BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA
People often ask me, what is growing? What does it look like? How do I do it?
There’s no easy answer. While growing is a universal activity, it is individually expressed within each microenvironment, and there are trillions of microenvironments on the face of the earth. That means that, rather than having me explain in detail what growing means to you, you have to do the work of figuring that out for yourself. I will help in any way I can, but I can’t give you any rules. First of all, there really aren’t any. But even more important, I feel that as an expression of respect for the potential that is in each person on this earth and the extraordinary range of resonance that is present in people, for the extraordinary variety of songs people sing, I should create and hold the space for each person in my life to find within themselves their own music and express it as they can.
Everything in this world grows. Just look around you—you can see every living thing around you taking in energy, creating structure from it, and expanding within the sphere of its own field of operation into an ever-increasing flow. As a tree grows, it has increasing structure that supports increasing internal flow and external expression, which generates more flow coming in and more flow going out.
The same process is in play in everything that grows. Every living thing is basically taking in energy and transforming that energy into structure. It takes it in through the biochemical process and expires it through respiratory process.
There are multiple dimensions of respiratory process. We are breathing in and sending out, and as we’re breathing in and sending out, we are participating in an extraordinary range of diverse activities. For instance, trees take in carbon dioxide as part of the process of photosynthesis, through which they make complex sugars from light. They use them to create structure and, in the process, they are releasing oxygen and other chemicals.
All day, every day, each of us is taking in energy in three dimensions whether we are aware of it or not. We are breathing air through our lungs; we are taking in food and digesting it; and we are taking in information from our total environment through our senses and also through our skin. We are taking in information that we never consciously deal with because we don’t need to. We are taking this information and structuring it within ourselves for the sake of continuing to fulfill our fundamental biological imperative, which is eating and reproducing.
If you begin to pay attention to this three-phase respiratory process, you would start to understand that there is constantly a circulation of energy of various forms being taken in and breathed out all day every day, and that those respiratory processes are the mechanism by which you grow. Tuning in to the movement of energy that is happening constantly—and which actually is what you are—begins to inform you about yourself in ways that will certainly reorganize everything you think you know about you and the world you live in.
It all begins with paying attention to your breath, the most basic respiratory process. If you pay attention to your breath and the quality of interaction between yourself and others, you begin to recognize that there is a living process inside of you that encompasses a wide range of experience. Some of that experience is really extraordinarily fine, and it’s accessible over and over and over again should you choose to access it.
If you understand that simple thing, if you understand that, like a tree, you are in this world to grow, whenever you come to a place of strain or trauma or difficulty, you can refer back to that understanding. Then you’ll have a basis for beginning to sort out what you are doing and what you need to do within the experience that is expressing itself as your life. It makes things simple.