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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 69 weariness, we wanted to stop breathing, we could not. All our willpower, all our despair, fear, or loathing, would not be sufficient to carry out the intention “from now on I will not breathe.” There is only so much air on the planet, and we must share it with all other breathing creatures. Now, and since the beginning of breathing, we have all been breathing the same air, taking it into our bodies, transforming it and being transformed by it, using it to move through time, moment by moment, to be what we are. This is in- timacy: we take into our bodies the very air that others have breathed. Molecules of air that Buddha breathed, that Jesus breathed, that Plato, Hitler, Napoleon, Einstein, Shakespeare, the pope, the heavyweight champion of the world breathed; air breathed by men, women, and chil- dren, by heroes and murderers, by animals, plants, and insects, throughout time on earth—some of these same molecules have been inside of us. In the Bible’s great story of creation, God creates the mountains, the sky, the sea, and all that dwells within them by pronouncing words. But the human being is cre- ated when God breathes a breath into him. One of the Hebrew words for soul, nefesh (and also the Greek word, pneuma, and the Latin word, spiritus), means breath. Soul, spirit is breath. FOR SOME YEARS before his enlightenment night, Buddha tried all sorts of extreme practices. He meditated on bliss, peace, and happiness. When this did not produce the lasting change he sought, he meditated on spacious- ness, consciousness, nothingness, and on a state called neither-perception-nor-nonperception. When none of these profound trances helped, he tried ascetic practic- es. He stood on one foot in a lake with water up to his neck for days at a time. He tried cow practice and dog practice—not speaking or bathing, and eating, sleeping, behaving, and vocalizing as if he were a cow or a dog. Next he tried hardly eating at all, till gradually he got down to one sesame seed a day. When none of these worked, he gave them up, too. On the point of despair, the Buddha suddenly remem- bered a simple natural meditation that he’d fallen into when he was a child sitting under an apple tree at a festi- val, just quietly breathing, just being aware. So he decided to trust the feeling of his childhood and to return to this simple practice, which, as he sat under the enlightenment and the heart is enough. JULY 66-71.indd 69 JULY 66-71.indd 69 4/25/08 12:19:24 PM 4/25/08 12:19:24 PM