Conscious Breathing

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnam

Zen Master and Buddhist monk. Founder of Plum Village Buddhist Community in France.

(Submitted by The Art of Living Team)

Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live. What a precious gift! We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.

Peace is present right here and now, in ourselves and in everything we do and see. The question is whether or not we are in touch with it. We don’t have to travel far away to enjoy the blue sky. We don’t have to leave our city or even our neighborhood to enjoy the eyes of a beautiful child. Even the air we breathe can be a source of joy.

Alive in the present moment
We can smile, breathe, walk, and eat our meals in a way that allows us to be in touch with the abundance of happiness that is available. We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy, and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.

A simple technique is, that as we breathe in, we say to ourselves, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” And as we breathe out, we say, “Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” Just that. We recognize our in-breath as an in-breath and our out-breath as an out-breath. This technique can help us keep our minds on our breath. As we practise, our breath will become peaceful and gentle, and our minds and bodies will also become peaceful and gentle. In just a few minutes we can realize the fruits of meditation.

Breathing is a joy
Breathing in and out is very important, and it is enjoyable. Our breathing is the link between our body and our mind. Sometimes our mind is thinking of one thing and our body is doing another, and mind and body are not unified. By concentrating on our breathing, “In” and “Out,” we bring body and mind back together, and become whole again. Conscious breathing is an important bridge.

To me, breathing is a joy that I cannot miss. Every day, I practise conscious breathing, and in my small meditation room, I have calligraphed this sentence: “Breathe, you are alive!” Just breathing and smiling can make us very happy, because when we breathe consciously we recover ourselves completely and encounter life in the present moment.

From 'Peace is Every Step', Bantam Books, 1991.

Image credit: http://bit.ly/SZVgXp

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