Zen and the Art of Breathing
It is no coincidence that the archer has always been associated with Zen. Archery is used in sport, in war, for hunting, for survival, for self-mastery, and simply for enjoyment. And so is the breath! The force that builds up in the bow as you draw it back is like the force that builds up in your body as you inhale. The force that is released when the arrow flies is like the force that is released when you exhale.
Drawing the bow back and aiming the arrow requires a combination of sharp mental focus and powerful physical dynamics (as does conscious breathing). In both archery and breathwork, there is that moment of full intensity and complete focus of mind and body… Everything comes to a peak, to a head, as the bow is flexed and the target comes into alignment. (In conscious breathing that point is between the inhale and the 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. The moment when all the work is done and there is nothing left to do… except to let go! In that moment of “let go” or surrender, the Zen breather falls into their center; they return for a moment to the eternal source within.
In that moment of letting go, there is no body, there is no mind. There is no object and no subject. In a flash, we merge yin and yang. We take a quantum dimensional leap. We go from full active dynamic physical tension and mental focus, to total open relaxation and total surrender. For a moment, we consciously merge with existence. There is no thinking, and there is no doing. No effort, no struggle. No ego.
With the release of the bowstring, the arrow takes flight… the future is set in motion. In that moment with nothing more to do or to know… we simply drop into “Samadhi” where there is only pure consciousness and bliss.
If the arrow hits the target, there is the celebration of perfection and there is natural ecstasy! If it misses the mark, pure awareness reveals what adjustment is needed, and so there is the joy of realization, of perfection and there is natural ecstasy!
Pulling the inhale in is like drawing the bow back. Setting the exhale free is like letting the arrow fly. The game is to fully involve the body and to single-pointedly focus the mind. Breathe like this again and again and create an intention. Use each breath to build up force and focus around a chosen intention, then let go and simply fall free… into the moment, into the Self.
With the exhale we can be the arrow flying off into the distance, tracking a long arc through the cosmos. We can send arrows of love to people and places in the world that need it. Or the exhale can be a ray of light bursting forth, leaving its source, and landing in another place, another time, or another level of existence… the next higher level of being.
I also use the image or the analogy of pulling the lever on a trap door. When we let go and release the exhale, it’s like pulling a lever and the door flies open. We fall into ourselves, letting go of all desire, all effort, all thought… we drop into our center… into silence and stillness. When we breathe again, we bring some of this peace and stillness up from within ourselves and out into the world.
Breathe in consciously, feeling the actual physical sensations of expansion, from side to side, front to back, top to bottom: you are the bow. When you reach the point of fullness, enjoy the gentle feelings of expansion and stretching. Then in a flash, release the breath. Set the exhale free. Let the breath pour out of you quickly and completely: you are the arrow.
Do this again and again… each time as if it is the first time. Be like a child. Don’t try to achieve anything. Success or failure is the same… it makes no difference. Life is as it is, in you, around you, as you! You are now practicing Zen and the Art of Breathing!
Zen breathing raises the odds of our liberation exponentially. At some point in the practice, it becomes almost impossible not to experience a moment of “Samadhi!” And once we touch that place, there is no forgetting, there is no going back! And if we don’t touch this place, then at least we learn what is in our way, what is holding us back, or what needs to be done to live from this place in each moment.
Within the cycle of one breath, we can reflect or express our soul’s entire life’s journey. Maybe that is why the ancient yogi’s say that one hour of Kriya Yoga (Zen Breathing) can result in more evolution than several lifetimes of re-incarnation!
Be warned: this path is the path of fire and light. It is not for the weak minded or for the faint hearted. It is not for those who resist growth and transformation, and not for those who cling to the illusion of separateness, or who insist on identifying with the ego or the reactive mind.
At my seminars, we build on this technique. We play with being the arrow, and we play with making the arrow our intention. It is an extraordinary experience to feel everything change in a flash!
We realize that no matter what has happened up to this moment, the next moment can lead you anywhere, to anything! Issues, challenges, problems you thought would require a long and difficult process to clear, simply dissolve! You find yourself in the midst of a beautiful, endless space of peace and love and freedom! With practice, you find that you can clear negativity or pain quickly and easily when is it is activated or triggered in you.
Those who become experts at this technique find that they can shift out of any uncomfortable or negative state at will. When pain from the past takes control of your life energy, you can liberate yourself in a moment! I invite you to practice this technique, and become one of the Un-stunned Heroes of the Spiritual Revolution!
For more information about breathwork, visit www.breathmastery.com. Subscribe to the monthly breath and breathing reports, and download your free copy of the e-book: Introduction to breathwork. Email Dan with your questions and comments: