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Allen Ginsberg’s “Mind Breaths”

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Plays: 434

Ginsberg reads “Mind Breaths” in a 1977 appearance at 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center. The poem, as he introduced it that night, was inspired by his study of samatha meditation, which he learned from Chögyam Trungpa, a Buddhist monk.

“Samatha—as distinct from Zen style—is paying attention to the breath leaving the nostril and dissolving into the space in front of the face,” Ginsberg is quoted as saying in Barry Miles’ biography of him. “There is constant daydreaming and drifting away from that attention to the space. You’re constantly waking up—mindfully waking up to the actual space around you, into which you’re breathing. You use the breath as a handle to get back into that space.”

Thus crosslegged on round pillow sat in Teton Space—

I breathed upon the aluminum microphone-stand…

I breathed upon the teacher’s throne…

I breathed further…