To be born into any world is to be born into a place where these dangers are normal. They lie in wait right here in the body that at birth we laid claim to, and the world around us is full of triggers that can bring these dangers out into the open at any time.
It’s an often-overlooked feature of the Buddha’s teachings that he identified the basis for all our good and skillful qualities as heedfulness — not innate goodness or compassion: heedfulness. To recognize that there are dangers both within and without, that your actions can make the difference between suffering from those dangers and not, and that you’d better get your act together now: this is the heedfulness that makes us generous, wise, and kind.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu, What Is True Safety?
So we have to be patient with ourselves. Over and over again we think we need to be somewhere else, and we must find the truth right here, right now; we must find our joy here, now.
How seductive it is, the thought of tomorrow. We must find our understanding here.
We must find it here; it is always here; this is where the grass is green.
John Tarrant, Calling on the name of Avalokiteshvara
Wrong solitude vinegars the soul
right solitude oils it.
How fragile we are, between the few good moments.
Jane Hirshfield, Vinegar and Oil
I am occasionally reminded of a beautiful line in the Gospel according to St. Luke, 11:1, where Jesus prays to God asking to be taught how to pray. Jesus asks not what to pray for; he does not pray for this or that. He asks how to pray.
I think we need similar instruction about breathing: Dear God: teach us how to breathe.
Teach us how to breathe beautifully. Teach us how to breathe truly.
Teach us how to breathe deeply. Teach us how to breathe in spirit.
Teach us to take in a breath that is connected to a healing spirit.
In many languages, the words for breath and spirit are connected. I am reminded of this when I look at our word: Respiration. In the middle of that word, respiration, the very process of breathing, is spirit.
The Bible begins with the wind/breath/spirit hovering above the waters. We do not breathe air. We breathe in spirit.
Omid Safi, Learning How to Breathe Again
As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche summarizes: “Ultimately, that is the definition of bravery: not being afraid of yourself.” Believing the seemingly non-stop, discursive commentary that courses through our heads simply interferes with letting ourselves be the brave beings we actually are. Such hyper-vigilance stems from fear, of course: “If I don’t check myself constantly, won’t I make a mistake?”
Letting go of incessantly measuring and comparing ourselves to others leads to spontaneous acts of courage and compassion. It’s like learning a dance step well enough that we no longer need to keep looking down at our feet.
Gaylon Ferguson, Natural Bravery
As soon as it becomes clear that “I” cannot possibly escape from the reality of the present, since “I” is nothing other than what I know now, this inner turmoil must stop. No possibility remains but to be aware of pain, fear, boredom, or grief in the same complete way that one is aware of pleasure. The human organism has the most wonderful powers of adaptation to both physical and psychological pain. But these can only come into full play when the pain is not being constantly restimulated by this inner effort to get away from it, to separate the “I” from the feeling. The effort creates a state of tension in which the pain thrives.
But when the tension ceases, mind and body begin to absorb the pain – as water reacts to a blow or cut.
Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity