In these first days of the New Year 2014 I reflect often on what it means to live in a new way, unburdened by my past actions. I feel the freshness of living each moment complete as it is and not carrying anything over into the next moment. There is a subtle joy at being open to what the next moment unveils and, let me put it this way, expecting the unexpected. The usual way of going through life has been to assume that everything will appear in my field of perception more or less as it has in the past. This year many unexpected things are happening. These surprises are very much to my liking and life is taking on the quality of being created in the moment.
The following text by Thich Nhat Hanh is very instructive and can assist us to live more deeply from the NOW field. That is the quality that for me is the New Earth being created by each of us right at this moment.
“In, Out, Deep, Slow”
“This gatha (zen poem) is also valuable for holding the mind. This is a very simple gatha that we can practice at any time in the day, in sitting as well as walking meditation. “In, out” means “Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in. Breathing out, I know I’m breathing out.” “In, out” is just a short way of saying it. When we breathe in, we know that the in-breath is happening; our mind doesn’t think about other things, our mind holds on to the breath. Holding on to the breath, grasping the breath, means having control over the mind. The mind doesn’t run anymore. The mindful breath is a rope that holds on to the mind, and by practicing this one line we can take hold of the mind. “Breathing in, here is my in-breath.” We recognize the in-breath as the in-breath. When I’m breathing in, I know that I’m breathing in and when I’m breathing out, I know that I’m breathing out.
“This gatha is based on the first four exercises taught by the Buddha in the Anapansati Sutra, the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. ‘Deep, slow’ means ‘the in-breath has become deep , the out-breath has become slow.’ If we practice awareness of our in- and out-breath for one or two minutes, then we’ve already succeeded, and naturally the in-breath will have become deeper and th out-breath will have become slower. It’s not that I am breathing in and trying to make my in-breath become deeper – this is something we should never force.
“Before we practice the in-breath and the out-breath are short and shallow. But when we practice even for half a minute or a minute, then the in-breath becomes lighter, deeper, calmer, slower, and there begins to be space and calm in the body and the mind. When there’s calmness and lightness in the breath, then there will also be lightness, calmness in the body and in the mind. The breath is the medium connecting the body and the mind. Breathing in, I feel a sense of well-being.”
“Of course it’s possible not to use any gatha at all and we can still step into reality and dwell in mindfulness in each step. But when our mind is still a wild horse, we need to use a rope to pull the mind back. But the rope is very pleasant. When the horse is already trained, we don’t need to use the rope anymore. When we have practiced well, each step becomes a seal on the land of peace and freedom. With each step, we dwell in mindfulness and we leave the seal of our peace and happiness on the land.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, Nothing to Do, Nowhere to Go, p. 199 – 201