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Life in Every Breath

When I remember

I feel life in every breath

Every cup of tea

This haiku comes from a scene in the film Last Samurai in which a samurai explains bushido, the way of the warrior. I showed this scene to people in the Pathology Department at Stanford to explain Heartfulness and its original meaning in Pali, "to remember to observe."

The kanji for "forget," shows a loss of soul: 忘. The kanji for mindfulness 念 shows the presence of our soul. So if we remember who we are, observing that we are part of nature, and connected to all living things, then we are living in the moment, being present in our lives, as they unfold. The samurai explains that awareness--of our mortality, of the connections with our ancestors and the ephemeral beauty of cherry blossoms--is a way to living fully in each and every moment.

We're all affected by long-term stressors like the global pandemic as well as past and present traumas that cause a constant state of unease, uncertainty, and worry. Today, many people are convinced by a neurobiology explanation of how balancing the autonomic nervous system improves health. The ways of doing this are simple and varied, such as qigong, meditation, yoga, nature walks, eating well, caring for a pet, or small acts of kindness. It's as true today as it was for the samurai that bringing attention to our breath, to the mundane, with gratitude for the small things in life, for what we have, is the foundation of well being.

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