Rajan Shankara meditating before performing a Siva Puja

Sitting and Breathing

There’s nothing particularly special about living in a monastery. In fact, there’s nothing particularly special about living anywhere. No matter where you go, where you’ve been or where you will be, one fact remains the same — you are there. There is beauty, suffering, wealth and poverty, no matter where you go. Sometimes the same source of wealth is the very source of poverty, and sometimes even external happiness can be a front for inner desperation. In other cases, outer struggle can lead to inner peace. Life is, just as zen is. Sit and breath, sit and breath, sit and breathe.

Being a monk is no different than being a person in the world, nor does understanding the wisdom of scripture, mindfulness and meditation doesn’t only exist within the walls of a monastery. If I’ve learned anything about the two different places, it’s that they are one and the same. Inside both we sit and breath, sit and breath, sit and breathe.

I’ve lived my life now almost half in the world and half in a monastery. And what I have discovered and observed in both places is people uncovering the truths behind the mind, living and relationships. Normal everyday people are becoming just as wise as the greatest thinkers because life is teaching them the difficult truths that monks, academics and scholars read, study and reflect about. Extracting the lesson of life is not the difference but being eloquent enough to express the truths from the experience becomes the only barrier between the two paths. Both paths sit and breathe, sit and breathe, sit and breathe.

Everywhere we look there are teachers, wise people, mentors and truth-sayers who have learned to extract the greatest lessons from life’s experiences. Whether you wear robes, a suit or a uniform, you can explore the depths of your being and teach using any medium of expression. It is easy to mistake a monks wisdom from their path of world-withdrawal, but now I see they are wise because they are living the life they want to live — and anyone can do that. Anyone can be free, and anyone can sit and breathe, sit and breathe, sit and breathe.

We can all seek peace, zen and contentment — even bliss — no matter where we go or what costume we decide to wear. Our life can be fulfilling with a loved one, family, friends, animals, or alone. Meditation can be mastered with practice inside a monastery or out, and we can help advise and mentor others no matter where we go. Each soul simply says to sit and breathe, sit and breathe, sit and breathe.

The depths of truth don’t deepen and enlightenment is no brighter for those who are accomplished whether on the inside or outside of the walls of a holy place. The difference between monk and world-yogi is a life decision. One sacrifices family and wealth for their religion and group identity, and the other to sacrifice group identity for individuality, unknown variety and novelty. However, both sit and breathe, sit and breathe, sit and breathe.

The zen, Dao, Dharma, Veda, Nirvana and deepest Samadhi are no longer for the bearded or bald monks but for all to seek — whoever does so with genuine sincerity, openness and patience. We have no barrier on the path of light other than ourselves, just as we have no other answer to that path other than ourselves. Sit and breathe, sit and breathe, sit and breathe they both say.

If you sit and breathe you will be practicing every religion, every spirituality and every path that man has been able to come up with. The defiance of the world is an act of meditation that both monk and man practice daily, and no one can change your belief system so long as you are solid in your stance and perspective. Truth will grow from within as long as you are watching for it, as long as you sit and breathe, sit and breathe, sit and breathe.

Sitting and breathing is not religion, it is not spirituality nor is it doing something new. Sitting and breathing is going back into what you really are, the source of everything. The details, scriptures, rules, commandments, clothing, temples, history, paths, books and words are just the paint splattered on the canvas of body, mind and world — yet the canvas of soul remains underneath it all, sitting and breathing.

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