“I have drawn things since I was six. All that I made before the age of sixty-five is not worth counting. At seventy-three I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. At ninety I will enter into the secret of things. At a hundred and ten, everything--every dot, every dash--will live”
―Katsushika Hokusai, 葛飾 北斎, 1760 –1849, Japanese artist
Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says everyone of us is a child,
everyone of us is ancient,
everyone of us has a body.
He says everyone of us is frightened.
He says everyone of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive–
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.
Video - Hokusai Says
There are many reasons to meditate, not the least of which is that it means becoming familiar with how your attention determines much of your daily life. Consider that almost everything and everyone else in life is vying to get and sway your attention, arguably your most precious asset. Attention is how we channel our life energy. Simply put, we each live our life through where our attention is directed. So it dearly matters that you pay attention to your attention, and how you choose to direct it, or not.
William James, considered the founder of psychology in America, wrote: "The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again, is the very root of judgement, character, and will. No one is compos sui (master of one's self) if he have it not."
Exercise “20 Breaths” Meditation
This mindfulness practice is called “20 breaths.” This exercise helps you take a fresh start whenever and wherever you want. It teaches you to step away from the distractions, frustrations, irritations, and preoccupations that stress and exhaust us.
“20 breaths” exercise is actually 20 separate mindfulness exercises. For 20 breaths you bring all of your attention to each breath just for the duration of that breath. Each practice only lasts about 5 seconds, which is how long a typical breath lasts. At the end of each breath, that period of mindfulness practice is over; you take a fresh start with the next breath. When that next breath begins, give it your full and complete attention. You do that 20 times, with 20 breaths.
Start by seeing what it feels like to pay attention to a single breath. Take an upright, balanced posture, close your eyes if that is comfortable for you, and in a moment, take a single breath, while giving it all of your attention. You can try it right now. It’s not hard, and of course, nothing dramatic happens, you are just noticing your breath, but you are doing something that most people have never tried. You are intentionally bringing all of your attention to what is happening in the present moment. You have started your training in mindfulness.
Try the same thing again, but this time, pay attention to three breaths. When you notice your first breath, see if you are giving it your full attention. Often we notice something without experiencing it fully. It is possible to practice mindfulness with only part of your mind. Obviously, that isn’t our goal now. If you find that part of your attention is somewhere else on your first breath, see if you can bring more of your attention to the second breath. And finally, see if you can bring all of your attention, which is completely possible, to your third breath. See what it feels like to experience each breath a little more fully than the one before. Gradually build up to 20 breaths. Or, if your day is very busy, do several practices of 3, 5 or 10 breaths during the day.
When you do the 20 breaths, each breath is a separate event, and each breath gets separate attention. At the end of the breath, you can let go of any effort. Relax, and the next breath will come. You will need to count the breaths to know when you are finished. So when you breathe in, and breathe out, you count it by saying the number “one” to yourself. After the second out breath, you count “two” and so on. When you get to “10”, start counting back to “zero.” So, for the first 10 breaths, you count from “1 to 10”, and for the second 10 breaths, you count back from “9 to 0.” If you lose count, it’s no problem. If you like, you can make your best guess as to where you were, and pick up there. Or, you can just start over as the whole exercise takes only a couple of minutes.
As you do this, you might discover that it is harder to pay attention, even for only a few seconds, then you might have thought. Sometimes, it seems as if every second has its own distraction and that the mind wanders constantly. Don’t let it bother you. In fact, this is one of the most important things that this exercise teaches us. You begin to notice when you are distracted, and then step away from that distraction. If we are going to undo stress, distractedness, and tension, first it takes noticing that they are happening in the first place. Try not to give yourself a hard time, or struggle too much. A light touch and a sense of humor will help.
If you practice this everyday, soon you will find that it is possible to bring all of your attention back into the present moment even when you are very stressed and distracted. You won’t do it perfectly every time, but with practice you will get better and better. Pretty soon you will be able to use this technique to find stillness and relaxation right in the middle of your busiest and most stressful day.