Awakening With Breathing

Following the Breath

This technique has been around for a long time. It is almost certainly the oldest and most widespread form of meditation practice. It has been used to bring people to see their true natures. And it still works. Our true nature is very simple, but it’s easy for us to miss. It’s always with us, but we get so distracted all the time.

Our true nature is the foundation of everything that we are. Basic goodness, oneness with all things, freedom from suffering.

Meditation techniques are used to still the mind so we can see what’s underneath all of our distractions. When we can manage our thoughts, we can see the space between them. When we can stop thinking and putting labels on everything for a second, then our true nature shines through like the sun.

Everything we think we know, the labels we put on everything, the judgments and preconceptions and little boxes we try to put the world in, these are just thoughts. They don’t exist. We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are.

Beyond these delusions is reality.

We aren’t separate from the world around us. That’s the truth we come to realize from simply following the breath. We don’t come into the world, we come out of it. We don’t live in the universe. We are the universe. The entire ocean in a drop.

We have a dualistic tendency that wants to put labels on everything, to put everything into neat little boxes. When we engage our true nature, we see that there is no separation. Our experience of reality doesn’t match our thoughts about reality.

The mind has been trained to put labels on everything and then believe those labels are ultimately real. But reality is inexpressible, beyond labels.

All of our practices are just things that point us to this ultimate reality.

When you breathe, just pay attention to where your breath is coming into and going out of your body.

When you start it’s very hard to focus on that sensation of the breath. The mind isn’t used to slowing down in this way. The mind is a crazy person, jumping from thought to thought.

Every time we get distracted, we can just bring our minds back to the breath. Hopefully we can do this gently, without beating ourselves up about it.

Our breath is really the tool we’re using to bring our attention way from our thoughts and into reality. This develops a certain tranquility and awareness that is natural to our being.

We can just keep practicing. It will be hard at first. But don’t give up.

Just be internally silent for as long as you can and you will get better.

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project. He also runs the Monday Night Zen Group at the Rime Buddhist Center.
Daniel received a BA in English from KU.
Once a Novice Zen Monk, Daniel dropped out of monk school to become a regular person. He takes his inspiration mainly from Buddhist teachers who were renegades and madmen, like Ikkyu and Han Shan.
Daniel has taken Bodhisattva Vows.

Find out more about Daniel on his website and connect with him on Facebook.