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“The first step is learning to breathe,” said the wise monkey.

“Learning to breathe?” asked Nin.

“Learning to breathe,” repeated the monkey. “It is the core of all martial prowess. If you wish to run with the swiftness of a cheetah, first you must learn how to breathe. If you wish to catch a hunter’s arrow as it races towards you, first you must learn how to breathe. If you wish to cut your foe in twain with one fell strike, first you must learn how to breathe.”

The wise monkey took a sitting position. He folded his legs and rested his paws on his knees. “But this applies to more than just the combat arts. It is the fundamental aspect of all life. Whether you wish to master Gunjaro, make love to a beautiful woman, live to the age of one hundred or simply enjoy a good meal, proper breath control is essential.”

“How does one breathe?” asked Nin. He had assumed that his normal regular everyday breathing was proper breathing—it was natural breathing, wasn’t it?

The wise monkey puffed out his mighty chest in response to the question. “With mindfulness of course!” he bellowed.

He instructed Nin to sit.

Nin sat.

“Now, take a single breath in through your nose. Not a long breath, not a short breath, but a deep breath. Feel the cool of the air on your nose. Feel your diaphragm move, feel the fresh air fill your lungs. Focus on it. Be cognizant of it.”

And Nin did these things; he breathed in through his nose and smelled the fresh scent as it tickled his whiskers. He felt his chest expand.

“Now release that breath. Do not hold it until it becomes stale, do not expel it as if it were some foul poison, but let it go harmoniously, as smoothly and pleasantly as a summer breeze.”

And Nin did this as well. The hot breath escaped his mouth and returned to the clean air. He repeated the routine a few more times until he was certain he had mastered it.

“Good.” The wise monkey nodded approvingly. “Good. Practice that one hour a day and you will become like a great slate cliff, and all the troubles of the world will run off of your impenetrable stone face.”

“And what if I want to become a delicate flower?” asked Nin. “Blooming peacefully, enjoying the air and the sun and the summer rains?”

“With proper breathing you can be that too,” replied the wise monkey. “You will find that is much easier to be a flower if you are securely rooted with a strong stone foundation.”

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CrosstownGate

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