Sunday, June 9, 2019

no superstition in the breath

Sometimes when I meditate
there is nothing left of me
but the breath
all the rest of me inseparable
from all the rest of you.

There is no superstition in the breath
only in the mind and body surrounding.

The mind and body are suspicious,
full of fables and myths;
but there is no superstition in the breath.
With each exhalation
wordless sensation migrates
from the nostrils to the belly and back again
brings water to the fields,
brings breath down the cord from mother to child,
brings blood to the sacrifice of love and war,
brings bright offerings to the temple;
sings into the dark,
assuring the aspirant bent in the shadow
the breath that never ends,
whether dropped to our knees below the cross,
or easy in the slippers of the Beloved,
and certainly behind the diamond brow,
sighs the sigh heard 'round the world.

That famous ten percent we are supposed 
to have use of our brain seems true
of the rest of the body and mind as well.
We occupy very little of ourselves
A few percent perhaps...

We barely inhabit the breath
living in the shallows of our life.
Our ordinary breath hollowed by fear and anger,
lost behind the nostrils somewhere near the heart,
lost somewhere between the back of the cave 
and to top of Jacob's ladder...our cells
are starving for breath.

The breath does not lie.
It has nothing to say
It simply is
overflowing with sensation
met crossing the bright field
inviting the body and the rest of the mind
to enter subtle as the breath
subtler levels of being...

The fable of each inhalation, like the first
firing of the imagination (full of the superstition of "I")
and animating the body; that first inhalation
still being drawn...
And last exhalation suspended in myth
begun to be expelled soon after birth.

Taking each breath as if it were the last,
before we enter the enormity at the center
of each breath.

Though superstition surrounds the first breath
and is rarely discarded even with the last,
these two breaths - separated by joyful swoons
and plaintive cries - come together in the great silence,
the bitter tears before and after
the great peace between breaths
when mind slows to wisdom and the body
knows itself, as T. S. Eliot nearly says,
for the very first time.

The wise man, the flying woman, dwells
in the space between breaths as faint echoes
drop over the edge and fade into
the vast chasm of silence.

Letting go at the end of each out-breath
stills the enormity.

Occasionally in the meditation hall my breath
nearly stopped.  I needed nothing more 
as thought stilled, and the wind-blown mind
settled.  As the drum stopped.
Breath and fear surrendered.
"If the breath never returns
the universe will breath for me."

Overcoming the distrust, not holding
to the last breath or grasping at the next.
Letting go completely of control of the breath.
Trusting a breath unshaped by pretense
or superstition, a breath that breaths itself
from the oceanic tides between planets ...
a breath like the one before
the one that created the universe,
that began thought, and forgot
its original face.

~Stephen Levine
from Breaking the Drought
photo by Diane Varner


Alejandra said...

So much gratitude for all the sharing through your blog.