One of the fundamental principles in Zen is to be total in our relationship to life. Another principle is “beginners mind:” to live each moment as if it is our first.
And so in Zen Breathing, with each breath, we pour new life into our body, mind, heart, and soul; and we pour our body, mind, heart, and soul into life! We use each breath to develop the tendency to be open and available to the maximum potential that each moment in life holds for us.
A traditional symbol in Zen is that of the archer. This is no coincidence. The forces and dynamics required in archery match quite perfectly with the path and process of awakening to our full potential, and the path and process of Breath Mastery.
Conscious Breathing calls for the same one-pointed-ness as archery and the practice of Zen. Breathwork, Zen, and archery all put the same ingredients into play. And those same ingredients support us in achieving our ultimate potential.
Archery is used in sport and for survival, for personal development, creative expression, self-mastery, and simply for enjoyment. Breathwork is equally applicable to all these purposes and activities.
Drawing the bow back and aiming the arrow requires smooth steady physical control and sharp mental focus; and so does Conscious Breathing. In archery, there is a certain point when everything comes together into perfect alignment; and in that moment the Zen master let’s the arrow fly.
In Zen Breathing, that point of power is where the inhale and the exhale come together, where the in-breath meets the out-breath.
Pulling the inhale in is like drawing the bow back. Setting the exhale free is like letting the arrow fly. The force that builds up in the bow as you draw it back is like the force that builds up in the body as you inhale. The force that is released with the bow is like the force that is released when you exhale.
If there is balance and coordination, focus and commitment, power and grace… the merging of dynamic energy and calm stillness… then there is that magical moment! It is the moment when all the work is done, and there is nothing left to do… except to “let go.”
In that moment, there is no mind, no thinking, no body, no doing, no effort, no struggle, no resisting, no wanting, no pushing, no controlling, no duality, no ego. In that moment of letting go, there is only Pure Awareness, and the open presence of Intelligent Space… There is only Consciousness, Existence, and Bliss!
In Zen Breathing, you are the archer, you are the bow, you are the arrow, you are the target. At the point of surrender and letting go, there is no “in” and no “out.” Everything dissolves into Oneness and Wholeness. And in that moment all possible futures collapse into an one actual present moment!
Our essential life’s purpose, and our entire soul’s journey can be reflected and expressed within the cycle of one breath. Maybe that is why it is said that one hour of Kriya Yoga (Zen Breathing) results in more evolution than many lifetimes of re-incarnation!
But to be sure, this is the “Path of Fire and Light.” It is not for the faint hearted or for the weak minded. It is not for those who resist growth and transformation at all cost. It’s not for those who cling to the illusion of separateness, or for those who insist on identifying with the ego or the reactive mind.
If you stay with the process, one breath at a time, one of these breaths will take you to that special place, and will open you to an experience of Pure Presence and Being, if only for a moment… But a moment is enough! Having touched that place, you are nourished, renewed, and inspired! There is no forgetting, and there is no going back!
Choose a high intention. That will be your arrow.
It can be something positive that you want to feel or be or embody.
Or, it can be something limiting or negative that you want to release or leave behind.
Breathe in consciously, enjoying the feelings of being stretched open by the breath.
As you approach the peak moment of fullness, focus totally on your heart-felt intention.
Then in a flash, at the point of fullness, release the breath. Set the breath free.
Let the arrow fly. Set your intention into motion.
When you breathe in, muster up all the passion and enthusiasm you can.
When you let go of the breath, let go of everything, your muscles, your past, your sense of self, and your intention!
Breathe into your highest intention, and then release it to the universe.
Do this with each breath, again and again, it each time as if it is the first time…
You are now practicing Zen Breathing!