I like that quote. It is a gentle reminder that we are all interdependent and, in some way, connected to each other. To be connected to each and every creature means I have to be mindful of how I take care of the world and the people around me. It means I cannot be apathetic towards issues that affect others deeply, even if it does not directly or deeply affect me.
We take for granted the gift of Breath. And yet, we are reminded often, when we get a cold, have a stuffy nose or have to use a respirator or oxygen tank. Then, we appreciate being able to breathe normally. What a pleasure it is to be able to breathe easily unimpeded by allergic inflammations or what nots.
There is an exercise I learned about breathing. You might have your own exercises about it, too. The earliest one I learned is one swimmers might have practiced. Blowing bubbles in the water before swimming a lap in the pool. My father taught us to swim from a very early age. We spent most of our weekends at a resort, swimming until we turned nut-brown from all the sun and chlorine. I used to swim, everyday, every morning when I was in university. When you are swimming laps, you become aware of the rhythm of your strokes, and the rhythm of your breathing. The more tired you get, the more aware you become of how you are pacing your strokes along with the rhythm of your breaths. An easy exercise, true, but one that brings into your consciousness, self awareness.
To be first self aware is necessary to be able to relate to others. Breathing brings us to the most basic component of why we are alive. We are alive because we breathe. The practice and instinct of breathing is a major focus in most Eastern arts. We breathe to anchor our beings to Mother Earth. We breathe to strengthen our core. We breathe to focus on centering our selves in a fuzzy, hurried world. Sometimes, we breathe to slow things down to our pace. In Aikido, in Yoga and Zen Meditation, breathing is one of the pillars upon which these arts are built on. That ‘breath is the thread that ties creation together’ implies community.
The ancient poet, Rumi, puts connection in another way:
“There is a community of the spirit. Join it, and feel the delight of walking in the noisy street, and being the noise. Drink all your passion, and be a disgrace. Close both eyes to see with the other eye.”
What is this other eye? Is it our intuition? Our heart? Our spiritual connection? We breathe, we feel, we can sense intentions and goodwill, or none. We have this invisible bubble around us that vibrates and resonates or reflects what other beings around us are feeling. Why else do we feel at peace when we are in the bosom of nature? Or why do we feel ill at ease when there is a tense, angry or disturbed person close by? Even if it is not truly one of the five senses, could it be empathy? Empathy also builds connections. We feel someone else’s sorrow, we celebrate with someone else’s victories. We are happy or sad with them and for them. Our senses and experiences through them connect us. We are connected, not only to our immediate surroundings in the present, but also through time.
If kokyu is breath, and the technique kokyunage is the breath-throw in aikido, think of all the power harnessed in your breath if we relate it to how we are all interconnected. It would be vast, endless, inexhaustable, incomprehensively strong, or achingly gentle as we wish.
With practice, with each being, with nature, throughout the universe, through time, one breath, united. Kokyu is having one breath.
(Please also see: “Senshin: The Enlightened Mind“)