Phakchok Rinpoche opens the Universitat Pompeu Fabra’s “Aula de Meditació”
I’m 42 years old, and my meditation teacher is 97 and young. I was born in Kathmandu and I live where I can teach and learn. In the West, schools teach how the world is like, but they don’t teach how we can discover it within us. I collaborate with the Asociación Bodhicitta Escola de L’Èsser in Barcelona, and have published ‘Awakening Dignity’ (Shambhala Publications), soon to be published in Spanish by Editorial Kairós.
“And now, expire until you squeeze your guts and… more! Squeeze the anus!”
What is Buddhism? A practice, faith, meditation, a way of living?
I’ll tell you what it can offer us.
That’s a good answer.
In the West, education teaches to look outside, to the world: biology, geography, physics, history…
Isn’t that teaching and learning?
…but it doesn’t teach to learn how to know oneself by looking within.
Can’t we discover ourselves in the universe?
But if you don’t look within yourselves, you will believe that you are only what others think of you, and thus you’ll lose your power over yourselves.
It’s true, we live in the narcissism era.
Because this lack of education for self-knowledge leaves our young people at the mercy of others, and even worse, at the mercy of the social networks…
If it would only be the young people!
…and lacking self-confidence and maturity, instead of focusing on improving by themselves, they search others’ approval through a like or showing their holidays at the social media, constantly looking for what others say about them.
How to start getting to know ourselves?
Start by learning how to breathe.
Man! If they are reading us, they already know.
They breathe, but they don’t know how to do it. And if they don’t really know how to breathe, they won’t learn to control their emotions and, thus to know themselves until they don’t need to depend on others anymore in order to know who they really are.
Could you teach us a little on how to breathe?
Of course! Let’s see, just inhale and exhale completely.
I inhale… Ahhhrffff.
That’s it. Fully through the nose… go on… ¡more!
I exhale completely: buffffffff.
That’s not enough, Lluís. Exhale completely, that’s ok, but not only that: you must also exhale with your whole stomach and guts.
Exhale, come on!… Now from your stomach and, now… pay attention…
Like this? Bufffffff.
Like that! Like that! Now squeeze the rectum…!
Do you mean… the anus?
Yes, the anus. Squeeze the anus. Finish the expiration by contracting the belly, intestines and rectum… Like this, like me. Squeeze your anus!
Yes. I’m on it.
And before you start to inhale, wait three seconds.
Here “squeeze the anus” (apretar el culo) is a very popular expression in Catalan…
Don’t talk, focus on breathing.
Better, Lluís, better. Human emotions are connected to breathing which, as you know, accelerates or relaxes at their pace, but it can also modify them.
What if I get depressed, will I breathe worse?
Or you can get depressed because you breathe worse. Just by breathing correctly you would feel better.
Will I feel better now?
Relax your anus as you finish exhaling after squeezing it. Now you can.
I relax it.
And don’t expect anything from this breathing exercise. Avoid the anxiety that comes with the expectation. Don’t think about it, just breathe.
Do you teach how to breathe at school?
We learn how to meditate, which is not difficult, because it begins by simply learning how to breathe.
Without great physical exercises?
Merely breathing correctly will give you control over your emotions and your body, and soon you will realize that you have either lost it, or you were never taught how to get it. You were never taught how to breathe.
Those who run, swim, exercise… Don’t they learn how to breathe in order not to suffocate?
That’s one of the reasons why exercising is so popular here, today, because it brings back the awareness of breathing and it’s soothing. But just imagine that you could progress a bit more in controlling your breathing, your emotions, your mind…
Is that a daily endeavor?
And available to everyone. That’s why meditation, mindfulness, yoga, all those great exercises are becoming more and more popular: they try to calm your breathing, your body, your emotions, your mind…
That’s gaining self-control until you know yourself. And you can find out if you are happy and successful without having to ask others, because they have told you that your success depends on them.
Is success getting to know oneself?
Success is something invented by those who want you to depend on them to achieve it: to be famous, superior, rich, handsome… And only others decide if you are that or not. Everything is ego.
How do you avoid falling into such temptation?
If you direct all your efforts towards being better than others, it’s of no use. If you think that you are the best and you are constantly comparing yourself with others, that means you haven’t improved. If you don’t improve, you’ll never know who you are.
If you don’t tame yourself, others will overpower you
Our education teaches us to look outside, at the world, until we know it and transform it. But it doesn’t teach us to look within, until we know and transform ourselves. That’s why we believe that we are what others think of us and we live in a constant anxiety, intensified by the social networks, to make sure that others look at us, like us and care about us ⎯we confuse attention with affection.
The remedy to such enslaving dependency is to know oneself, and it starts by learning how to breathe ⎯says Phakchok Rinpoche⎯ regularly and methodically until we notice our anger, jealousy, pride… Life, ultimately, is painful due to what others think of us. Nonetheless, freeing ourselves from that anxiety depends entirely on ourselves in a systematic breathing exercise and meditation… until one day we come to feel and know why we breathe.
Lluís Amiguet (trans. by Marcela Lopez)
La Contra de La Vanguardia