Following last night’s meditation, a couple of people commented on something I’d said earlier: “Let your breath be your refuge.” Not sure where those words came from, except that I meant to remind us to bring attention again and again to that which is real and now.
To meditate in the Soto Zen tradition, as best as I can articulate, has no goal or outcome: sit still and observe what arises, teachers tell us. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, be a witness to all that comes into awareness. Welcome everything and escort your attention to the next breath — inhale, turn-around, exhale. Take refuge in the breath, in the place and instant where everything begins and everything ends. Where nothing exists, no pain, no joy, mere emptiness.
Notes: The subject line is a fragment from a Van Morrison song, “In the days before rock ‘n’ roll / when we let the goldfish go / before, before …” (Enlightenment album 1990). The word refuge stems from Latin refugium, “place to flee back to” also “safe haven.” image: I took this on last year’s hike on the Camino near the German-Luxembourg border. During the Black Death (ca. 1348) villagers would leave food and messages at this tiny chapel for those afflicted by the plague.