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My Meditative Moments

Practice- Breathing

by meditative - July 25th, 2011.
Filed under: Insights For Mindfulness Training.

Abstracted from “Breathing”~ Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

In our attending or shamatha practice, the breath is most often our object of meditation. It is our anchor and our center when distracted by the reactionary undercurrents of our discursively untamed mind. It is free, portable, always available, and powerfully transforming. We experience this process- this miniature cycle of life directly and non-conceptually- with each inhalation, exhalation, breathing in, and breathing out.

The sensation of breath can be rather subtle, yet it is quite distinct when you learn to tune into it. At first, it takes a bit of an effort to find it. Yet anybody can do it. With balanced concentration and effort, the breath can be an ideal object of meditation. The point at the tip of the nostril can be viewed as a sort of a window between our inner and outer worlds. It is a nexus point and energy-transfer spot where stuff from the outside world moves in and becomes a part of what we call “me,” and where part of “me” flows forth to merge with the outside world. There are lessons to be learned here about self-concept and how we form it.

A true experiential understanding of the breath process moves us closer to other living beings. It shows us our inherent connectedness with all of life. Finally, breathing is a present-time process- it is always occurring in the here-and-now. This is important as we spend most of our time caught up in memories of the past or looking ahead to the future, full of worries and plans. When we truly observe the breath, we are automatically placed in the present, with moment-to-moment awareness of it. We are drawn into a bare experience of the here-and-now. In this sense, breath is a living slice of reality. A mindful observation of such a miniature model of life itself leads to insights that are broadly applicable to the rest of our experience.

The first step in using the breath as an object of meditation is to find it. What you are looking for is the physical, tactile sensation of the air that passes in and out of the nostrils. This is usually just inside the tip of the nose. But the exact spot varies from one person to another, depending on the shape of the nose. To find your own point, take a quick deep breath and notice the point just inside the nose or on the upper lip where you have the most distinct sensation of passing air. Now exhale through the nose and notice the sensation at the same point. It is from this point that you will follow the whole passage of breath- “in” and “out”. Once you have located your own breath point with clarity, don’t deviate from that spot. Use this single point in order to keep your attention fixed. Without having selected such a point, you will find yourself moving in and out of the nose, going up and down the windpipe, eternally chasing after the breath which you can never catch because it keeps changing, moving, and flowing.

As a meditator, you focus your attention on that single spot of sensation inside the nose. From this vantage point, you watch the entire movement of your breath with clear collected attention. There’s no attempt to control the breath- it is simply a focus on the natural and spontaneous movement of the breath without regulating it or emphasizing it in any way. You don’t increase the depth of your breathing or its sound. Just let the breath move naturally, as if you were asleep. Let go and allow the process to go along at its own rhythm…

In breathing practice, it is one breath at a time. Gently and effortlessly, you work with it—fresh resolve with every breath cycle- with every inhalation and exhalation- continuously, again and again. Here and now, moment by moment noticing the tactile sensation of the in-breath- feeling the touch sensation of the out-breath. Breathe in, breathe out and simply watch what happens. Observe each breath with care and precision. In this way, continuous and unbroken awareness will eventually result.

Breathing meditation is a process of retraining the mind. The state you are aiming for is one in which you are totally aware of everything that is happening in your own perceptual universe, exactly the way it happens, exactly when it is happening; total, unbroken awareness in present time- one single inhalation at a time and one single exhalation at a time…

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