“Know yourself as a breathing being.” -Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
What comes to your mind as you hear these words from Pandit Rajmani? I am taken back to my years in seminary, sitting in my Old Testament class. The story that comes to mind is from Genesis 2, where God fashioned a human being out of the dust of the earth and then breathed into this being the breath of life.
In this story, there is an image of tenderness as the human being is carefully crafted. There is also a grace-filled intimacy as breath is breathed into this being. And it doesn’t end there, for as we know one breath doesn’t keep us alive for very long. We require a continuous sustenance of this intimate gift we call breath.
There are many things to say that come out of reflection on this quote. We could discuss how the subtlety of breath allows us to access the more subtle realms of ourselves. We could talk about how when the mind joins the breath, the mind becomes more tranquil and spacious. We could talk about how softening into the breath sets the stage for surrender, our focus next month.
For now, I am personally captured by the grace and the intimacy of this moment to moment gift of life. And I can’t help but think things would be very different in our world today if we spent time reflecting on this quote and really took in the grace of it.
Week Three. Spend 5-10 minutes every morning and evening simply being with your breath. You might watch the expansion and contraction of the belly as the breath enters and leaves the body. You might watch where the breath first touches your nostrils as it enters the body. Or you might watch the breath as it travels in the space in front of your nostrils to your forehead area. Wherever your focus is, let go of doing the breathing and become someone who is being breathed. Experience the intimacy with the one who breathes you.
Week Four. Repeat Week Three.
“Who are you God, and who am I?” – St Francis of Assisi
I would like to share a poem written by a fifth grade girl that I know well and who brings joy and wonderment to my life. She requested that I use her nickname, Shadow.
Who Am I?
” I was brought into this world wondering why I’m here.
I was brought into this world wondering who I was.
‘Shadow, Shadow, Shadow,’ someone called.
They were my parents.
I reacted and slowly crawled towards them.
And to this day I’m still wondering,
Who am I?
Why am I here?” -by Shadow, fifth grade
For further inquiry:
Week One. Reflect on this poem written by a fifth grader. Are these questions you ask yourself? If not, what questions occupy your mind?
Week Two. Write your own poem entitled: Who Am I?
“Take your medicine first.” – Narvada Puri
The word medicine conjures up many unpleasant memories from my childhood. I can almost taste the medicine my parents gave me when I was sick so that I would feel better. They always tried to hide the taste of the medicine in a spoonful of sugar, but as far as I was concerned, it didn’t work.
I have had to sit and reflect on these words spoken by one of my beloved teachers in an attempt to get past my unpleasant memories and into her simple wisdom. Perhaps she was speaking to the things we ignore on a daily basis pretending they don’t need our attention. They seem unpleasant, like bad tasting medicine, and are often simple things like balancing the checkbook, cleaning the closet, or calling the dentist.
“Practice that ignites our inner fire, brings out our inner radiance, and makes us vibrant and energetic is tapas.” -Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Who of us would not like to have more vibrancy and inner glow? After all, isn’t this the quality that attracts us to others, especially babies of any species? We are drawn irresistibly to this life force that desires to radiate from all of us. This is the source of health, vibrancy, intelligence, joy, and mental acuity.
We must forgive reality for being what it is. – Richard Rohr [paraphrased]
When we are constantly embracing the moment or fighting against it, we turn this world into a problem to be solved. Think about this. Our constant tactic becomes trying to figure out how to make this moment go the way we want.
When the world becomes a problem to be solved, it no longer exists as something to be experienced, marveled at, or surprised by. Instead it is something to fix and manage in an attempt to experience our own confused version of self-contentment. What a strange way to live.
“We are confused about what is going to make us happy.” -Sam Harris
The times we live in seem like an impossible place to find contentment. There are outer voices luring us to buy, to fear, to despair. There is an inner voice reminding us of our failures and unfulfilled dreams. There is a longing for things to be the way we want….all the time. We could easily sing along with Dorothy, “Somewhere over the rainbow.”
All these messages ensure that we will be tossed about, riding waves of highs and lows, happiness and disappointment, landing anywhere but in contentment. We get pulled out of ourselves, longing for what we don’t have, longing for the world to be safer and more sane. And where the mind goes, prana follows. The price we pay for our discontentment is loss of our vital energy.
I am writing at a time when in my country Charlottesville has just happened and the rare eclipse of the sun is about to happen. We are asking ourselves deep questions about the hatred and “isms” that seem so prevalent. At the same time we are being swept into one of the mysteries of the universe. It is a reflective time for most of us.
I remember several years ago when my heart felt heavy like it often does when I hear the news. I was suffering what for me had been an experience of betrayal that left a bitter taste in my heart. Try as I did, the taste didn’t go away; the heaviness of my heart continued to burden me.
Then I found myself in the presence of a wise, holy teacher. When I embarrassingly asked him how to get rid of the bitterness in my heart, he replied with gentle eyes and compassionate voice, “Give it all to the Divine, just keep giving it to the Divine.” What followed for me was a purification process that left my heart light and free. In these times, I find myself returning vigorously to this practice.
David Brooks, in his book The Road to Character, makes a distinction between what he calls “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues”. Brooks defines resume virtues as the accomplishments that contribute to external success, while eulogy virtues are the ones that get mentioned at a funeral, the ones that sit at the core of ones being. [paraphrased from page xi)
Like virtue, purity has an external and internal process. Personally I find it easy to fall into the trap of external purity as an end in itself. I am programmed to equate purity with cleanliness and to focus the crux of my efforts towards outer appearance. I can forget to reflect on the condition of my heart and mind, which is where the real conversation about purity resides.