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Thread: The power of the breath

  1. #1

    The power of the breath

    Hi everyone,

    I have been quiet for a while now. Never left though, where could one go? Started therapy a while back, looking for help in issues related to things I have seen and done during wartime in Bosnia. It is not helping much though. What is helping is the spiritual guidance of our teachers and support from this sangha, Thank you for that.

    Now, as both our teachers keep reminding us, those who suffer from depression on other illnesses of the mind, Zazen is not therapy. If you have a tooth problem, go to the dentist. True but there is more to this practice of ours that very much helps me. Oddly enough, Dokusan has proven to be far more effective for me then therapy. So there is some merit to it right? Here is what I would like to share with you now things seem to go a bit better after taking some Zen advice to heart (and I mean really taking it to heart).

    When we suffer, we often feel this is because of things that come from outside. Economy, life, sickness, the past etc. Most of us never realize the whole thing is coming from within ourselves. It is our mind that is making all of this. Where does it really come from? While sitting on the cushion, we practice Shikantanza in the way our teachers so patiently try to teach us. While sitting thoughts emerge and we just let them float by like cloud in the sky. That is where it all comes from. From nowhere going nowhere. Often we speak of this as something that can only be done while sitting. Once we rise up and go to or daily lives, all of this is gone until it is time to sit again. What I want to share with you all is the amazing power of our breath. That simple inhaling and carefully exhaling. If anything, this is what is helped me the most up till now. Every breath is a bell, a mindfulness bell like Anshin Thomas calls it. Breathe in... this moment. breathe out....this moment.

    In a situation where, for example anger or even aggression raises its ugly head, just pause and mindfully take a breath, just like in Zazen, "step back" and turn into an observer of the very situation and carefully observe your own feelings and let them pass. This is where suffering comes from. Picking up this thought and the emotion that goes with it and start building a huge drama that in the end always causes more suffering to you and the other. We are very good at that. This is where our inability to really see the world and each other the way we really are. We forget we have a choice and get dragged along in a stream of something that is of our own making and believe it to be true. Taking a deliberate breath in the middle of it all and watch something develop, being mindful, is not suppressing or being weak or even a pushover either. It is prana. In a strange way, once you choose not to believe the lie your mind is telling you but carefully observe what is happening inside your self, the answer or the right thing to do comes by itself.

    In my humble case, I am haunted by sorrow and bad memories of things done that I am not proud of. I wish I could undo them or take it back. Even more so now, like you all, I started on the Bodhisattva path and taking Jukai. But we can not go back can we? The thing is that wishing and feeling sorry means your mind is still telling you a lie. It keeps those things in existence so every time I have a nightmare or an involuntary bad flashback, the "I" is still there, in that terrible place. Instead of leaving it behind, I return to that place and to those things again and again. So by mindfully taking a breath and become the observer to my own emotions, it becomes clear that it is not the memories that are the problem. It is something much deeper and far too personal to mention here. What I would like to say to anyone here or elsewhere is this. Whatever it is that causes you suffering, be mindful of you feelings about it and watch them carefully. Take a deep breath and do the same thing you do on the cushion while in shikantaza. Let it pass. This way Practice fills your whole life and not just during those 40 minutes on the zafu.

    As for the things that cannot be undone. Denial is not the answer nor is running away from it is so many ways available. Reliving and thinking about the past, being stuck, is not the answer either. This breath, this moment is all there is. The only thing we can do is go forward and equal the balance by doing good wherever possible. I have a debt now. A debt to you, me and the universe that really are not three. By devoting ourselves to making the world a better place and help those who suffer using the precepts as a guide. Sometimes just by listening to someone with real attention and compassion. Go find those who suffer or those who are in need. I have a debt now, a good debt that changes everything. Sometimes by doing the things we do here in the Global service days or even by cleaning up behind ourselves and being mindful of everything we do or say to avoid causing any suffering to anyone. In the end, that is the Bodhisattva way is it not? Maybe that is gradual enlightenment. The process of change. Suffering is not the obstacle that stands in the way to happiness. Suffering is the biggest signpost to it that you will find on this mountain. You can take it, turn it by understanding it fully and then use it as fuel or motivation to really make a change. Getting better at this very thing called Zen by practicing in all of our lives. It all starts with hearing and listening to the bell of your own breath and just lighten up. It is a powerful tool and it is sure helping me.

    Thank your for your patience and I would love to her what you thoughts are.



  2. #2
    This sounds as a wise and healthful practice, Myoho, and your description of how to treat the past is sound. Learn from the past, regret what there is to regret but look forward. Make amends and work healing where one can. Where that is not possible, engage in other actions in this world to help pay the Karmic Debt and more, leaving this world better. (For example, if one has damaged Y who is now beyond healing and apology, work to help the other people like Y in this world who one can reach). Our problems are both outside us and inside, and ultimately beyond and right through outside and in.

    Your description sounds of Shikantaza, whether it is taking a moment to breathe or letting all be in open awareness. It is bringing our Zazen off the cushion into the world.

    I wish you peace and continued healing, Myoho.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 08-02-2014 at 12:38 PM.

  3. #3
    Thank you Myoho, wishing you the best.... Lets take a breath together

    Thank you for your practice

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by MyoHo View Post
    This breath, this moment is all there is
    Hello Myoho,

    Thank you for this is ... wonderful! I hope you are well and nice to see you back. =)


  5. #5
    Hello Myoho,

    Thank you for sharing your journey.


  6. #6
    Hi Myoho,

    Thank you for sharing this. I'm grateful to read it. I feel that when you talk about the way we make our suffering, the way we often create it ourselves, needlessly, that this is so accurate, and the way you express how life and zazen are one seems to me that you are going deeply into this practice and is something I strive (while not striving or forcing) for. Thank you again.


  7. #7
    Taking a deliberate breath in the middle of it all and watch something develop, being mindful, is not suppressing or being weak or even a pushover either. It is prana. In a strange way, once you choose not to believe the lie your mind is telling you but carefully observe what is happening inside your self, the answer or the right thing to do comes by itself - Myoho.

    A wonderful teaching Myoho,

  8. #8
    Dear Myoho,

    Thank you for your words and know that you are never alone. You are doing very well.
    Take great care.



  9. #9

    We are all here with you. What you wrote, I thank you.

    Gassho, Shawn

  10. #10
    Take care Myoho and thank you for sharing.



  11. #11
    War is horrible Myoho. Please be well soon.

    Gassho, Jishin

  12. #12
    Much metta, Myoho.

    I can not even imagine the damage war does to a person that has to go through it.

    May you find peace in your way.


  13. #13
    Treeleaf Engineer Seimyo's Avatar
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    Jan 2012
    Yuba City, California, USA
    Thank you sharing this Myoho.

    Metta to you as you heal and find your way.


    明 Seimyō (Christhatischris)

  14. #14
    Every breath is a bell, a mindfulness bell like Anshin Thomas calls it. Breathe in... this moment. breathe out....this moment.

    As far as past deeds go, I think it is very wise to face them head on rather than deny or suppress. Doing that must take an enormous amount of courage, though.

    Do you find the verse of atonement helpful? I imagine we all have things in our past we are not proud of but through circumstance some are put in dangerous situations in which their actions have much more consequence. Although it is right and proper that we all take responsibility for our own actions, how much is a teenager capable of properly responding to the horrors of war, or even a grown man or woman? Sometimes we are just totally out of our depth through no fault of our own.

    With grateful thanks for your words and practice.


  15. #15
    Many thanks to you Myoho for the inspiration and insight.

    I respect your openheartedness beyond measure.

    With all my heart I wish you well.

    ~ Please remember that I am very fallible.


  16. #16

    We go about this world ignoring the breath but looking for something that calms and heals us. But it's just a matter of understanding it's always been there with us. While being calm and focused is when we understand that past is perfect and it's what shapes ups.

    Regardless of our past, I am grateful that it shaped itself to bring us here, to this moment.

    Thank you for sharing something so personal.


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  17. #17
    Dear Myoho

    Thank you so much for opening up and sharing this with us.
    I hope you'll find peace soon - looks to me that you have found the right path!

    Deep bows and gassho,

    no thing needs to be added

  18. #18
    Thank you, Myoho. I appreciated and identified with much of what you said. There is such joy in just being with breath and it is actualized with a smile.😊

    Kind regards. /\
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  19. #19
    Myoho, thank you for taking the time to share this wonderful post. I can't imagine the horrors that haunt you from your military action. I think all of us have done or said things that haunt us to different degrees. I hope you find comfort knowing that your brothers and sisters are here to support you.

    All harmful acts ever committed by me since of old
    On account of beginningless desire, aversion, and ignorance
    Born of my body, mouth, and mind
    Now I atone for them all
    Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  20. #20
    Nice to see you back at Treeleaf, Myoho. Sending you metta, that all will be well with you.

    Thank you for your post and the gentle reminder of how powerful the simple action of the breath can be.


  21. #21
    Dear friends,

    Thank you all for you kind words and support. It is not an easy time but it is something that we all must go through in one way or another on our way to peace. Facing the demons is also practice I guess. It's OK the trick is to learn to understand and even appreciate those too. Or at least fully accept them. It takes time but I feel a turn for the better has been made.

    As for the question/remark Kokuu asked ( hi bro), yes the verse of atonement does help but not in the way you´d expect. Turns out it is a bit of a koan too ( like most things when you really look in to them ) because it raises the question: what exactly am I atoning to? It is like an elevator that goes down and down into the abyss of what is our true self and motivations. Not always a pleasant journey. Maybe one of our teachers can do a talk on that sometime?

    Tank you all who took the time and cared to reply to my post. Who am I to receive such kind words and support? Again we prove together this is not another bla bla Zen forum but we already knew that.

    Off for a week now to sit by a river. See you all soon.

    Gassho with gratitude


  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by MyoHo View Post
    Who am I to receive such kind words and support?
    You're family. Is all


    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  23. #23
    Thank you for this wonderful post

  24. #24
    Thanks for sharing! Breathing has always helped me calm the mind. It has allowed me to calm my mind and is like an anchor that can keep me steady when my anxiety is through the roof.

    Look upon the world as a bubble,
    regard it as a mirage;
    who thus perceives the world,
    him Mara, the king of death, does not see.


    Sat Today

  25. #25
    'Off for a week now to sit by a river. See you all soon.'

    Be at one with the river MyoHo - flowing, flowing - all is change moment to moment and nothing to fear.



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