As my monthly contribution to the Spire I would like to ask, “How can we turn information into transformation?” In searching for a response to this question I won’t be highlighting our wonderfully long straight-white-male tradition. Rather I’d like us to look to the margins of our own tradition and to the rich variety of other spiritual traditions. I hope this diversity in spiritualties, theologies, and practices help illuminate the Christ within your own heart. For this first practice, let’s look to the teachings of Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh on Breathe Prayer,
Just recognize: this is an in-breath, this is an out-breath. Very simple, very easy. In order to recognize your in-breath as in-breath, you have to bring your mind home to yourself. What is recognizing your in-breath is your mind, and the object of your mind—the object of your mindfulness—is the in-breath. Mindfulness is always mindful of something. When you drink your tea mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of drinking. When you walk mindfully, it’s called mindfulness of walking. And when you breathe mindfully, that is mindfulness of breathing.
So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that, the mental discourse will stop. You don’t think anymore. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of the practice. You don’t think of the past anymore. You don’t think of the future. You don’t think of your projects, because you are focusing your attention, your mindfulness, on your breath.