In. Out. In. Out.
For the past eight months, each observed in-breath and each observed out-breath has microscopically altered the trajectory of the consciousness I’ve called “I” for the past 55 years. Like many beginners, I sought something new. Instead, I’ve discovered the little-by-little losing of things old: old habits, old impurities, old expectations.
It’s been subtle to be sure. So subtle I might ask myself: “Was that little patch of me that just sloughed off, was that my precious pride or the rough edge of ego?” Sometimes, I have to squint to recognize the progress. Still, I’ve been delighted to rediscover that underneath my exterior scales lies my old clearer and kinder self, a hidden treasure trove of my basic goodness. Not yet observable to others perhaps, but real nonetheless.
Back again…and again…to this moment…then to this moment…then to this moment. This path of breath-observing has been challenging to my Western mind, accustomed more to reliving the past or pre-living the future. And yet back to the breath, I uncover both questions and gratitude. Currently, three questions arise:
- Who/What is this observer of the breath whom I call “I”?
- How can I become kinder, more compassionate?
- What about Right Livelihood?
Sometimes, gratitude responds to the questions; gratitude for this new exploration of reality, of mind. Gratitude for our Buddha Jewel Monastery founded a few years ago in one of our nation’s most racially, economically and religiously diverse neighborhoods; gratitude for our shifus and my classmates, for their commitment to sharing the Dharma; and gratitude for the Buddha.
With a beginner’s mind, I have few lessons to offer, but three steps have helped me with my path.
First, I journal my daily meditations. When my practice stalls, I persevere because a previous journal entry recalls the profound value of simply observing.
Second, I’ve begun a second meditation; some days–at work for 10-20 minutes—to cool the heat of the workaday world.
Third, I try to breath-observe while walking to and from work: In-In-In. Out-Out-Out. Three steps for each in-breath, three steps for each out-breath.
Breath-observing has launched me on a new space and time trajectory—more here, more now—than where I was headed only eight months ago. While I mostly observe my breath in solitude, I am drawn to meditating with others, either in the Monastery with classmates or at home with my wife. I believe this is because my consciousness isn’t so separate from others. This breath-observer whom I call “I” is interconnected with other consciousnesses, just as I’ve always deeply observed.
In. Out. In. Out.
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