April 5, Harada Roshi Guidance #7

Even when we sleep at night, the inner organs work. Because of them working, that is why we are alive. Why is that so? It seems that we are one human being. We have the senses to see hear smell and taste – all of them are in the upper part of our body. When we were born, we receive a lot of data input. More and more our inner essence weakens and we desire even more information from the outside. Our thoughts increase and the essence is blocked and finally lost. We base our life upon the information from the outside. If we do not make efforts to replenish our essence, we become even more empty inside. This is our urgent need.

Our head and and arms show the part of our being which is facing towards the world outside. Then we have the belly, and we can perceive it as the head of our lower part of the body, with our legs and feet. The lower part is about our true essence and life force. It is important that we see both of these aspects.

Our organs working even while we are sleeping is due to the lower part of our body which produces the hormone of life-energy. When we are born we are in inner harmony. Yet we use the upper part of our body more, receive information and start to think more. The more our essence becomes weak, the more we feel unsettled. This is the important point of our zazen: to place our focus in our tanden.

This is what the Buddha took as central, as well as the ancients before him, thus the teaching of the tanden breathing is over 4000 years old. This has been supporting our life-energy all along. Yoga, Chikung, TaiChi – many different path support this inner balance. We bring the life-energy back inside and raise our energy level. This is important. Keeping your awareness on your tanden, feeling the pressure there. Inhaling exhaling with the force of the tanden. Depending on our efforts, we stay with our awareness in our tanden, when standing, walking, lifting things, working and sitting. We move our body not from our head and ideas, but from our lower abdomen.

If you have some time, to sit zazen is fine. With each exhalation breathe down into your tanden. Exhale to the last point and the essence becomes stronger. Which again strengthens your tanden in return and reduces the habit to think about everything with your head.

Hakuun Shutan Zenji talks about it, how he would stay centered in his tanden, teaching is many students and doing his work from there. He would pass on this wisdom to others. We can strengthen our inner essence to the degree that our feet become warm. Hakuun Shutan Zenji would say that he felt filled with vibrant energy even at high age and could continue all of his activities.

All we need to do is to gather our energy in the tanden. If we try to do his from our head though, then we get tense in the diaphragm and cannot exhale further, not reaching the tanden. We need to make actual efforts, making our exhalation slowly longer, not getting stopped anywhere. And finally we have raise the energy level of our tanden.

Once the life-energy gathers in the tanden, our blood circulation becomes more vibrant as well, the veins moving the blood back to the heart, our energy level rises even more. We can absorb more oxygen to vitalize ourselves.

There is no need for extraneous thoughts, but rather exhale one breath after the next. It is my great wish that you may continue with this inner practice, raising you level of energy so that you can stay settled and immovable within no matter what information and news may reach you from the outside.