ZEN is the art of being aware. Awareness is enlightenment. Seeking out enlightenment is a waste of time. It is like looking for your car keys when they are in your hand or seeking out your sun glasses when they are on top of your head. We only seek these things out when we are not aware of them. To become aware of them we must seek them and come to the realization that we have wasted our time because the keys were in our hand all along.
The most important step in becoming aware is the realization that we are missing something. Our keys. Our sunglasses. Our awareness. Many Christian's call this the realization that Christ is missing from their lives and they seek Christ in the words and actions of other people. The awareness that Christ is missing is not an awareness of Christ.
A person cannot fill their lives with people and with Christ. Once a person realizes they are missing something a person can be filled with the things of people or with the things of Christ. The things of people are not the things of Christ.
The first step in awareness is becoming aware of our breathing because we are usually most ignorant of our breathing. Breathing has become automatic. We do it without thinking. There is no specific way to breathe. You may be told that slow, deep breaths are good for you and this is true. That does not mean you cannot breathe in short, fast breaths. The important thing is to be aware of your breathing.
I am almost always aware of my breathing. Sometimes I forget to be aware because I am focused so intently on something else. When I realize that I am breathing it is like being born. I am aware and I am aware that I am aware.
One of the exercises I was given when I first began practicing ZEN was to be aware of when I blinked. We blink often. I just did it, just now. I was asked to slow down my blinking so I could feel the motion of my eyelid. This was not easy. It took me a long time. I knew when I blinked but I could not control it. I could not slow the motion of my eyelid down. When I could it became a great victory that I never discussed with anyone. I myself was aware and my teacher was aware that I was aware because the speed at which I blinked had become slower. Even today, if I choose I can slow my blink because I am aware of it.
I almost always chest breathe. I enjoy the feeling of the expansion of my chest and the contraction of my chest. I am aware of this and I am aware that it makes others uncomfortable. I will sometimes breathe with my stomach because it relaxes people around me.
My teacher was a martial artist and chest breathing changes the physiology of the person. Breathing with your chest actually increases the adrenaline to your system. I would sit in ZEN with my stomach muscles tightened, feeling my chest expand and contract. I could feel the energy building inside of me. Later I learned to tighten my abdominal muscles and breathe with them tightened.
When I am in a dangerous situation I am careful to breathe with my stomach. Most people will breathe with their chest when they are stressed.
I do not suggest that anyone learn to make chest breathing a habit. For some of us it is a good idea, even if it creates distance from the people around us.
Be aware that the unaware will always assume a chest breather is upset or stressed. "Ready to Explode" This is a tool that people who are semi-trained in body language will use badly. "If someone is chest breathing they are stressed" this is not always true, but, the badly trained person will always assume it is true. Like all things chest breathing is one indicator which must be combined with other indicators to indicate a probability. Not a reality.
A lie detector will measure the cadence of a person's breathing. It will also measure the expansion of the chest. If you are taking a lie detector test it is important to be aware that you should stomach breathe and change the cadence of your breathing based on the questions.
Typically people will stay farther away from a person breathing with their chest. They will become upset when they are around a person breathing with their chest. They will become defensive as if they are being attacked even when no attack has been made. The more unaware they are the more likely they are to become afraid or angry when they are around a person breathing with their chest.
If you want to find out if a person is tolerant disagree with them. A tolerant person will agree to disagree. An intolerant person will reject.
Chest breathing is a tool that can be used to understand the people around you. People will react differently.
If you want to identify people who are semi-aware you can chest breathe while relaxed. The unaware will become nervous. The semi-aware will either become slightly confused or smug.
Some people will try to invade your space because they think it will make you more stressed. You can choose how to behave. Normally when a person invades someone's space it is either an invitation to physical closeness or a challenge. Not always. Be aware. Choose your behavior. Move slightly closer or move away or stay where you are. Girls and women do this often. When a woman invades my space I will often change to stomach breathing, if I am interested in being close to them.
As I sit here writing I am switching between stomach breathing and chest breathing. Often I use both. I love the feel of my chest expanding as air fills my lungs. I love the feel of my ribs coming together as the air leaves my lungs. I can feel my lungs deflating. I do not enjoy breathing through my stomach nearly as much.
When I want to really focus I often stomach breathe. My physiology changes. I often fall asleep when if I stomach breathe for a long time. I use stomach breathing as a technique to help me sleep. My system becomes slower.
My ZEN teacher never told me to smile while I sat in ZEN. Later I learned this and I understood.
People are more comfortable around someone who is smiling and stomach breathing. These techniques can help calm the people around you. By smiling and stomach breathing you can help calm the world around you if this is your goal. This is what the unaware expect when they are in the presence of a practitioner of ZEN.
ZEN is not the search for peace. We have peace. We may not be aware of the peace we have and so we seek it until we become aware that our search was a waste of time. We cannot become aware that our search was a waste of time without first seeking.
So our first step in ZEN is becoming aware of our breathing and the understanding that our breath influences the people around us.
The second step in ZEN is becoming aware of our facial expressions and how they influence the people around us.
The third step in ZEN is becoming aware of our thoughts and how our thoughts influence the people around us. To do this we must stop thinking. We must create the empty mind.
In Asian martial arts we first study the way of the empty hand. We learn that our empty hand is filled with a powerful weapon that we can use.
In ZEN we study the way of the empty mind. We learn that the empty mind is filled with a powerful tool which we can use.
What should we use these tools for?
There are those who tell us that we must always use these tools to create peace around ourselves. This is a goal. There is nothing wrong with it.
We all influence each other. We can control other people just by breathing. We control people by smiling.
Stomach breathing invites people into a closeness where we can control them. It is a web that a spider weaves. Two people coming close together often interweave a web that surrounds themselves and others and from which they find it difficult to escape.
Chest breathing encourages people to make their own individual decisions, often defensive from fear, but the decisions are their own and they are typically more aware of their behavioral decisions. Sometimes they have so little control and they are so ignorant of themselves and their triggers that they can not help but act out against another person. This is sad.
A smiling person can be inviting. Often the invitation is into a web.
A passive face is neither an invitation nor a rejection and yet many are rejected by it.
An aware person who is confident will rarely become defensive around a person who is chest breathing.
A tolerant person will rarely reject someone who disagrees with them.