A study of numerology will reveal the power of the three(3) and the creation of a fourth. This idea has many incarnations around the world. Often the concept is veiled by tradition and dogma.
The metaphor used to convey this koan is that of a wood sculptor and his block of wood, they are two; and a third force: inspiration- is needed to create an actual carving or sculpture out of the raw block (the fourth).
In our journey of growth through life, we can associate our external AWARENESS for the un-carved block , our internal PRESENCE as the sculptor and our BREATH as the inspiration. When all three elements are tempered and utilized to their potential one can experience an elevated state of awareness(the fourth), and effectively evolve conscience.
At first, one may find extreme difficulty in staying connected and immersed in all three elements of conscience or awareness. This is quite normal. In fact, if it were easy, than it would hardly be worth the time and effort. How can it be, that a simple state of awareness, awareness of one's own bodily presence, awareness of one's surroundings, and awareness of the breath, is so elusive and fleeting?
The simple answer is practice. In order to do even simple things well, one must practice. But even that is not enough. One must also have sincerity and humility, in order overcome the many obstacles of mind and ego along the path.
It is a daunting proposition to be sure. Most think they have dominion over the mind, until they actually take the time to stop, meditate, and "be the witness".
Anyone who has taken the time to "watch the mind" can attest to the surprising truth that is revealed to the 'stream enterer'. The truth that our mind is in control of things, including our own self. Many will deny this. Such persons will get angry, and may assert their identification with "the mind".
But we, as humans, are not our minds, but rather, the mind is a tool for us to use as we see fit. And, like any tool, we must understand how to use it properly, and effectively. This can be accomplished through the awareness of breath.
When one is aware of the breath, one can simultaneously be acutely aware of everything and nothing. One can simply exist. I say everything and nothing because we live in a world of duality, and yin cannot exist without yang, so it is a concept, not necessarily to be taken literally.
The application of dual awareness is simple. If one is afraid of death, one will not live fully. Fear will control. Yet a person could also be afraid of life- of living, and again fear will affect the life. Only through a fearlessness of life and death, can one reach full potential.
The breath itself is that double edged sword. It is inhalation(yang), and exhalation(yin). It is an untapped potential of presence and awareness that is innate in every human being. The sculptor resides in his inspiration during the "work" on the sculpture. Learn to breathe, and return to the breath.
"When transforming the breath, the inhalation must be full to gather the magic. To gather the magic, fullness must be extended. When it is extended, it can penetrate downward. When it can penetrate downward, it is magic. When it descends, it becomes calm, solidifies, and is both strong and firm. When it is strong and firm, it will germinate. If it germinates it will grow and retreat upward. If it is attracted back, then a human being can reach both heaven and earth in the same breath. When it retreats upward, It reaches the top of the head. When it falls forward, it can caress the feet and still press down. The secret powers of providence move above. The secret powers of Earth move below. Who follows this shall live". -Chou Dynasty Quote