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How you feel is a choice. If you can see how feelings are just like thoughts you can see how you choose them moment by moment. You can then begin to choose different thoughts and feelings. This can lead to big changes after a period of practice. The first step is in observing your thoughts, getting in the habit of stepping back and watching yourself. This takes time to cultivate and isn’t the focus of this article.

If you have trouble with your feelings getting the best of you, take a cue from my cat Georgette. She is now 17 years old and she is rocking being present and being in her bliss. She is happy right were she is.

If you feel like you have lost your bliss let me know what’s not working, maybe our mechanic can help fix what ails you during this pandemic.

I have found that many people are confronting hard emotional material during this idle period. We are so used to going all the time. May I suggest that you use this time to quietly reflect. Learning how to silence the mind could happen at this time. Learning how you can use breath to assist you in shifting how you feel is of great benefit. You wont be changing the world until you change yourself….

Breath work is a singular technique incredibly useful in changing how you feel. It shuts down your busy mind and helps bring you to silence, calm, and if you are able to slow down enough, enter into something called Presence.

You want a breath that is deliberate, slow, with pauses at the top and bottom of each breath. The rate of your breathing should be about three seconds in, holding your breath for about two seconds, with an exhale at that same rate, with a one to two second pause at the end of the exhale. You can play around with this rate to find a rate that makes you feel most relaxed.

You will want to do this type of breathing for about 3-5 minutes at first, just enough to see how it is done and you begin seeing results.

If you don’t see any results at all, I reccomend placing all of your attention on your breathing and nothing else. Listen to your breathing. Take your mind off of whatever is normally occupying it. You may also need to do something that will relax you beforehand, like sleep or taking a warm bath or shower. You want to shift your mind away from the busy mind that you have become so accustomed to having. This will take some practice. It will take time. Once or twice is not enough. Trying this at the same time of the day can be helpful in establishing a habitual trigger that helps you to relax and quiet down.

Another version of this type of breathing is alternating nostril breathing. It is done the same way as our earlier breath except you close one nostril at a time to breath in and breathe out through one nostril only before alternating to the other nostril. I have done four breaths in one nostril before doing four in the other, as well as simply one breath per nostril. The point is in keeping the number of breaths balanced between each nostril.

You can also use imagery with your breathing. I often feel a shot of energy all through my body when I breathe like this, so I will think about my breathing and how it will stimulate my root chakra, sending a shot of energy through all of my other energy centers.

I might think about the energy ending up in a center I am thinking about only to find that the energy goes there, dutifully following thought. I then feel how that energy feels moving through my body, and I can learn a lot about the state of my own energy body, for instance by how the energy feels as it moves like this.

If a part of me feels tight or tense, I imagine directing breath to that location. It might take some practice, but it is feeling the energy generated through breath being sent to that location that does it for me The more vividly you can imagine it, the better it will work. Prana will go where thought goes.

If you slow down, focus on listening to your breath, and breathing nice and slow, you can find breathing rates that can bring calm and even bliss (if you keep going deeper). The clue that it is working is you will feel like you are out of your mind or body a little. You might feel weak-kneed and you might have a hard time focusing or remembering what you were thinking. This is the very state that you want. This is the threshold of the zen state, the practice called zazen, a cultivation of quiet single-mindedness. It helps bring peace. Be patient and feel free to ask questions.

I hope that this finds you well and my hope is that you will use this to help take the edge off of how you feel. Let me know how it goes.

~Parker

We are not all so different.  “What I do, so shall you….and do even greater things…”  It is all a matter of focus, care, concern, interest.  I once believed I was just…ordinary….but I liked to read about the extraordinary.  I found that life had  some surprises.

As I look back, awakening was trailing me all along.  There were messages, signposts, some which were utterly incomprehensible to me at the time.

In 1991 as I drove back on the very last half hour of my trip from the desert southwest, at two in the morning I turned a corner in the darkness and suddenly felt a presence right in front of my face.  Face to face, this image was clear in my inner eyes.  It was a face of a man who was looking straight at me, no words, no thoughts, even.  He looked straight at me and I shared his space, his mirror.  As I did this, I was able to observe how he didn’t have a single thought in his mind.  What he had was pure presence.  I wondered how on earth anyone could do that.  A still mind.  No thought.  He kept looking at me, a very slight smile on his face, a knowing sense of “yes, I am doing this…..I am showing YOU how this no-thought is done!”  But without a word, without even a thought…..hardly.  I was stumped how anyone could have a mind that was still like this. That was in July of 1991.

Then in February of 1992, I was in a bookstore and saw that face again.  I was breezing through the Asian section.  I had bought a book on kundalini there when I was a young teen.  I pulled a thin book off the shelf and saw the face that was looking back at me some seven months ago.  I bought the book along with a CD (Talking Heads) tucked the receipt in the book and took it home.  I read through some of it and found the material just went over my head.  I didn’t get it, not all of it.  I understood it, yes, but I did not get that deep down sense of recognition.  But that face.  It was the same face.  He was a Zen master who had died in 1982. Taishen Deshimuru was his name.

Fast forward to last night.  I revisited this thin slip of a book again after having read some of it a year or two ago.  Nothing could have been more different from when I first read it and tucked it under my car seat where it stayed for almost a year before going on my book shelf.  I often picked it up and leafed through it, unable to really understand everything he was getting at.  For me, Zen always sounded like a bleak kind of world.  It spoke about letting go of everything.  All attachment.  Me, I am an artist.  I enjoy beauty.  I like things.  Sometimes it the smell of money, the taste of bacon, the smell of gas, a roaring fire, the smooth slip of water clay under my hands, the drape of molten glass onto itself, the smell of cumin, the taste of curry, the taste of dew on honeysuckle.  The dawn of day, the setting of the sun, the roar of a waterfall.  I just love nature.  But zen seemed to just strip itself bare of all things.  So I set the book aside.  It had odd phrases….devil under the mountain….the half turn….let go of everything to achieve everything.  I was not sure what it all meant, honestly.

The book, though, is saying it right.  it has said it as I have said it so many times.  The letting go of all attachment is not about emptying ones self so one is empty, but so that one may empty ones self of all competing or error-ridden things that get in the way of pure aligned seeing.  One gives up the small ego in order to take on the cosmic ego, the big Kahuna, and in the process, inherits the All. And his students put it all together after his death as a gesture of remembering him, this thin little thing that says all the essential things.  It isn’t that I am a zen guy, it is that my zen guy has been coming to me for a reason all these years.  He showed up way back in the early 90’s and then I had an interaction during a time that was leading up to what some would mistakenly call “ego-death” (but whatever, folks…). His was like that of seeking to remind me that I need only look into his mirror.  And as  I do, I read his words about mirrors….how teachers can be mirrors sometimes, and how it is important to understand how the mirror works.  Some take it for something literal, when one should step back and see what it can offer.  It is like claiming the reflection as a real thing when all you need to do is simply see the reflection.  it is life offering you an answer in that moment. We want to canonize that moment, the reflection, and take it home.  He jokes, “why didn’t the thief steal the reflection of the moon in the water, too?”  You maybe get what I am getting at, yes?

I read through the book and phrase by phrase the words sprang to new life.  Before, they fell on deaf ears.  Now, they spring to new life.  How is that?  And how can such a book teach anyone anything who does not already know? I mean, when Jesus said, “Let those with ears hear” he meant that those who already knew what he was talking about…..knew the gist of his meaning.  So only certain people would get it, right?  Or do some get parts of it deeply, perhaps not completely, but do just those side-ward partial glimpses do it?  I ask because I am enough along where sometimes it is hard for me to remember what it was like pre-awakening.  Sometimes I would get things, but they were often like currents that only went so deep.

This encounter prefigured awakening by 14 years.  The seeds of all of this were there then.  The empty mind was there, waiting for me.  And now, empty of mind, I am filled.  Satori, zazen, all things that I inherited without needing to spend day, years, in lotus position.  Had I spent all that time in other places putting in my time, then? Or is this awakening an inexplicable thing?  Or is it an aggregation of countless moments in my past all spelling a sum in the present now? I wonder.  I wonder because it springs fresh like flower from the ground.  It seem the most natural thing even as it struck me as strange and foreign.  A return to original mind.  Losing it in order to gain it.  This man has been following my tracks for some time.  When I read his words, it is now like reading straight from my own, but with a different vocabulary.

In a sense it seems improbable, but this is not the only event like this.  These odd strands have been extending outward from other lifetimes, earlier in life, before this birth here……so many pointing to one inevitable conclusion.  Is it that the soul of all point in the same kind of direction, to that bright hill, that peak of self, that moment when the clouds part….a time when life reaches a place of balance where all old and new things are brought into a unity…redeemed and a new cycle begun?  or simply the end of needing to come back to this place?  I suspect that in similar fashion, though, you too have these same events buried in your past like messages in bottles, waiting, offering, moments made of pure potentiality.  Something clicks and everything resolves into imperishability.  Thunder rolls down the mountain.  Make the half turn in your awareness and bring the light of your own consciousness to bear and burn within your own inner vessel. This lights a fire within. No more looking outside.  The world turns ’round this and all mystery resolves back into its origin.  We are all a part of this.

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