April 7, 2009

Review: Your Breathing Body, Vol. 1 & 2 (Reginald Ray, Ph.D.)

In his 2008 book, Touching Enlightenment, Reggie Ray proposes moving meditation out of the head and down into the body, going so far as to say that enlightenment isn’t possible unless meditation takes on a somatic component.  In the two volume set, Your Breathing Body, Ray takes that information and applies it to an outstanding audio learning course.  Your Breathing Body is split into two volumes, one encompassing beginning practices, while volume two is designed for more experienced meditators, especially those familiar with volume one.

Ray’s style of presentation and teaching is incomparable.  His natural warmth, sense of humor, and relaxed manner make his work eminently approachable without it being “dumbed down” or coming across as New Age claptrap.  Yet at the same time, there is a definite sense of direction and discipline offered in the course that help to guide the listener forward in personal development.  Ray’s method of somatic meditation creates a shift not only in how one meditates but in what one gets out of it.  I’ve been meditating for a few years now, and found a definite change in my awareness not only of my body, but in the world around me after only a few sessions into the program.  The course itself is designed for multiple listenings, with the idea inherent that the listener is able to go back and repeat sections as desired and/or necessary, individualizing the program while enabling the listener to have it available over and over again, regardless of day or time.  Ray suggests that if one practice happens to resonate, then stick with it as long as necessary; conversely, he also states that if one particular practice doesn’t sit particularly well, rather than force the issue, instead come back to it later, trusting personal intuition as to when particular lessons are appropriate and when they are not.  This is probably the hardest part of the whole course: trusting oneself.  According to Ray, self-trust, especially trusting one’s own body, is not an easy thing for those in Western society to do.  Euro-American culture teaches to mistrust the body, not to really listen to it nor to trust it.  As a result, Your Breathing Body is a course in culturalized counterintuitiveness; one that is sorely needed.  The 20 cds in the complete set (10 cds per volume) range from shorter 45 minute classes to instruction lasting well over an hour.  Each cd includes discussion around various concepts as well as guided meditation practices, beginning with the second cd.  The meditation practices that begin with the second cd range from just over 12 minutes to almost 40 minute sessions.  Think of this set as a retreat taught by one of the top meditation teachers in the world with the advantage of repeating sections or the whole retreat at will and with only having to pay for it once.  Sounds True offers each volume individually or as a two volume set along with the hardcover book (do yourself a favor and buy the complete set including the book… it’s worth it).  Available from Sounds True and your local, independent bookstore.

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