March 20, Harada Roshi; Guidance #1

Now in this world the scary Corona Virus has infected over 200,000 people world wide, 8,800 have already died. Today in Sogenji a sutra was chanted after Teisho for those who have died from this virus.

Now many countries especially in Europe, do not allow people to move around freely anymore. People are staying at home and not meeting others.  The situation is taking the direction that the gathering of people isn’t being allowed anymore.  I believe these political decisions must create quite some uncertainty.

This worry and uncertainty can weaken our health. Our energy gets stuck within and this accelerates the number of people becoming sick. Yet thinking about the situation, I would hope that it quietens down by mid April. Everyone needs to make efforts to stay healthy during this time. Thus I am sending my advice to everyone.

When you go out, wear a mask. Returning home, wash your hands. Take your hygiene as being of great importance. Fortunately this year it has not been so cold compared to last year. The colder it is, the more likely people can become sick, staying in rooms with closed windows and poor air flow. It is important to air out your room regularly and care for yourself.

Everyone has been doing zazen yet now with the isolation and uncertainty, everyone becomes more insecure. That again brings forth a weakened system. The breath becomes short and tense and humans loose their vigor. With this people, , especially the elderly, become even weaker, and the corona virus infection is more likely to happen. An early resolution has not been found, that is the problem we face.

Thus I would advice you to return to the source, return to the basics of zazen. You may sit on a chair or in the zazen posture, which is even better. [When you begin your meditation-] Exhale and let your upper body drop forward. When inhaling sit up again. Please do the same bending to the right and left side and find your center. Then adding energy from your tail bone in the direction of your belly button, rise up straight with your spine from there all the way to the top of your head, tucking in your chin slightly. This is how you can check the posture.

Now do not add on any tension to your diaphragm, chest and stomach area, rather feel like an empty pipe where the air is passing through. Do not breathe with your lungs [working the ribs] but with the movement of the belly. Liberating your chest, please exhale. Using your abdominal muscles, exhale deeply. If you are not in a hurry, you can exhale 10 – 20 seconds, even 30 seconds. The important point is not to work from the chest but to breathe with the belly and lower abdomen. Exhale until you are completely empty. The slower you exhale, the more the abdominal pressure rises. The body above the diaphragm, the shoulders, neck, are free from tension. 

Before the exhalation gives rise to tension, we slowly let go and let the inhalation enter. When we let go, naturally the belly moves forward and fills up with air. Entrusting the body’s inhalation.

For whom this is difficult to sense, you can move your upper body forward when exhaling. And when inhaling sitting upright again. Here also the important point is to keep the upper body free from tension.

Someone who is bedridden, can do this in bed, perhaps getting some help, you can move your body forward and backward with your breathing. In this way your breath becomes longer again.

Whenever we feel tense, certainly the breathing has become short, and then the inner flow of energy becomes stagnant. What is important for us is that all cells of the body receive the oxygen they need which we do by lengthen our breath. An expansive breath is what is needed. A long exhalation followed by a natural inhalation. 

When possible, take a walk, matching your breathing to each step. At this time you can use shorter breaths, matching the pace of your walking. If that gets too intense, then match your breath to two or more steps, having the exhalation and the inhalation last multiple steps. This is how we can practice our breathing when we walk, the breath is rather short, yet the abdominal tension is strong, and the inner organs become invigorated.

Whenever we have a moment and practice the breathing in this way, slowly, slowly the worry and fear will disappear. They are what is most difficult for us when our mind is unsettled. When our mind is strong and settled, no suspicion and doubts arise. By using the breathing we can free ourselves from all anxiety. Otherwise our interpersonal relationships become difficult.

With the hope for a resolution to the corona situation to be found soon, it is my hope that each person takes responsibility  to not increase their own worry.

We do not receive any guidance about this from politicians, thus I would like to send out regular messages to everyone. So that we can protect our health together. Please each person depend on your own inner energy and let that rise even further.