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Friday, July 31, 2009

Just Breathe

Back in 2003, I paid a visit to Deer Park Monastery, in Escondido, CA.

This is the California branch of the Buddhist order founded by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk who has been based in France the 1970s.

The grounds were pleasant were pleasant on that early summer day, the smell of the chaparral strong. The buildings were spartan, as befitting a Zen monastery.

But my favorite thing about the place was the small signs posted here and there with a simple message: "Breathe. You are alive."

Breathe. Just breathe.

Did you ever see an animal in panic? Like a bird trapped inside a house? It doesn't breathe, it pants.

Often, so do we.

Hindu teachers say that we are only allotted so many breaths in our lives. The longer and deeper we breathe, the longer we live.

It makes sense.

How important is breathing? A very rough rule of thumb says that an adult can live three weeks without food, and three days without water. Air? Three minutes.

Of course, what we breathe is also important. Contrast the air on a clear mountain morning to the sludge in a smoky bar. Breathe the best air you can. (Some of you may have to quit smoking.)

So wherever you are right now, whatever you’re doing, stop. Sit up. And take a deep breath. Then another. And another. Make a habit of it.

You'll be happier.

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