasant thoughts that give rise to our emotional reactivity in our body and the unpleasantness that we experience but at a cost. I could see that deepening the breath affected awareness but I still did not understand why. Then I read another note that I had made. "I can control the heart problems by staying with the fear" I had jotted down in the margin. And below it "not trying to escape it". I remembered that I did this to try and decipher the thoughts and what was wrong. In holding this attitude I pondered about it now. I was over-riding the habit of seeking a comfort zone, lessening it whenever it arose, by staying with the fear. I realized also that this must have helped me overcome any worry because until I deciphered the thoughts it was no use trying to think over a solution.
Why, I now wondered, would breathing deeper create mental fuzz? Could it in some way relate to panic? I used the current conditions that I had at my disposal to investigate this matter further. I only needed to slightly irritate my husband with musings of leaving him for him to react so as to use the “evil conditions” or in other words call over his gun-carrying individuals and have them hover around outside. When that is all that they did the threat was mild so the conditions in my body that I had to deal with were also only mildly unpleasant. Each time I had a ten minute time interval in which to begin meditation and establish a baseline of high level awareness because it took about 10 to 15 mins for the criminals to arrive outside from the time he had called them. So I was able to notice the thoughts of danger as they appeared suddenly and briefly and then just as abruptly disappear as the habit of deepening the breath took over. And I might add here that the fear react in my body didn't go away, it was simply no longer associated consciously with the thoughts that ignited it and kept it going. Another important thing to note too was that the nasty thoughts, such as "be sorry if leave here" and "don't know what's out there" came from my husband. Notice that the way they were presented made them look like my thoughts and not as presented ideas. And furthermore as time went on and I was more prepared to be aware of the danger conditions, I was able to perceive people approaching before they were close enough for me to hear the noise of their car engines as they came up the hill. Since I could do all this I thought at the same time that I could not only observe the habit but also train myself to overcome it. And as time went on I only needed to made stronger hints at leaving for my husband to step up his threatening stance. And then I noticed that the ideas that came were not only of my husband's presentations but also snippets of the dialogue between the criminals, as in "is he going to give us a go ahead this time". I had taken some protective measures though. I had a carpenter build a massive wooden door to my bedroom with two bolt on it, top and bottom. So unless I went outside I was safe. Even so the reality of having people with guns outside, especially that were there at my husbands invitation and whom he could bring inside the house was most certainly frightening, especially when at the time I did not know what counter measures I could take. Nonetheless I needed just such a range of real conditions of danger to work with, from mild to moderate. And with one hundred thousand hours or more of meditation experience under my belt I was well positioned to conduct the experiments that I needed to do.
In the second experiment I allowed myself to seek a comfort zone or in other words to run away from and avoid the fear. In this experiment I was able to observe the effects of the comfort zone habit over the top of what I now knew was the basic conditions and processes in my body, the fear. The habit was still largely automatic despite the years of meditation but only while I was unsuspecting of what was happening or when I allowed it to happen. No doubt without the meditation that I had done over the years this habit would have been much more serious.
As the coping habit took a hold I saw how my higher level of my awareness was abruptly lowered because my attention was affected. I then took two lines of action. Sometimes I tried to reduce the breathing and I did achieve a higher level of awareness and the re-appearance in mind of the danger thoughts, but this path was difficult and not always reliable. The other method was not to try and control my breathing at all but rather to restore my concentration on my mantra, I regained attention more easily and more reliably and hence recovered the higher levels of awareness. When my higher level of awareness was restored, I noticed that my breathing had returned to being subtle, excited and even again. It returned to this state without any effort from me. And as breathing returned to normal and my awareness expanded, the thoughts reappeared. I could observe how the thoughts appeared, disappeared and reappeared again with the changes to my breathing. I did not purposefully think the thoughts again, I simply had recovered full awareness of them. So what affected my awareness. The changes I had noticed again and again were changes to my breathing. Did this affect attenion and if so how? I needed to know how changes in my breathing could be associated with my attention level. And then I did another experiment. I purposely held my breath to prevent the deeper breathing and strangely enough I found that here again the level of attention was affected. What was going on?
I had an inspiration to return to the original exercise of observing the calf muscle. I thought I was doing this to hone my skill even more. I started to do some walking meditation and I suddenly observed both the activity in the muscle but also activity in various parts of my brain and I saw that as distraction. So I sat on my cushion and tried to observe the calf muscle at rest. I noticed a small amount of activity and again I noticed activity in my brain in the same areas. I had done this exercise a number of times and then one day unexpectedly as I sat focused on the calf muscle I sensed danger and fear arose in my body. And I noticed then, that when the breathing was deepened there was increased activity in my calf muscle. I was in a deep meditative state and had also concentrated on areas in my brain as I did to glimpse the early conditions of fear. But what I noticed was that the thought activity had not really disappeared. They had only become weaker signals, far weaker than all the other neural activity taking place. I realized that my brain rationalizes its fuel materials and to accommodate those areas that need it the most. This was now areas in my brain that were needed to facilitate the changes in metabolic activity, not only in the calf muscle but the entire skeletal musculature, that is all the muscles in our body that are associated with moving the body. Fear also involves a great deal of neural activity but it specifically heightens perception and the senses. The new activity however did not include this effect. Rather it caused disruption. Thus I realized that it was not my awareness that was being affected directly but my attention and primarily because the signals were now far weaker and sometimes too weak to keep in focus.
To try and give an illustration, let's say our attention is like light focus.. like having a torch in our hands. If we enter a dark room and hold the torch steady we see clearly what was hidden by the darkness. If however we wave it about vigorously we get an incomplete picture. In this same way when the brain activity was increased my level of attention was affected, enough for me to loose the unpleasant thoughts from consciousness (awareness).
I might also say here that ordinarily thoughts arise and fade away again when they are not relevant and not significant because we give them no value. When thoughts simply arise and fade away again there is no flow on effect in the body, no emotional reactivity. The person’s high level of awareness remains undisturbed. And the body remains tranquil, operating without disturbances. In contrast we cannot dismiss thoughts that are highly relevant or significant in some way, particularly we cannot attribute 'no value' to thoughts that indicate danger. We are simply "not wired" to do that. Thus if the thoughts that arise point to such matters as danger that is inexplicable we seek to avoid them, we use denial. This method does not allow the body to become tranquil. When the breathing is deepened more oxygen is absorbed by the blood and that triggers the body to move into higher gear, higher metabolic states and specifically in the skeletal musculature, which means the body is working harder than it is required to do in ordinary states of activity as in everyday life. The other method of lowering the attention moves the body into lower than ordinary states of activity.
It is also worth mentioning that I have made another finding, much earlier when I was practicing insight meditation originally, I found that in reality there is no real subconscious (and possibly also not true unconscious). It is all a matter of attention. If we hold the attention steady, ie we concentrate then we can remain fully aware of all the thoughts /perceptions in the mind. All of the bodily structures and functions etc., that I am able to observe are not observed by some miraculous means. All I am doing is holding the attention steady, by steadfast concentration I am able to bring whichever particular aspect I wish to observe into focus. In some sense we are aware of them all, even though they exist in a nebulous form within the mindstuff, but we don't remain attentive to them. We don't need to be attentive to them all of the time. We tend to be attentive to novel things, changes, anything that looks interesting, different, new and anything that might need our attention.
At the time that I first used insight meditation I didn't understand why I was stressed. Now I understood what was being done behind my back and I found that remarkably I was able to have a much greater amount of control over the habit. It made me appreciate that the neural pathways that are forged in our brains due to experience can be modified or removed fairly easily with more awareness of the thoughts that we would otherwise have shunned. I could override the coping habit when I had knowledge. That "ah ha" experience that is talked about is much more powerful than we at first appreciate. It meant that I was able to bring the habit under my conscious control as a first step to eliminating it. These experiments, and particularly overcoming of the comfort zone, unbeknown to me at the time, were to be enormously significant in my life some years later, I was able to avert, on several occasions, serious and indeed potentially lethal heart problems because I had done this work!
It is important to say here that if you meditate you will observe that there are never a lot of different thoughts in your mind all at once. Sometimes it feels as if there is a jumble but when you can focus on what there is you will always find a thought stream or a train of thoughts. Each thought arises out of the void and returned into the void again before the next one appears. Indeed when you choose to observe some aspect of your body or some activity in your body, what you are doing is calling forth the relevant thought forms/ ideas out of an undifferentiated state, which we can call "emptiness" and bring them into a state of definition. Holding a mantra is using the defined thought forms that define the mantra to the exclusion of all other activity. And it is possible to experience expanses when there is no other activity in the mind. The mind stuff is like a huge matrix of possibilities that underpin the whole of creation. All of the body’s activities are immediately preceded by thought forms or we could call them "packets of information" that arise out of the mindstuff and become defined, but we are not normally aware of them at the precise moment that this happens because our minds are not focused but distracted with a lot of other things. The realization of there being thought forms or "packets of information" arising just prior to each and every action that we do was a crucial observation that enabled me to create and use mental precriptions. Changes in the body can only be brought about by changes in the mindstuff and that means the choosing and twigging of information. It is not some mysterious energy that has some magical effect on body structures or functions as many New Age healers are selling to the public. What is even more important is that self-prescribed and self-administered mental prescripitions are the absolute tools to deal with your health -with 100% results, satisfaction guaranteed. In most cases, no need of doctors. I have successfully battled very bad conditions and gained fantastic results without a doctor in sight, not even through a telescope, and for seven years now!