Every life and every death begins the same way, with an exhale. We come into the world with a cry and go out with a sigh, each of these expressions floating on the out-breath.

Buddha’s disciple, Maudgalyayana, taught his own student an important lesson by showing him a huge pile of bones. When the student asked, “What is that?” Maudgalyayana replied, “These are all the bones from the bodies you had in previous lives.” 

The bones are always the first to go; it is how the earth element in our body dissolves. Water goes next, followed by the element of fire. Then our wind blows out. After the air element leaves us, the only thing that is left is our consciousness and finally that exits the body, too.

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“You already have everything you need to be happy.”

Bingo! All of us experience moments of insight that pop up out of nowhere. Maybe it was a matter of time and practice…drip, drip, drip, the bucket fills. Or maybe something more ordinary like boredom or exhaustion or jet lag slows us down long enough to notice.

What I wanted had been there all along, but I was too busy creating my own dukha to notice it. I see that tendency in my students too. They might be sitting nicely in a pose but the space between their eyebrows has a deep crease that tells me they are in pain. When I ask them about it, it’s almost like I woke them up out of a nap. A typical reply might be, “Oh yeah, this position always kills me. It’s been like that for years. I just don’t have good shoulders.”

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