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Lions Roar : September 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2005 65 Every Breath Counts Working with the breath, we take hold of the mind and “live fully each minute of life.” An instruction inmindfulnessbyTHICH NHAT HANH. MINDFULNESS IS atthesame time a means and an end, the seed and the fruit. When we practice mindfulness in order to build up concentration, mindfulness is a seed. But mindfulness itself is the life of awareness: the presence of mindfulness means the presence of life, and therefore mindful- ness is also the fruit. Mindfulness frees us of for- getfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life. Mindfulness enables us to live. You should know how to breathe to maintain mindfulness, as breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool that can prevent disper- sion. Breath is the bridge that connects life to con- sciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scat- tered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again. Breathe in lightly a fairly long breath, conscious of the fact that you are inhaling a deep breath. Now breathe out all the breath in your lungs, remaining conscious the whole time of the exha- lation. The Sutra of Mindfulness teaches the method to take hold of one’s breath in the follow- ing manner: “Be ever mindful you breathe in and mindful you breathe out. Breathing in a long breath, you know, ‘I am breathing in a long breath.’ Breathing out a long breath, you know, ‘I am breathing out a long breath.’ Breathing in a short breath, you know, ‘I am breathing in a short breath.’ Breathing out a short breath, you know, ‘I am breathing out a short breath.’” “Experiencing a whole breath-body, I shall breathe in”; thus you train yourself. “Experiencing the whole breath-body, I shall breathe out”; thus you train yourself. “Calming the activity of the breath-body, I shall breathe in”; thus you train yourself. “Calming the activity of the breath-body, I shall breathe out”; thus you train yourself. © From The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation, by Thich Nhat Hanh. © 1975, 1976 by Thich Nhat Hanh. Reprinted with permission of Beacon Press. activities and was surprised to discover that his tutors were fully supportive in providing guidance and tutorials for him to redo his first-year courses. He voluntarily entered drug and alcohol counseling. Alexander had been very creative with his bank card and overdraft to finance his drug activities, so his bank manager was quite amused by the course of our joint meeting. I cleared his deficit, then asked Alexander to give me his bank card. With a pair of scissors supplied by the bank manager I cut his card up and instructed the manager to withdraw all overdraft privileges until she was satisfied he could be responsible. Alexander was astonished, exclaiming, “I don’t believe you did that, Dad!” Yet he told me later that he admired the firmness and clarity. I also enrolled him in a martial arts academy, as he needed a safe place to leave his frustrations and anger. It was run by a rugged international kickboxing champion, who also had a wonderful heart. Many years earlier, I had been one of his major Canadian oppo- nents and had fought him many times. I was impressed by the quality of his instruction, by the way he treated his students as an extended family, and also by the fact that his training sessions began and ended with meditation exercises. The final step was to talk to the drug dealers. I met with some of them in Alexander’s room at Punk Palace. I had expected to meet Mafia-type figures, but was introduced instead to young people who had become hardened to a degree I had never before encountered. I cleared Alexander’s outstanding debts with them, and the message from me was quiet but firm: Alexander would not be doing any deals with them anymore. You could cut the tension with a knife. I made myself breathe slowly in and out and extend love and compassion to them from my heart. That was all I had. They had guns and knives. I only had breathing in, breathing out, and deep listening. After a time, they too relaxed and had many questions about my martial arts background, which Alexander had no doubt exaggerated. I am no “Terminator,” but they had the impression I was—a perception, I should add, that I did nothing to correct. This was fine at the time, as it was the only common ground, apart from Alexander, that these hardened young people had with me. I wove a web of stories, and when asked, showed them several quite deadly moves, and eventually talked to them about the many Qi Gong masters and martial arts experts, such as Bruce Lee, who had a base in healing and meditative prac- tices. Not a seed that will necessarily get watered in their world, but at the time it was the best I could come up with. The more I talked quietly and directly to them, the more the violence left the room. In the end I was silent and Alexander did the talking. When they left, I knew they would leave Alexander alone, as there was that unspoken honor that sometimes arises in these situations. Nevertheless, their energy disturbed me greatly.