Shunryu Suzuki says, “The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door. If you think, ‘I breathe,’ the ‘I’ is extra. There is no you to say ‘I.’ What we call ‘I’ is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all.”
Breathing and meditation have become a key practice in my life since about a year ago. “Don’t we all breathe, how can breathing be a practice?” the critic asks. I say yes, we all breathe obviously, but when was the last time you took time to notice your breath or your lungs and heart working on their own. This is practice. I’ve been learning a lot about Buddism and have taken a special interest in the Zen branch (although Zen includes all other branches for there are no branches). Breathing, in Zen practice, is one of the most important practices along with most of Buddism. When we calm ourselves and focus on the breath going into ourselves and then out into the world there is no longer a distinction between the inner-self or the outside world — they are all one. There is no world, no I, no mind, no body, just the swinging door of the Buddha-nature. This is not to say that we sit with a blank mind, but we are to be aware of our breathing, our universal nature.
So much of our life is dualistic
You and I. Black and white. Good and bad. Us and them. Waffle and pancake (waffle wins by the way). All of these words are just expressions of the universe. There is no such thing as good and bad, or you and I — they’re just swinging doors. This is the true experience of life. These names are just our distorted view and attempt to limit the universe into boxes. When I practice, time is no longer biting at my neck. I am not concerned with what I have to do or what I should have done differently because I am fully in the moment. Fully in the breath. I am the universe. “When we become truly ourselves, we become a swinging door, and we are purely independent of, and at the same time, dependent upon everything” — Shunryu Suzuki. We need air to breathe, don’t we? Freedom is found here, the boundlessness of the universe. The give and take are all that is happening — the swinging of the door. Freedom to not worry, but be present. So breathe my friends.
When I first started diving into meditation I practiced mindfulness which is a rather secular type of meditation. It was beneficial in handling stress and focusing on the now rather than what-ifs and future problems. It has developed into a more spiritual aspect that I am still learning about. Nevertheless, the science behind meditation is incredible. It benefits the body, mind, and overall health in incredible ways (look it up! It even improves empathy for other people, holy crap!!!). If that isn’t enough to convince you to give it a try on its own, you don’t have to study other religions if that makes you uncomfortable (though it shouldn’t). Almost all religions and spiritual practices include meditation, even Christians — you heard that right Christian audience. A lot of these practices have gotten lost in Western Christendom which is incredibly sad, but that is a whole other story. Give it a try, at least to take care of yourself and see where it leads you. Maybe you will experience the Oneness of the universe within “yourself.”
Blue Mountains and White Clouds
Tozan, a famous Zen Master, said, “The blue mountain is the father of the white cloud. The white cloud is the son of the blue mountain. All day long they depend on each other, without being dependent on each other. The white cloud is always the white cloud. The blue mountain is always the blue mountain.”
Be free in the present,
P.S. The book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal talks on Zen meditation and practice by Shunryu Suzuki, is where all of these quotes came from. It is an incredible source and guide into Zen.