(Painting from http://melissasstudio.blogspot.com/)
I went to the swimming pool at Pickwick Park in Burbank with my older cousin. When we got into the water, he swam toward the raft in the middle of the pool. I didn’t know how to swim, so I guess I thought I would walk out to the raft along the bottom. As I moved toward the center of the pool, the water came up higher on my body. I walked to where it was right below my nose and took one more step. The bottom of the pool slanted away toward the deep end, and I was in over my head. I jumped up and down on my toes to get back to the shallower part. I didn’t seem to make any progress and I started to panic. I stood as tall as I could to keep my nose out of the water, and I huffed and puffed to keep the air coming in. I took another step and got back to the level part of the pool floor. When I looked across the pool, the lifeguard was just about to jump in to save me. He saw that I had gained control and went back to his seat.
Our breath is our source of life. We take it in from the world around us, move it through our lungs, and breathe it back out into the world. Because it is essential to our well-being, to our very being, our breathing is central to our Zen practice. We stay mindful of our breath.
Buddha said, “This concentration through mindfulness of breathing, when developed and practiced much, is both peaceful and sublime, it is an unadulterated blissful abiding, and it banishes at once and stills evil unprofitable thoughts as soon as they arise.”
When we meditate, we keep in our mind our breath as it moves in and when it moves out. We are aware when we breathe in a long breath and when we breath out a long breath, when we breathe in a short breath, and when we breathe out a short breath. We train ourselves to breathe with our whole body. Our whole body becomes breathing. We feel our breath moving in and moving out in our feet, in our chest, and in the top of our head.
As we are mindful of our breath in our whole body, breathing in and breathing out, we calm our breath and we calm our body. We are mindful in our whole body.