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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Ted's Email

For those who didn't listen to the podcast with Ted Howell's email, here it is. I felt like the points he makes about breath counting in zazen is important dharma for us to absorb.

David - 

Let me thank you for the episode about counting the breaths (where I did understand Suzuki Roshi). You mentioned that sometimes you just keep on counting. I never considered doing that. I’ve been mostly a shikantaza kinda guy but interestingly about a month or two ago I decided to return to counting the breathing. I discovered that sometimes I found myself forcing my breathing and counting quickly - like I am trying to get to “10” before I get distracted🙂. To counter-act that I began to stop at 9, to rid myself of any sense of the “goal” being to get to 10. 

I became curious about how many breaths an average person takes each year. I looked it up and found that, on average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year. I turn 66 next month, which would be 555,033,600 breaths. So I considered starting my counting like this:

555,033,601, 555,033,602, 555,033,603, etc

But then I listened to your podcast and decided to start at one and just keep on counting each time I sit. This is a brand new zazen practice for me. I’m finding that the counting can just keep on going, not necessarily connected to the breathing. Just counting. Sort of in the background, behind the distractions. I like it.

Ted Howell