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The Breath’s Essence is the Essence of the Stars

From Steve:

We often hear the phrase “body, mind, spirit”.  Many teachers of Dharma,  and a whole industry of holistic wellness, remind us to reconnect into a deep relationship with these three elements alive in us.  As practitioners ofmindfulness, we rediscover awareness of the penetrating grace of our bodies, as they grow, mature and decline.  And we develop the skill of awareness of the luminescent clarity hidden in the mind, the tarnishing clouds of habit energies and the transitory nature of thoughts, feelings, judgments and expectations.  The word “spirit”, though, is a bit mysterious and evokes many teachings flowing in many directions.

Words sometimes get lost and need to be resurrected.  One characteristic of our practice is its precision.  And it is helpful to come to a precise meaning of key words that inform our practice.  Spirit comes from the Latin root word spiritus – breath.  For many ancients, breath was the life force inhabiting the body. Today we still know the breath is essential from the moment after birth until the moment of our passing.  Will you permit me to introduce more clarity by saying “body, mind, breath”?

I remember my mother’s final six breaths – a heartache lesson in impermanence.  Where the breath comes from and where it goes, remains a mystery.  There is no present moment without it, making awareness of the breath a sublime anchor for our practice.  The breath is existentially personal and it has a cosmic connection.  The essence of the stars is the essence of the breath.

oaktree2

Things are not as they seem, nor are they otherwise

From Steve:

The koan appears unfathomable. The famous oak table we can knock our knuckle on – solid – is almost entirely empty space. Our perceptions are useful (we can unflinchingly enjoy breakfast seated at the oak table) and unreliable. There is unobserved spaciousness all around us.

The thoughts, feelings and perceptions awash in our minds can seem like a solid stream. Recalling the stout oak table, the mind, too, is almost entirely spaciousness. It just appears crammed with thoughts. Aware and attentive, clarity settles in and we find expansive, abundant peacefulness as the mountain valley in which our stream of thoughts runs.

We have the habit energy of acquiring the truth, fortifying and differentiating our selves. Things are not as they seem – spacious and not solid. Nor are things otherwise. There is no solid truth to hold on to, not even spaciousness.

To look deeply is first to let go of our notion of perceiving and knowing. A devastating loss?