The Lessons of Breath

Breathing is a big part of meditation. I have yet to master it or understand it well. I see how it is used, I just am not there yet as a strong practitioner. It is so subtle, breath, yet imperative to life. Looking at Mindfulness has some nice reflections on breath and breathing in a chapter called, not surprisingly, Breath!

  • Breath teaches us about awareness. Our breath is invisible; we constantly forget it is there, but its role is vital – we have an absolute need to breath. Similarly, there are many things in our lives that we rely on but are unaware of.
  • Breath teaches us about dependence and fragility. Our need to breathe is even more clear and immediate than our other vital needs to eat, drink, love and be loved. Breath teaches us that we are dependent in many ways, and that these forms of dependence feed and develop us.
  • Breathe teaches us about subtlety. It is simultaneously inside and outside of us. It blurs the distinction between what is me and not-me.

    Seen through a glass not so dimly!

  • Breath teaches us about humility. Breathing is at once voluntary and involuntary, teaching us that we cannot control everything.
  • Breath teaches us about reality. Breathing is so important, yet breath has no identity of its own.

These are subtle lessons to be sure. But when you stop to think about all that breath can mean to us, and that it is ever present and available, it becomes this wonderful tool we can use in so many different places and with so many different applications.

More directly and obvious he talks about the resource that breath is. “Are you in pain? Breathe. Are you in distress? Breathe. Start by breathing. Then everything will become clear. Breathing does not change reality, but it does change how we experience it.”

One thing I love about this book is that it brings attention to so much of life and paints it with a new perspective. That is always useful.

Blind shadows

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