Breathing: An action so natural, yet, at its core, lays the path to liberation, the keys to the reality of existence. How so? It’s within the realm of mindfulness, where breath is not merely an act of survival, but an embodiment of the highest truths about life and existence.
Reflecting on the Buddha’s teaching about mindfulness of breathing, we dive deeper than the surface. “Breathing in long, he knows I breathe in long; breathing out long, he knows I breathe out long”. Not a call to modify one’s breath, but an invitation to be unified with it. An invitation to experience a seamless bond between body, mind, and the act of breathing. An act that brings tranquility to the body and the mind, and incites a blissful state of being.
This state of bliss, however, holds a purpose beyond its immediate joy. As we draw breath, and we bask in this joy, we begin to use our awareness function, directing our mindfulness of breathing towards various states and realizations. Breathing thus transforms from an object of focus into a tool of enlightenment.
So, what is this enlightenment? Where lies the connection between breathing and Buddha’s teachings? It leads us to the concepts of ‘arising’ and ‘cessation’. What arises must cease – an ultimate truth embodied in each breath we draw. Each breath arises and ceases, exemplifying the whole of existence. And in this cycle, we understand that the ‘self’, too, arises and disappears.
This impermanence, this ebb and flow of existence, takes a new dimension as we let our minds synchronize with our breath. We come to comprehend that attachment to anything, due to an illusion of permanence, is a pathway to suffering. The process of breathing – in its inherent nature of appearing and disappearing – teaches us about the ultimate reality of existence.
The cycle of birth and death encapsulated within each breath is a testament to the transient nature of all phenomena – including the self. The bliss we experience while mindful of our breathing can also dissolve, signifying impermanence. Breathing, in this context, is not just a physiological function; it is the epitome of Buddha’s teachings.
As we deepen our understanding, our practice of mindful breathing starts to shed light on the impermanence of thoughts, emotions, and even our own minds. We begin to see that there are no nouns in existence, only verbs. There’s a subtle, profound truth to this realization – everything is in a state of flux.
And it is this constant flux, this impermanence that we start to acknowledge as a physical reality, not just a metaphysical concept. By contemplating impermanence, fading away, cessation, and relinquishment, we begin to grasp the essence of existence, enabling a constant process of letting go.
This act of relinquishment or renunciation, however, is not based on religious dictates but stems from an intimate understanding of existence’s true nature. It is not about letting go because of religion; it is about letting go because you are awake to the reality of existence. You are realistic.
To be mindful of our breathing is to continually empty our minds of the illusions of permanence. To fully and unconditionally recognize and embrace impermanence is to attain the ultimate liberation – to be a Buddha.
In our breath, we find a mirror reflecting the transient nature of our existence. It serves as a constant reminder that the rhythm of life is defined by the perpetual dance of arising and ceasing, appearing and disappearing, breathing in and breathing out. It is in our breath, this most basic act of living, that we uncover the profound reality of life itself.