WARNING: This post may be offensive to those who imagine that their spiritual and material worlds are separate…
Our task in life is to wake up. Reality is all around us, yet we cannot always see it clearly. We understand that our breath is a vehicle that can bring us into the present. Our breath is only one gate to awakening, there is also a back door.
Several times a day we exhale through our bottoms. These are naturally mindful moments. They engage our senses and effectively center us in the present. Our gas connects us with those around us, providing a full frontal assault on our egos. All of you yogis understand the sensation of clamping down your root chakra to avoid spilling your scent into the studio. You’ve all quietly giggled when it doesn’t work. This is pure mindfulness.
In a new relationship it is an uncelebrated milestone when your new love interest demonstrates their humanity by soiling the air. Whether the gas escapes silently or with a flourish of sound, is immaterial to the moment. You have entered a new level of intimacy. New couples may hold out for months or years without dropping the ‘L’ bomb (I love you), but the first fart comes out on its own.
Passing gas in a crowded elevator demonstrates to us that we are all one. In those situations, there are people and there is gas. There is both separateness and togetherness. The elevator becomes divided between the perpetrators and the victims, but together we share an experience. The perpetrator can blend in with the victims and experience the solidarity of recognition that something is in the air. The polite way to respond is to just be there and pretend that nothing stinks. Children are not good at that game. They are likely to acknowledge reality.
If you happen to experience a public gas event, you have a golden opportunity to observe your ego. If you are the perpetrator, your ego will begin the self-talk about how to handle the situation, “maybe it won’t smell”, “nobody will expect it was me”, “act natural”. If you’ve ever wondered how to spot your ego, that is it.
The gas that escapes your body can help you explore the nature of your Self. If you have ever wondered where you stop and the rest of the universe begins, consider your gas. It came from deep within you. You are closely identified with it, in that it may be a source of embarrassment if others associate you with the odor you created. In the gas exchange that happens constantly in your lungs, oxygen, that was around you, becomes you, and carbon, that was in you, departs. The same is true of your digestive tract. Food enters you and sustains you, and what does not become you, leaves you. Although the gas may not be becoming, it may be you.
When the Zen student asked the Master, “How do I enter the Tao?” the Master replied, “Do you hear that stream? That is how you enter.”
Wind on our cheeks, as we walk in nature, can remind us of the beauty of the present moment. Breaking wind through our cheeks can do the same thing. We can wake up in that moment. If we are mindful of the methane in our midst, we can use that awareness to enter the Tao.