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Lions Roar : March 2006
l? p::: ÇQ Q .....:i o l? Z o Q >-< ÇQ o E--< o ::r: p., because you and your mother weren't two separate people. You were physically attached to your mother through the um- bilical cord. And your mother channeled to you through that umbilical cord food and drink, oxygen, everything, including her love. You mother probably took care of her body differ- ently when you were in it. She may have been more careful while walking. She may have stopped drinking or quit smok- ing. These are very concrete expressions of love and care. You were there, you had not been born, and yet you were the ob- ject of love. Your mother nourished you before you were born, but if you look deeply you will see that you also nourished your parents. Because of your presence in her body, they may have smiled more and loved life even more. You hadn't done anything to your parents yet, and yet they were nourished by your presence. And their life changed from the moment of your conception in your mother's womb. Perhaps your mother talked to you before you were born. And I believe, I am convinced, that you heard her talking with you and you responded. Perhaps it happened that occasionally she forgot you were there. So perhaps you gave her a kick to remind her. Your kick was a bell of mindfulness, and when she felt that she may have said, "Darling, I know you are there and I am very happy." This is the first mantra. When you were first born, someone cut your umbilical cord. And quite likely you cried aloud for the first time. Now you had to breathe for yourself. Now, you had to get used to all the light surrounding you. Now, you had to experience hunger for the first time. You were outside of your mother, but still somehow inside her. She embraced you with her love. And you embraced her at the same time. You were still dependent on her. You may have nursed at her breast. She took care of you day and night. And although the cord was no longer whole be- tween you, you were linked to your mother in a very concrete, intimate way. As an adult, you may fight very hard to convince yourself that you and your Thich Nhat Hanh shows the calligraphies he did mother are two different people. But it's for the Shambhala Sun, September 2005. not really so. You are a continuation of both your parents. When I meditate, I can still see the cord connecting me to my mother. When I look deeply, I see there are umbilical cords linking me to phenomena as well. The sun rises every morning. And thanks to the sun, we have heat and light. Without these things, we can't survive. So an umbilical cord links you to the sun. Another um- bilical cord links you to the clouds in the sky. If the clouds were not there, there would be no rain and no water to drink. Without clouds, there is no milk, no tea, no coffee, no ice cream, nothing. There is an umbilical cord linking you to the river; there is one linking you to the forest. If you con- tinue meditating like this, you can see that you are linked to everything and everyone in the cosmos. Your life depends on everything else that exists-on other living beings, but also on plants, minerals, air, water, and earth. Suppose you plant a kernel of corn and seven days later it sprouts and begins to take the form of a cornstalk. When the stalk grows high, you may not recognize it as the kernel you planted. But it wouldn't be true to say the kernel had died. With Buddha's eyes, you can still see the corn seed in the corn- stalk. The stalk is the continuation of the kernel in the direc- tion of the future, and the kernel is the continuation of the stalk in the direction of the past. They are not the same thing, but they are not completely separate either. You and your mother are not exactly the same person, but you aren't two different people either. This is the truth of interdependence. No one can be one's self alone. We have to inter-be to be. WHEN WE ARE inside our mothers, there is no tension in our bodies. We are soft and flexible. But once we are out in the world, tension creeps in, sometimes from our first breath. Before we can release the tension in our bodies, though, we have to release the tension in our breath. If our bodies are not peaceful, then our breath is not peaceful. When we generate the energy of mindfulness and embrace our breath, the quality of our in-breath and out-breath will improve. As we breathe in mindfulness, our breathing becomes calmer and more profound. The tension in our breathing dissipates. And when our breathing is relaxed, we can embrace our bodies and we can relax. The exact word that the Buddha d I " I " use trans ates as ca m. There is a Pali text called the Kayagatasati Sutta, the Sutra on the Contemplation of the Body in the Body. In it, the Bud- dha proposed an exercise for releasing the tension in each particular part of the body, and in the body as a whole. He used the image of a farmer who went up to the attic and brought down a bag of beans. The farmer opened one end of the bag and he allowed all the beans to flow out. With his good eyesight, he was able to distinguish the particular kind of beans and see which were kidney beans, which were mung beans, and so forth. The Buddha recommended that, like this farmer, we learn to pay attention. To begin, you can lie in a comfortable position and scan your whole body, and then focus on different parts of the body. Begin with the head, or the hair on the head, and finish SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2006 61