Post: Old Habits

Clear Lake from Nice, CaliforniaRecently I read a forum post by a piano teacher (and life coach), who said that it’s hard to leave old habits behind because of muscle memory. I agree with him that there is muscle memory involved, but at least as far as old habits in sitting, there’s also the panic of the suffocation response. Sooner or later, I begin to feel like the posture is affecting my ability to breathe, and there’s a certain anxiety associated with that. Knowing about the suffocation response helps me to realize how much I need to emphasize relaxation, if I want to overcome old habits.

Seated meditation has been described as “straightening the chest and sitting precariously” (1). Precariousness in posture also gives rise to anxiety, yet if calm prevails, precariousness can bring forward the senses behind the feeling of place in awareness.

In modern neurobiology, there’s a recognition that dysfunction in any of the senses connected with balance (equalibrioception, proprioception, graviception, and oculoception) can result in an out-of-body experience, and that the precise nature of that out-of-body experience will depend on exactly which sense is dysfunctional (2).

In some out-of-body experiences, the feeling of place associated with awareness occurs in two locations at once. Such a duality is a particular cause of distress to those who experience it, because the self is so closely identified with a singular feeling of place in awareness.

Our most intimate feeling of self, then, is a coordination of particular senses that gives place to awareness, and like the involuntary activity in the body that comes forward as I relax through the suffocation response, the involuntary activity of the particular senses involved in the experience of place comes forward as I find calm in the face of precariousness.



1) “Master Cheng’s Thirteen Chapters on T’ai-Chi Ch’uan”, by Cheng Man-Ch’ing, translated by
Douglas Wile, pg 21.
2) Blanke and Mohr, “Out-of-body experience, heautoscopy, and autoscopic hallucination of neurological origin Implications for neurocognitive mechanisms of corporeal awareness and self consciousness”, Brain Research Reviews, Volume 50, Issue 1, 1 December 2005, Pages 184-199.☞ A Natural Mindfulness–PDF