Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Mindfulness of Breathing

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Mindfulness of Breathing

The mindfulness of breathing practice as taught here is available as a CD or as an MP3 audio download.”
This meditation practice, in one form or another, is very widespread in the Buddhist world. The particular form taught here — in four stages — is found in the Visuddhimagga (Path of Purity) of the great Theravadin scholar, Buddhaghosa, who lived in 5th century India and Sri Lanka. It therefore has a long pedigree, even if there’s no description in the earliest Buddhist scriptures that corresponds exactly with this form of the practice.

This particular version of the Mindfulness of Breathing is mainly aimed to calm and focus the mind, and is therefore what is known as a samatha (Sanskrit, shamatha), or calming practice rather than a vipassana, or insight, one. The Sanskrit equivalent to the word vipassana is vipashyana and both words mean insight, or truly seeing the nature of reality.

The traditional name for this meditation practice is Anapanasati. This word simply means mindfulness (sati) of breathing (pana) in and out. This is a meditation practice where we use the breath as the object of attention to which we return every time we notice that the mind has wandered.

In a nutshell, this practice works mainly through us withdrawing our attention from distracting thoughts and redirecting our attention to the physical sensations of the breath. By doing so, we are putting less energy into the emotional states of restlessness, anxiety, craving, ill will, etc that drive those thoughts. Over time the mind becomes calmer and our emotional states become more balanced and positive, and our experience becomes more positive.

It’s important to note that the practice involves noticing that the mind has been wandering and bringing it back to the breath. Distractedness is an inevitable part of the process of meditating and not a sign of failure!

This step-by-step tutorial includes a number of guided meditation recordings that will help guide you through the practice. There are also readings for each stage of the practice , dealing with the most common questions and addressing the most common experiences that beginners tend to have.

Although the meditation practice as taught here takes a samatha approach it is easy to bring elements of insight into a samatha practice. Also, some degree of samatha practice is virtually indispensible as a basis for vipassana, or insight, meditation. The mind needs to be somewhat calm in order for us to be able to reflect on the impermanence of our experiences!

There are other traditional forms that are widely practiced, especially in the insight meditation traditions, but I’ve found this one to be particularly suitable for complete beginners. The first two stages especially, which involve counting, are very helpful in stabilizing the mind.

More experienced practitioners can feel free to adapt the practice to their own needs, shortening or even dropping some stages, and extending others.

Comments

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Comment from Philip Hess
Time: July 24, 2007, 9:22 am

Hello, and thank you for answering my question. Is it a good idea to practice just stage 1 for a few days or weeks, and then add stage two for a time, and continue to add stages gradually, or is it better to start with all four stages in a single sitting immediately?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 24, 2007, 10:48 am

Hi Philip,

There’s a lot of merit in the idea of practicing just the first stage for at least a few days before adding the second.

I think it would be counterproductive to plunge in to doing all four stages, and I wouldn’t advise that.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Joey Krem
Time: June 17, 2008, 10:55 am

dear lovers of mindfulness of breathing!

I practiced meditation in Suan Mok, Thailand, Chaia in 1981 directly under influence of abot Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.

He handed me a small booklet and studying this I decided to do the first chapter as long as I do anapanasati right.

Still, 27 years later, 3 of my children educated and grown up, I’m happy in having read only this first chapter!

The right mind comes slowly and I got my entire livetime to practice.

So I’m breathing on whereever I am and whatever I do mindfully to think, speak and do right!

Joey, the ZENbold

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Comment from mrsnupcup
Time: June 22, 2008, 9:48 am

hi
not sure if this relevant or not but i v gradually begining to realise that being happy is about the things we all to sadly take for granted……
and especially bein aware of them minute by minute…appreciating my good fortune for my health…spiritual…
emotional…intelectual…mental and finally physical….state of being….
Happiness is something we only truely realise we have when its gone…its discovering that we r happy when we dont
realise we have it…is the key…nothing lasts forever…
I sometimes cry…for no other reason than for my extreme good fortune…in discovering the beautiful sublime simplicity of
meditation…am doin so now…its never ever easy but i always sit with myself…no matter how i feel…
i am would not consider myself a buddhist but i am on the path…and will always remain there no matter my fears self hatred
greed selfishness…lust…is where i am….i will sit and meditate…and b grateful…for myself…and in turn become wherever i
find myself…

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Pingback from What are some exersises to improve Reiki flow ?? | how to, how do, what is
Time: June 22, 2008, 4:12 pm

[...] great site where you can learn more about it is http://www.wildmind.org/mindfulness. I can’t recommend it, and the practice of mindfulness enough. It teaches you to let go and [...]

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Comment from Kumar
Time: August 27, 2008, 4:34 pm

Hi,

Thank you for a wonderful site. I’m really looking forward to bringing meditation into my life!

I’ve been reading all the sections on the mindfulness of breathing but didn’t come across anything that said whether you should breathe through your nose/mouth for inhaling/exhaling. Is this not important, but if so do you have a preference? Also, i’ve heard that when you breathe during meditation, you shouldn’t pause between inhaling and exhaling. Is this important?

Thanks so much
Kumar

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 27, 2008, 7:34 pm

Hi Kumar,

Thanks for your kind comments. I added a little more text to this page, covering the questions you raised. Thanks for your excellent questions.

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Comment from Greg
Time: September 23, 2008, 12:49 pm

Thank you for these wonderful lessons. I’m a heart patient and I’ve been learning samatha through this site. I’ve been able to lower my heart rhythm and blood pressure significantly with your program, as well as increasing my feelings of loving kindness to those around me.

Although having been an athlete my entire life, now, due to poor circulation and weakness, I have difficulty exercising and can never go for more than 10 minutes in a session. But this morning, for the first time, I began samatha as I worked on my stationary bike. In a matter of seconds my breathing became steady and the sensations to my body dropped away. I rode in complete calm, only aware of the constant breathing cadence. When I ended the session I looked at my watch and I had worked out effortlessly for 20 minutes!! As I climbed off the bike I felt that wonderful ‘burn’ which follows a great workout. It was a moving and uplifting experience. Now I know that I can recover much of the strength that I have lost in the past months.

Thank you so much!

Greg

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Comment from umesh
Time: October 27, 2008, 2:52 pm

it would be so helpful to explainwhat are the stages of this meditaion and how to practise those in order for the beginners….thanx.but it was really good

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 27, 2008, 3:44 pm

Hi Umesh,

It seems you didn’t notice the links at the left of the page. They read:

* Introduction
* Stage 1
* Stage 2
* Stage 3
* Stage 4

Those will take you through the various stages of this practice.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from matthew searle
Time: December 15, 2008, 1:23 pm

Hello,

I started my meditation over a year ago after stumbling across your guide, thank you very much! I practice daily and meditate for 30 mins, centering on the breath.
My question is regards progress. Each time I meditate I begin by focusing on the breath but after 10 mins or so I get a rising sensation of deep contentment/ bliss/ relaxation and with these sensations I begin to see dream like images. Sometimes the images are so clear it is as if I have my eyes open. I lose my focus on my breath but I am aware that I am not asleep as I can consciously view the images.
Sometimes the blissful feeling is so intense that I could stay there for a very long time! The feeling of bliss stays with me for a while after my meditation, however are these images merely tricks of the mind and are to be ignored or should they be explored in more depth? is this progress?
Sorry if this doesn’t make much sense but a lot of things that happen when you meditate are hard to convey!

Thanks very much Matt.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 16, 2008, 10:48 am

Hi Matthew,

It sounds like things are going well. What you’re experiencing is either access concentration or dhyana/jhana — probably dhyana. Both are states of mind where you’ve eliminated the hindrances and the mind is naturally still, focused, and bright. Access is the state we get to just before dhyana arises, and in access there’s just a bit more mental instability. In moving through access it’s very common for what’s called a “nimitta” or sign to arise. The nimitta can manifest in a variety of sensory modes, but a visual one like yours is quite common. It’s also common around the same time that the breath becomes so subtle that it vanishes, and the thing to do here is to move awareness to the nimitta. Which is what you’re doing, so that’s all good. paying attention to the nimitta helps take us into the first level of dhyana, so I’d suggest that you just continue doing what you’re doing.

But there’s further to go. Eventually you’ll find that any inner chatter (which is already very quiet, I’d imagine) stops altogether, and you’ll experience an uprising of physical energy and pleasure (technically it’s called priti, or piti). You should just let this permeate the entire body. What I’m describing here is a move from first to second dhyana.

One caveat is that in access concentration there are two kinds of images that arise. The stable ones you should pay attention to. But if the image is moving or unstable (people often see colored lights) then just note that this sensation is arising and keep your attention on the breath. The moving images are a marker of remaining instability in the mind and paying attention to them will prevent progress.

I think you described your experience very clearly, by the way. As I said, things seem to be going very well and you seem to have a good instinctual feel for which direction to head in.

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Comment from Samantha
Time: January 8, 2009, 3:48 am

Hi,
Thank you so much for this web site, for years I have been “starting” to meditate and “trying” to meditate. I think the problem was just not knowing how to go about it. This web site being set out into stages of learning has so far been extremely helpful. I am actually making time and doing it.
I still find myself controlling the breath a bit and having waves of anxiety come through me (which is why I need to meditate)
But I am getting closer to understanding myself, and why I have this reaction (or at least I hope so!)
I am up to the first stage and I can really see myself sticking to it this time.
So thank you.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 8, 2009, 4:19 pm

I wish you all the best in establishing a meditation practice, Samantha.

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Comment from Paul
Time: January 10, 2009, 10:01 am

Hi all,

Here is a little technique I use when I find myself distracted during the mindfulness of breathing.

When I become aware of myself being distracted by my thoughts, I try to in effect “think backwards.” In other words, I go back through all the thoughts that led me to the one I had when I realized I was distracted. This way I can see what led me there in the first place and it also gives me a sense of control over my own mind and it’s processes. These “mind trails” can be quite revealing.

It’s important too that after one has rewinded one’s thoughts, to let them pass and return to becoming mindful of the breath. Bodhipaksa describes it as if one is waiting at a train station and our thoughts are the trains that pass through the station. We are aware of these “trains” but never “board” them, i.e: get distracted.

But if you do get distracted, try thinking backwards for a moment and see if it can ground you again. Good luck!

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Pingback from Getting started with meditation « Breathe
Time: January 17, 2009, 9:00 am

[...] of free resources to help you! I suggest you start on either the Meditation Posture page or the Mindfulness of Breathing [...]

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Comment from matt
Time: February 16, 2009, 8:55 am

Bit of a silly question maybe but does anyone have any advice for how to do mindfulness of breathing with a blocked up nose? I’ve got a cold its a bit frustrating! Is it ok to breathe through your mouth?

Thanks

Matt

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 16, 2009, 9:20 am

Hi Matt,

Not a silly question at all. You gotta do what you gotta do, an if your nose is blocked then you’ll just have to pay attention to whatever other body part you’re able to breathe through. I have a cold as well. You have my sympathy!

Bodhipaksa

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Comment from matt
Time: February 16, 2009, 11:09 am

Thanks Bodhipaksa! I’m going to meditate now :)

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Comment from Rich
Time: August 3, 2009, 3:07 am

Hello Bodhipaksa,

I have been trying to practise breathing meditation in the mornings, but I am having difficulties. The first few times I attempted meditation my concentration seemed to be quite strong, but since then my thoughts seem to slip continously into waking-dream dialogues and images. From one point of view it’s quite interesting, seeing all these strange images float up like your dad’s voice, a boyfriend and girlfriend talking, even a ballet class (!) – but there seems like such a lack of ability to focus on my breathing that I wonder if there’s any point.

I get up at six o’clock to get ready so that I have an hour from 7-8 to reflect for 30 minutes and then meditate for 30 minutes. Perhaps I’m just too tired, but there really isn’t any other time I could do it. Do you have any advice?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 3, 2009, 11:02 am

Hi Rich,

Usually when we’re dreaming in meditation it means that we’re tired, so that’s the first thing I’d try to sort out. Getting to sleep half an hour earlier might help. Doing some stretching rather than reflecting before your meditation could possibly be even more beneficial. The body can be rather tight first thing in the morning and so stretching can be hard work, but I’ve often found that stretching boosts my energy levels and makes me more alert.

There’s also the possibility that you need to look at your posture — sitting a little too low, or slumping, or even just having your chin tucked in a bit too much can create conditions for sleepiness to arise. If you can email me front and side pictures of you meditating then I could give you an idea if you need to make any adjustments. But stretching would be the first thing I’d try.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Rich
Time: August 4, 2009, 1:41 am

Thank you, I will try that out.

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Comment from Betty
Time: August 10, 2009, 12:21 pm

Thank you for this wonderful site!

I am a first time meditator and this site is so very helpful to beginners!

I recently bought the book The Attention Revolution because I felt that my attention was constantly wandering at work and my mind was feeling dull due to it. I didn’t fully grasp the mindful breathing it suggested in the first chapter and your site has filled in some of the gaps and answered many of my questions. So again, thank you very much!

I meditated this morning for the first time for 24 minutes as directed in my book and focused on my mindful breathing. It is nearly the end of the day today and I don’t feel as tired as I normally would. I also feel a lot calmer and my brain certainly doesn’t feel as dull and tired as it normally would have had I not meditated. I’ve also found that its been easier to concentrate today and I’m not following random thoughts all over the place. I never realised how exhausting it is having such an unsettled mind!

Thank you again for this wonderful resource!

Betty

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 10, 2009, 12:26 pm

Thank you, Betty.

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Comment from Jack K.
Time: August 19, 2009, 12:33 pm

Thank you for this site. Quick question. Though I have been sitting off and on for a few years, I still sometimes struggle with the issue of not controlling the breath. When I try to simply observe the breath, I find that I begin breathing more mechanically, and in some sense controlling it. This reminds me a bit of that notion in modern science… that by observing something, you can’t help but change it. Anyway, do you have any specific advice for us “control freaks,” in terms of letting go and simply observing the breath? Thanks.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 20, 2009, 9:43 am

Hi Jack,

You’re not the first person to ask that question, and I made some suggestions in this article. Please do let me know how you get on.

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Comment from Jack K.
Time: August 20, 2009, 10:34 am

Excellent suggestions. Thank you.

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Comment from Martin
Time: August 22, 2009, 6:47 pm

I found your site by searching and it has been very helpful.

Naturally I am prone to periods of anxiety which is triggered by various circumstances and they can be very intense.

I have been following the mindfullness breathing meditation for a month and it is helping me to control my anxiety. What you say in the stage instructions is so true and has helped me realise that anxious feelings should not be feared but treated as any other feeling. This new attitude and the mindful breathing has greatly increased my standard of life and I now feel that I do not need to fight anxiety but accept it as a part of me and this means that I do not fuel its existance.

I am moving on to the loving kindness also and I think this will help me accept my emotions – both nice and nasty feeling ones as part of me.

Many thanks for the help this website has offered me.

Martin

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Comment from Tony Button
Time: September 2, 2009, 9:41 pm

Thanks very much for your site. I practised mindfullness of breathing with the FWBO in London in the late 70’s and have just returned to it; I’m finding it very helpful in building contentment and a positive attitude. Interestingly, 30 years ago I experienced meditation as a discipline, something I needed to do to get results, whereas now I positively enjoy it which makes it a lot easier. One question; how do you know when to move to the next stage ? Do you use a timer ? I remember in London someone would ring a bell to tell us when to move to the next stage; now I just set my radio to come on after 25 minutes, but don’t try to time the intermediate stages. (sorry to be so mechanical, I probably need to lighten up a little !)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 3, 2009, 8:26 am

Hi Tony,

That’s a good question. Fortunately we have a whole page on the topic of timing the stages in meditation.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Pingback from What are some excersises I could do to strengthen the flow of the Reiki I channel? | Your Source For Reiki Resources
Time: September 17, 2009, 8:04 am

[...] great site where you can learn more about it is http://www.wildmind.org/mindfulness. I can’t recommend it, and the practice of mindfulness enough. It teaches you to let go and [...]

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Pingback from ZumeWalk – walking step by step for fitness, exercise and weight loss. » Blog Archive » ZumeWalk: What Is Walking Meditation?
Time: October 10, 2009, 8:00 am

[...] our attention from the outside world to the same extent that we do when we are doing the Mindfulness of Breathing or Metta Bhavana(development of lovingkindness) practices. We have to be aware of things outside [...]

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Comment from Dan
Time: December 16, 2009, 1:34 pm

Hi, I just wanted to say thanks for such a great website on Meditation. It really helped me start out and stay on track, I created a blog to keep a diary of my meditation, http://mindful-meditation-diary.blogspot.com/
but find I actually enjoy doing it so much that I’m no longer worried about stopping – it’s part of my life now.
I’ve been following your Mindfulness exercises over the last few months and have really felt a great benefit to my life.

Thanks again,
Dan

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Pingback from Learning from animals: communication and compassion « Urocyon's Meanderings
Time: January 16, 2010, 2:37 pm

[...] helpful indeed when starting back more seriously into mindfulness meditation; I believe it was from Wildmind, but can’t find it right now to quote it. To paraphrase from memory, when your mind starts [...]

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Comment from Boris
Time: January 16, 2010, 6:32 pm

Thanks for your great site. I have a question about my mindfulness practise. I have been doing mindfullness for more than a year and has given me great benefits. However, my mind keeps bugging me that I should also practise another meditation that I learned a long time ago when I was a child.
It’s a taoist meditation in which you focus at the point 2 inches below the navel. The dan tien or also called the hara in japanese zen meditation if I am correct.
According to what I understand from books, and from what my Tai Chi teacher tells me, focussing on that point increases your health and makes you feel very grounded. I’d say I’am quite a sensitive person and pick up on other peoples moods very easily. Sometimes that’s helpful, sometimes not at all. Especially stress. Also I suffer a lot from asthma and allergies. I know that this particular meditation will help me deal with those issues more, but since I have already started mindfulness for a year I don’t want to change all of a sudden. So I guess my question is is it possible to combine them both or will that be dangerous? Something tells me I need this meditation because it was my first spontaneous encounter with meditation. Hope I make any sense. Help is very much appreciated.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 19, 2010, 1:20 pm

Hi Boris,

There’s no danger in combining different forms of meditation. I often incorporate hara meditation into my mindfulness of breathing practice. It brings a different emphasis to the practice, but it’s very grounding. I switch back and forth between keeping the centre of my focus on the hara and on the more internal sensations of the breathing even within one meditation session, sometimes, depending on what seems appropriate.

If anything, I find that mindfulness of breathing with a focus on the hara allows for a more general and “open” awareness in which I notice a wide range of perceptions, including sounds, the light around me, the body, thoughts, emotions, etc. This can be a very good way to start a meditation session, even if one later moves into a more “one-pointed” form of mindfulness of breathing where one ends up focusing on a small subset of sensations, such as the air passing over the rims of the nostrils.

The broader form of mindfulness allows us to practice acceptance, and to sort out anything that needs our attention, making it easier to do one-pointed meditation. Then again, it can be useful just to stay in that broad awareness for an entire meditation.

Does this help at all?

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Comment from Boris
Time: January 19, 2010, 1:38 pm

Thanks Bodhipaksa. Yes this is very good news. I was a bit worried about combining different kinds of meditation. My Tai Chi teacher warned me for that.
I have to say that I already did some little experiments and notice a big difference when I do hara meditation first before mindfulness. There seems to be a big energy current in my head and nose sometimes almost to the point that it feels like a headache. Much stronger then when I practice solely mindfulness. Strangly it is the seem feeling I experience when I have done some intensive cycling, running or walking before minfulness. I was a bit worried that this feeling might be harmfull but I guess it’s not. Thanks again!

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Pingback from Mindfulness and Pain, Part 3: Untangling the threads « Urocyon's Meanderings
Time: February 8, 2010, 2:21 pm

[...] that in mind, I started doing more sitting/lying vipassana meditation, which has been helpful in multiple ways on its own. Once I felt secure in my ability to maintain [...]

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Comment from Venkat
Time: February 25, 2010, 6:35 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa,

I found this website while searching for a meditation related info. Its really wonderful and mindful info…Thanks for such a good site.
I’ve have been practicing Art of Living-Sudarsan Kriya for the past three weeks. It’s been helping me control my stress level. My questions is when you start meditation how long it will take usually take until you see a big difference? my mind is still wander around, i know its too early to ask this questions. Just wanted to see how i am progressing…

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 26, 2010, 12:06 am

Hi Venkat,

It varies from person to person, and it would depend on what you mean by a “big difference.” A lot of people will notice they’re calmer immediately. Sometimes it takes other people to point out to them that they’re easier to be around. Scientific studies have shown that after a few weeks people’s brains are functioning more effectively and they’re happier. Does that help?

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Comment from Venkat
Time: February 26, 2010, 10:39 am

Yes. i helped. I am trying understand the changes going on after i started the meditation process. Thanks for your time to answer my question.

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Comment from Lee
Time: March 30, 2010, 10:57 am

Hi there. This is a great site!!

Could you tell me what’s the difference between The Mindfulness of breathing with 4 stages and The Mindfulness of Breathing, that has no stages?

Best wishes Lee

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 1, 2010, 5:45 pm

Hi Lee,

It very much depends on what kind of mindfulness of breathing with no stages that you’re doing. It may be that you’re referring to the MoB being doing primarily as a vipassana (insight) practice, where here it’s more of a samatha (calming) practice.

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Comment from Lee
Time: April 4, 2010, 3:04 pm

Thank you very much for your reply.

The reason for my enquiry is that my therapist has advised me to take up mindfulness meditation to help with stress/anxiety, mainly for racing thoughts. I have been informed of MBSR courses, but after purchasing your first CD and book in the UK i find the four stages approach better for wandering thoughts as it gives a focus both in meditation and daily life.

My question is would the Mindfulness of Breathing taught in the MBSR achieve the same goal as the MOB four stages or does it differ and would it be of more benefit for stress/anxiety?

Many thanks to you.
Lee

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 5, 2010, 9:56 am

Thanks for the extra background information. That’s most helpful.

These two styles of meditation are ultimately complimentary. As I understand the Buddhist tradition, we start with meditation practices that calm the mind (samatha practices). These enable us to more effectively reflect (vipassana). The four-stage practice is a samatha practice, bringing us towards a calm, one-pointed, and stress-free state of mind. MBSR is more of a vipassana style of meditation, helping us to appreciate the impermanence of our stressful states, and helping us to see that those states ultimately aren’t us.

Even when doing vipassana practice, however, people have to initially put in a lot of work just to stabilize the mind, so even a “vipassana” approach is really a samatha-vipassana approach (starting by developing calmness and then focusing on reflection).

Which brings us to the fact that the four-fold practice can be turned into an effective samatha-vipassana practice quite easily. The first three stages are done as usual, and as the mind stabilizes in the third stage we bring in the practice of noticing the arising of sensations, thoughts, and emotions, noting how these are impermanent and how they are ultimately not a fixed part of us. So stages 1–3 become the samatha basis upon which the fourth, vipassana, stage can be more effectively engaged with.

I’d suggest that if the four-fold practice is working for you, stick with it for now. If you later want to take up vipassana, you can regard that as an “alternative fourth stage.” Some vipassana teachers would frown upon this, because they insist that their method is the only valid one, but I think such clinging to form is contrary to the spirit of Buddhist practice. For me, whatever works, works.

Does that help?

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Pingback from Week 3 Challenge – Meditation « G-Girls Go Healthy
Time: April 5, 2010, 3:39 pm

[...] meditation is another practice I have some familiarity with. Good examples can be found here and here. Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the most prolific authors on mindfulness meditation. WPL has a [...]

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Comment from abhinav tewari
Time: April 16, 2010, 4:37 am

Hi, this site is fantastic and happy to know that its helping soo many people, and hope it resolves my issues as well.
I do not meditate regularly, infact it was my 1st time today and was hit by soo many thoughts that i forgot that i have my breath to think about.
I have a stage fright, am a nervous person with low confidence in speaking in front of public.
Wanted to know if meditation can help me and how? And also how exactly to meditate for resolving certain specific issues.
Thank you

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 16, 2010, 10:10 am

Hi Abhinav,

If it’s any comfort, I still have days when I forget about the breath for long periods of time. It all depends on what else is going on in my life, whether I’ve had enough sleep, etc. So what you’ve experienced is what millions of other people have experienced as well.

If you want a fancy-schmancy answer to your question, the region of yur brain known as the amygdala, which gives rise to anxiety, becomes less active when we meditate. The left-prefrontal cortex, which is connected with positive emotion, becomes more active. And these changes are long-lasting, so that you’re actually re-wiring your brain as you meditate.

A simpler answer is that every time you bring your attention away from your anxious thoughts and back to your breath, you’re weakening the hold that anxiety has on you.

You might also find that lovingkindness meditation is helpful for your stage fright. Having more appreciation of yourself, and having lovingkindness for your audience, can make it much easier to speak in public. I used to get post-traumatic stress after teaching, and I’d also sometimes get quite anxious when giving talks, but that no longer happens. I now really enjoy public speaking. In fact it’s the most enjoyable thing I do. Change can happen.

As for your question of “how to meditate for resolving certain specific issues” — I’m afraid that’s rather too broad. You’d need to give me a specific issue so that I can comment on it.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Blayne
Time: April 28, 2010, 5:49 pm

Hello, firstly thanks for the site, it has been very helpful. I have two questions firstly ever since i began doing this meditation, afterwards i noticed that i was a lot more focused for 10 to 20 mins after meditation, its difficult to verbalise but i could actualy feel the focus.. It illistrated quite well the word “centered”. Is this a good sign? It has practical value obviously since for that time i am much more perceptive! The second question is how many times a day should one meditate and for how long? And when is a good time to start doing the loving kindness meditation? Thank you in advance for your answer.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 30, 2010, 9:03 pm

Hi Blayne,

Yes, that’s a good sign!

How often you should meditate each day really depends on your preferences and your schedule. I guess you need to ask yourself how often you want to or are able to meditate. And any time is a good time to start learning the lovingkindness practice! I think it’s helpful to have a couple of weeks’ familiarity with mindfulness practice first, but then after that, get cracking!

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Aravinda prabhu
Time: June 25, 2010, 7:32 am

I feel this site is one of the most important site i have ever visited.

I dont know how many times i have read, but every time i read i feel very much attached.

God Bless the author.

Aravinda prabhu (India)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 25, 2010, 7:37 am

Thanks for the kind comment, Aravinda.

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Comment from Brendan
Time: September 13, 2010, 10:26 am

Hi Bodhipaksa,
I wonder if you could offer practical advice for dealing with a certain hindrance. These days, when I practice mindfulness of breathing I find myself getting firstly caught up in my thoughts, and then when I try to correct that, I head right over to what seems like the opposite – I get tremendously drowsy. I don’t believe that it’s real sleepiness – it’s more like the mental fatigue that comes with frustration and corresponds to a reflex I see in myself outside meditation (I just wanna sleep and make all the complex stuff go away!).

This is all the more frustrating as I used to be a better practitioner of this meditation when I was younger. Can you offer any technique that would allow me to walk the tightrope between my wildmind and my dozymind?

Thanks.
Brendan

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Pingback from The Meditation | Mental Mischief
Time: September 20, 2010, 1:55 pm

[...] So, this blog will track my progression on the actualization of a stronger, more focused, mind. To do this I will perform a 15-20min of a breathing meditation everyday. During this time, I will simply focus on a single point, the feel of my breath entering and exiting my nostrils. This is the most common meditation under the Buddhist tradition, hopefully I’ll see some positive results (1). [...]

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 2, 2010, 10:35 pm

Hi Brendan,

What you write reminds me of the Sona Sutta, which is worth reading. The sutta points out that over-exertion leads to mental restlessness, and that “overly slack persistence leads to laziness.” Pretty much what you describe.

You don’t actually say what you do when you try to correct your restlessness, but it’s possible that you’re just applying too strong an antidote, or persisting in applying it for too long. But more detail would be helpful. At the moment I don’t have very much to go on!

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Brendan
Time: October 4, 2010, 6:20 am

Thanks Bodhipaksa,
The sutta makes interesting reading. Part of my problem is that I can’t even properly describe what I’m doing when I try to correct restlessness. I try to follow the advice of considering the consequences of remaining restless, cultivating the opposite quality, and/or cultivating a ‘sky-like mind’. This activity is probably quite coarse and forced, I suspect. For example, in cultivating the opposite of restlessness, I tend to overshoot. I’ve read other advice which suggests that ‘Initial thought’ is the antidote to restlessness. This is a little abstract for me to use at the moment, though.

I will keep the metaphor of a stringed instrument in mind for future practices to see if I can find the right ‘pitch’…and hopefully not drift into Jimmy Page riffs.

Thanks again.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 4, 2010, 9:46 am

Hi Brendan,

When your mind is very busy, I’d suggest doing something simple like paying attention to the sensations of the breathing in the abdomen. Also pay attention more to the sense of letting go that accompanies the out-breath. Both of those are very gentle methods of calming the mind. It’s possible to “over-shoot” and end up in sloth and torpor, of course, but usually I find what happens is that I end up in a more calm and balanced state of mind.

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Comment from srinivasan
Time: October 22, 2010, 1:59 pm

Dear Bodhi,

What is your view on the body scan as a main meditation practice in itself, (not as a preparatory step) as compared to say the mindfulness of breath? In certain traditions the body is considered to be a better anchor. Since we tend to be very much lost in our thoughts, there is a danger of making even our sitting practice another mind-trip. I deeply inspired by your writing & comments, hence the question.

warmly,
sri

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 25, 2010, 5:57 pm

Hi, Srinivasan.

I do think that for most people, the kind of intense focus that we can develop on the breath is very useful, and that the mind tends to wander more when mindfulness of the body as a whole is maintained for a long time. I think that body awareness as an extended practice is actually easier if there’s a basis of concentration developed through mindfulness of breathing.

And thank you for your kind comments!

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Comment from annie
Time: January 20, 2011, 10:21 am

i have practiced 2 of the beginning breathing counting…i have severe anxiety disorder….im now excited to take one step onward..love & peace to all who read..

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 20, 2011, 2:09 pm

Let us know how you get on, Annie!

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Comment from K
Time: March 20, 2011, 4:05 pm

“Distractedness is an inevitable part of the process of meditating and not a sign of failure!”

This is so true. I find that distraction ALWAYS arises. Lately, I just let it go. I pretend that I’m watching a movie and the thoughts are the frames on the screen. It helps me maintain a sort of separation from the thoughts themselves, and helps me observe the thoughts trigger emotions and then lead to action.

I do my best to not react and get swept away by the random thoughts, and I just say to my mind, “thank you”, then go back to being the witness. It’s war, all the time, in the mind.

This site is great!

K

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Comment from Barbara
Time: April 20, 2011, 12:10 pm

Hello,

Thank you for providing all this valuable information. I recently started meditating. I am wondering if it is necessary to start with Samatha meditation first and then move onto Vipassana meditation?

Thank you.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 20, 2011, 9:30 pm

I’d say pretty much yes. Even if you plunge straight into vipassana, you’ll spend most of your time trying to stabilize the mind anyway, which is a samatha activity. So it’s unavoidable. Also, lovingkindness is a very important practice, and in my opinion needs to be practiced with as much regularity as mindfulness meditation.

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Pingback from Using “D-E-A-R M-A-N” to Get What You Want | Laura Schenck
Time: April 24, 2011, 9:48 am

[...] Rather than responding with intensity, practice opposite action, radical acceptance, and mindful breathing.  Maintain your [...]

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Comment from vince
Time: May 22, 2011, 6:15 pm

Hi,
I love your web site. Very informative and useful. I have a question which is not directly about meditation, but about Buddhism in Sri Lanka. I read recently that the people of Sri Lanka were observing “sil”. Do you know what that means?

Vince

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 22, 2011, 8:38 pm

Hi, Vince.

It’s currently the anniversary of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. “Sil” is the Sinhalese form of the Pali word “sila” (ethics), and I understand that for a week people will commit to observing a list of eight precepts. My knowledge of this is rather scant, and there may be much more to the tradition than I know of.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Ollie
Time: August 12, 2011, 8:53 pm

Hello Bodhipaksa,

I’ve noticed meditation teachings use a lot of different words to describe what we must do with the breath: notice it, focus on it, feel it, watch it, become aware of it, fix your attention on it, among others. For a beginner this is very confusing. It has never been clear to me what I’m really supposed to be doing as meditation does not come naturally to me and no matter how long I sit (and it’s been over a year now) it doesn’t get clearer. Please can you help? I’d really appreciate if you could explain, precisely, what I’m suppose to do with the breath.

I have a sense that meditation could be very powerful and positive, but all get out of it is frustration and disappointment; if you could help before I give up trying for good I would be forever grateful.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 12, 2011, 9:32 pm

It’s actually not really the breath, but the breathing, that we’re paying attention to. I often slip into taking about “the breath,” but am trying to wean myself off of that habit.

So what are we doing with “the breathing”? We’re noticing/feeling the physical sensations connected with the breathing process. So we’re experiencing the movements of the ribcage and abdomen, and experiencing the sensation of air flowing in and out of the body, and through our airways.

When we use expressions like “watch the breath(ing)” that’s just a metaphor. We’re not doing anything with the eyes. We’re actually experiencing physical sensations in the body, not doing anything that’s literally visual.

Does that help?

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Comment from dj
Time: September 6, 2011, 2:20 pm

observing ‘sil’ does happen in sri lanka as well as in temples in uk, once a month usually on the 1st saturday of the month, where, the observers come to the temple early in the morning, and observing the five preseps, and then have a programme, of meditation, buddhist talks, reflexion and spend the whole day until at about 1700hrs, as a one day retreat, which gives you so much calm and relaxation at the end of the day, in sri lanka this once a day happens on the full moon day of each month.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 6, 2011, 2:26 pm

Thanks, dj.

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Comment from Ollie
Time: September 6, 2011, 7:33 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa,

Apologies for my late reply – thank you very much for your feedback as above, it was very helpful and I think I’ve been making some progress. I did have one last thing I hoped you wouldn’t mind helping me with though – it seems to me (in my experience) that there is more than one way to go about noticing the breathing, or precisely two. Either I try to (each breath) first relax my body and get my posture right (importantly with respect to my head – with it being up and with my chin tucked) and then to try and notice the breathing; or, to first notice the breathing, and as I do to then try and relax and get my posture right. The first puts most emphasis on keeping the body relaxed and the posture correct, but less on noticing the breathing (and is thus relaxing but a bit unfocussed), the second puts most emphasis on noticing the breathing but less on relaxation and posture (and is thus more focused but less relaxing). I’m tending to just oscillate between the two when I sit, as each method seems to provide what the other lacks! I’m not sure if this makes any sense at all(!) but these two different approaches are hard for me to ignore and I wondered if you could possibly provide some guidance here? I fear I’m not making the best progress I could be as I can’t commit to one method.

Thank you in advance, and I promise to make this my last question!

Regards,
Ollie

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 6, 2011, 7:40 pm

Generally one starts with setting up the posture, and then becoming more aware of the breathing, but the two are not necessarily as separate as you’re suggesting. We can be aware of the breathing as we’re establishing mindfulness in the body — we’re aware of the body breathing, and using the sense of letting go on the outbreath to help relax the body. At least that’s the approach that I take, and that I find works.

By the way, if you haven’t already done so, please feel free to purchase an MP3 or to make a donation to Wildmind. MP3 sales help us to keep the site running and make it easier for us to reply to people’s questions about meditation.

I’ll be on retreat for the next few days, so if you do happen to have any questions, please don’t expect a quick answer.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Pingback from Friday Five-O: Meditation for Writers | grub street daily
Time: September 16, 2011, 11:38 am

[...] An easy meditation that switches your mind over to something else, in this case counting the breath, is called the Mindfulness of Breathing. (A great version of it can be found here.) [...]

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Comment from Chris
Time: September 23, 2011, 1:23 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa,

I have a silly question to ask. I’m in my early 20s and thinking about starting meditation. What kind of effect does meditation have on my sex life? I am afraid that it would make me asexual and thus unattractive to the opposite sex. What are your thoughts on this?
Regards,
Chris.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 23, 2011, 7:05 pm

Hi, Chris.

Ain’t gonna happen :)

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from John Gregory
Time: September 27, 2011, 1:52 pm

Hi,

This morning at 0645, I meditated for 20 minutes. About 15 minutes in, I became aware of my breath, belly moving with the breath, my posture, the traffic and strangest of all, I was dreaming at the same time. I felt at peace during this, however, looking back, it seems quite surreal.

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Comment from Kasun
Time: November 22, 2011, 5:30 am

Thanks for your words of wisdom. I’m not fluent in English. I have been doing Anapanasathi meditation for 6 months, 2 or 3 times a day for 30-40 minutes. After 15-20 min breath became subtle and I couldn’t notice it, because there was no bodily sensation. Then I fell in to sleep. Now I’m stuck in this point. Please help me to get over this problem.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 22, 2011, 9:35 am

Hi, Kasun.

It’s great that your meditation is leading to the breath becoming very subtle to the point where it disappears. Many people experience this as they’re going into jhana, which is a state of joy, calm, and concentration (I don’t have the experience of the breath vanishing, for some reason).

Anyway, if the breath vanishes, this is a god thing, but you need something to replace it. You can shift your focus to another object, such as feelings of pleasure and energy in the body, or the emotion of joy, or the perception of light. Usually the mind finds an object, and I’m guessing that your mind has been creating an object for you, and you’ve been ignoring it because you think you’re supposed to be following the breath. Sometimes the object is an image, or a feeling in the body. They’re very varied. Think back and see if you can remember anything like that happening. I’d be very interested to hear more.

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Comment from Kasun
Time: November 24, 2011, 2:07 pm

Thanks Bodhipaksa for your instructions. When breath disappeears, my mind became peaceful and quit. For me it was feel like the time stops. It is difficult to convay the feeling because the language barrier. But after your guidance, I tried to examine it closely. When the breath vanished, most prominent feeling I experienced was feeling of pleasure. Also when it happened my mind gets brightened. But it was not glowing light. It’s just bright feeling in mind. I tried to shift my attention on feeling of pleasure. But it is difficult because my mind used to feel rough sensation like breath. I felt my mind was not stable and wondering in thoughts. What should I do?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 24, 2011, 8:45 pm

These things are hard to describe, but it definitely sounds as if you were close to experiencing jhana. If there were a lot of wandering thoughts, then that suggests you might have been in a mildly distracted state we call access, which is just before jhana. Think in terms of enjoying the pleasant flow of the breathing, at this point. Bring your awareness more fully into the body, so that you’re less focused on what is going on in the mind. This should help bring about a bit more calmness.

Learning to become absorbed in the inner sensations of pleasure and joy may take a little practice, but usually they’re such prominent features of our experience as we actually enter jhana that it’s quite easy to focus on them.

Also, when these experiences don’t arise, that’s OK! Sometimes people get upset when, after a jhanic or near-jhanic sit, they find that their meditations have gone back to something more “normal.” But this is a common experience, and we need to simply accept the ups and downs.

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Comment from Kasun
Time: November 26, 2011, 12:49 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa, Your instructions are really helped me. I’m greatful to you for your help. You’re a Kalyanamitta ( noble friend). I learned a lot about intricate parts in Anapanasathi in your site. I’ll refer to you when I find difficulty again. Keep up the good work!

Regards,
Kasun.

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Comment from Jessica T.
Time: January 1, 2012, 3:44 pm

Thank you so much for this very informative site. The information that you provide is really helpful and the guided meditation is very detailed and well explained. I have been meditating for some time now, but have only practiced mindfulness a couple of times, but will begin to focus more on this type of meditation and see how mindfulness can benefit me in ways that other types of meditation can’t.
Thanks again for this great site

Jessica T

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Comment from Paul
Time: January 6, 2012, 7:54 am

Hi,

Sometimes when meditating, I experience an intense impatience to move, an increased heart rate and anxiety. There sometimes is even a slight ringing in my head. I become almost hyper-aware of the stillness and instead of it being calming, it’s troubling.

I generally meditate after I wake up (and after drinking coffee, which might be the cause, but these feelings occur without that as well.)

Generally, I feel varying degrees of calm during and after my meditating, but I’d love some advice on how to handle these uncomfortable sensations when they arise.

Thanks, everyone!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 6, 2012, 9:46 am

Hi, Paul.

That’s the “hindrance of restlessness and anxiety” and I offer some advice here. Feel free to get back to me after you’ve tried some of the techniques I suggest.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from chompak
Time: March 5, 2012, 9:03 am

whenever i sit for breathing meditation, i start controlling it unknowingly, as a result i am unable to see breath or sensation caused due to breathing. i m unable to let normal breathing to happen. This is causing me physical pain (near heart,throat). But i find easy to observe sensation in the body parts.Why it happens so ? What is the mistake. Where should i focus my attention ? please guide me.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 7, 2012, 11:38 am

Hi, Chompak.

Sometimes we like to feel that we’re in control, even when it makes no sense to be in control. Breathing is one of those things that it makes no sense for us to be in control of. The breathing just happens, whether “you” are there or not. This is fortunate, since the breathing keeps happening even when you are asleep. But this desire to control keeps arising when your attention moves to the breathing. Probably there is some fear involved. We don’t like not being in control. And it is weird, isn’t it? You have this body, and yet it’s really not your body. Who is breathing when “you” are not paying attention?

I would suggest that you notice all the ways in which you are not in control, and learn to relax into just being an observer. When you’re walking, you can notice that “you” don’t consciously give instructions to each individual muscle. The walking just happens. Your body digests food, whether you ask it to or not. If you notice your mind, your thoughts just arise. You don’t make them happen and you can’t stop them from happening. This applies to absolutely everything we do or say. We like to think we’re in control, but really we’re not.

So notice, in as many areas of your life as you can — in every area of your life — that you are not really in control. Accept this, get used to it, and relax into it.

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Comment from chompak
Time: March 8, 2012, 8:26 am

Thanks Bodhipaksa for your instructions. I have some doubts regarding breathing meditation. Whether it is essential to observe at nostrils so that we deeper experiences ? Many authors suggest to observe at nostrils. When i do that i start conrolling the breath after observing a couple of seconds. Is it OK to be aware of sensations at any part of the body with shallow background awareness about breath ?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 11, 2012, 5:14 pm

Hi, Chompak.

I wouldn’t say that overall it’s “essential” to observe the breath at the nostrils. Until you get to the point where you control the breath while doing this you might want to avoid it. You can certainly be aware of the breathing anywhere in the body, but you may well find that as your mind settles and as you relax into the practice, your attention naturally moves to those subtler sensations. I’d be interested to hear what happens when you begin by paying attention to the movements of the abdomen, for example, and then add the sensations in the nostrils so that you’re paying attention to both experiences at the same time. This kind of split attention can be very calming. And you may find that you don’t feel the need to control.

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Pingback from Living In The Moment « Meanderings
Time: March 19, 2012, 11:58 am

[...] Mindfulness of breathing may be the best known form of this practice. You essentially focus your attention on your breathing to anchor yourself in the present moment. Find a comfortable place, relax and take a deep breath. As you inhale, notice how refreshing the air is, but also notice the tension building in your body. As you exhale, enjoy the release of tension and let it flow slowly out of you. I find inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth helps maintain focus. Nevertheless, your mind will wander, at least in the beginning. [...]

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Comment from raj
Time: March 30, 2012, 12:44 pm

NIce illustrated post thanks….Can you guide me how i can meditate daily as i keep missing my daily schedule for meditation?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 30, 2012, 2:36 pm

Most people find that having a set time and place to meditate helps them to keep up a regular practice. But is that’s difficult, then you need to commit to sitting daily, even if it’s just for five minutes. You should be aiming to meditate for longer than that, but five minutes is your fall-back position. And it should be five minutes on the cushion, ideally. So it doesn’t matter how busy you are, or how tired you are, or how restless your mind is, you’re committed to sitting for at least five minutes. Often you’ll feel resistant to meditating at all, but once you st down for your five minute minimum you’ll often think “that wasn’t so bad” and find yourself sitting for longer.

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Comment from Sean
Time: April 12, 2012, 12:42 am

Dear bodhipaksa,
I immensely enjoyed reading your article , I suffer a form of OCD , recurring thoughts …. All day long . Will breath watching meditation help in OCD . Thanks a ton

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 12, 2012, 12:27 pm

Hi, Sean.

Yes, there is evidence that mindfulness-based approaches are helpful for OCD. There’s a mindfulness-based therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that looks like a very promising approach.

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Comment from jo
Time: April 25, 2012, 2:21 am

Thanks for your prompt reply to my question about controlling the breath. I found the page all about it shortly after submitting my post, then was unable to cancel it and felt a bit silly to have wasted your time. The ‘feeling the breath through the nostrils’ idea was very helpful, I did not really think I could feel the breath at all there, but when I really concentrated, there it was! This took my mind off the whole breath issue and helped to not control my breathing. I also think your point about playfulness very pertinent – I know I do get quite intense when I’m learning something new and really want to get it right. My mind does not seem to work well with images, almost all my thinking involves self-talk, but I will give this a try. Will also try the focus on the outbreath and let you know how that goes.
I’m very excited to have found this site – I have been practicing on my own, using instructions from you-tube (which can be varied, conflicting and even bizzare). I don’t know anyone else who meditates, so nobody to share ideas with or tell me if I’m “doing it right”. I have many questions……. But before I post them, I’ll read through all your articles first. Thank you so much for being her for us ‘newbies’!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 25, 2012, 9:33 am

Hi, Jo.

No problem at all. It’s a big site, and even I can’t keep track of everything we have on here.

Feel free to fire away with questions.

And if you’d like to support what we do here, you could consider buying a guided meditation MP3 or something else from our online store. It all helps us in our mission to make meditation instruction and practice more widely available.

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Comment from john
Time: April 27, 2012, 10:02 pm

Hi great website for elaborating and providing information. Very enlightenening.

However, i have a problem. Im always told during breath meditation that one should just passively watch the breath. There are also other masters saying that you conciously inhale/exhale with opposers saying one should not manipulate it or control it all. I have tried just passively watching and npticed its extremely difficult to do so. My breath is extremely subtle and undetectable even at the beginning of practice. What can i do to help my situatuoon?what can i do to purely be aware of the breath while passively following it?

Please reply back
With rgards, john

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 28, 2012, 2:22 pm

I’ve never come across any Buddhist teaching that advises controlling the breathing — except to the extent of, for example, taking a few deep breaths to help one calm down. At the same time we don’t passively watch the breathing (it’s better to think of experiencing not “the breath” but “the breathing”). We “actively” watch the breathing.

It may be that you’re talking the “breath” thing too literally. It’s the physical sensations of the breathing that you should be paying attention to. The contact with the breath (i.e. the air entering and leaving the body) is just one small part of this. It’s very unlikely that the movements of the body are too subtle for you to follow.

Give this article a read, try putting it into practice, and see how you get on.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Kathy
Time: May 7, 2012, 10:15 pm

Thanks a lot for your wonderful site. I usually meditate as per above instructions for 20 mins twice a day. Nearly each time it’s very helpful. Once, however, I was aware that there were minimal distractions and I was very very deep In meditation. After about fifteen minutes, I felt a sort of panic rise up, something like a panic attack, some fear that I will loose control. I stopped, opened my eyes and in two minutes it was gone. But it was bad while it lasted.

Is this OK?

Thanks a lot, again for your wonderful site.

Do you ha

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Comment from Kathy
Time: May 7, 2012, 10:34 pm

Just to add on to my earlier post , the panic seems to have come up when I sort of lost my attention to breath in the end, when extremely deep in meditation. Also, while there is some medium stress/tension in the present life, I am not a troubled/depressed person, nor do I have any history of psychological trouble. 

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 8, 2012, 1:04 am

Hi, Kathy.

Ah, yes. Sometimes this kind of thing happens, and it’s really quite normal. We get very used to being a particular way, don’t we? There’s an old story of a fisherwomen who’d take her baskets into the market. And one time the woman in the next stall, who sold flowers, asked her if she’d stay overnight in the flower shop because she had to attend to a family emergency. So the fish-seller tried to sleep in the flower shop, but kept tossing and turning because of the sweet smell of the flowers. Eventually she puts her old fish basket over her head, breathes a sign of relief, and falls fast asleep. The moral is that at some level we can actually be uncomfortable with the peace and happiness of a deep meditative state. One some level of course we’re happy, but there are ingrained habits that feel threatened. It’s almost like those habits know they’re going to die away, and they fight back.

So actually, this is a good sign. You’ll get more used to being in deeper and more tranquil states of mind, and your subconscious will get used to it to, and there will be less of a reaction. And maybe sometime in the future, when you go even deeper, you’ll have something similar happen. But it’s just a phase. It happened to the Buddha on the eve of his enlightenment, reportedly. He was assaulted by a vast army of ill will, and craving, and doubt. And he just recognized them for what they were, and kept on with his practice.

The other day I experienced some anxiety arising before giving a talk, and I said to myself, “One of the boys in the basement is anxious.” (The boys in the basement is my name for my subconscious). And I allowed the anxiety to be there, and had compassion for it, but didn’t react to it. And eventually it passed, as these things always do. So in future I’d suggest doing something like I did. Just notice your anxiety. But don’t be your anxiety. Realize that suffering is present. And send it compassion. And just keep on with the practice.

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Pingback from What Is Walking Meditation? | Spirit 1400
Time: May 8, 2012, 4:36 am

[...] our attention from the outside world to the same extent that we do when we are doing the Mindfulness of Breathing or Metta Bhavana (development of lovingkindness) practices. We have to be aware of things outside [...]

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Comment from sam
Time: May 20, 2012, 9:53 am

Hi,

Thank you SO much for your site. I have a question if I may….
I am new to meditation and have been practising Mindfulness of Breathing and Metta Bhavana – rotating each day i.e Monday Mindfulness, Tuesday Metta, Wednesday Mindfulness etc etc

Would you advise this, or do you think focussing on Mindfulness is a better starting point for now? I would really value your thoughts.

Many thanks,

Sam

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 20, 2012, 10:12 am

Hi, Sam.

What you’re doing is exactly what I’d recommend!

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Tom
Time: May 21, 2012, 3:48 pm

Hi,

I loved the read and have been doing mindfulness breathing meditation for a few weeks now. I have a tendency to “strive” (which is a part of my personality). It gets in the way of my meditation. While I meditate, I know that the point is to focus your attention on the breath but also be aware of any thoughts that arise. However, I feel that the two concepts can be contradicting. So I wonder how intense should my focus be on my breath? I read somewhere that the focus should be light, whereas I tend to try and “achieve” a focus on my breath to the point that I get lost in it.

Secondly, should mindfulness breathing meditation be done only during designated parts of the day? Can’t I be in the present moment throughout the day by using my breath as an anchor?

Thanks,
Tom

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 21, 2012, 8:46 pm

There are different styles to meditating on the breathing. Mostly, “trying” to focus on nothing but the breathing is a recipe for frustration, and I’d suggest using it as a light focus. Sometimes you’ll find that the mind quite naturally and effortlessly gets totally absorbed in the breathing to the point where everything else fades away into the background. If this happens, then fine. But there’s no need to force it.

And yes, you can be aware of your breathing anytime.

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Comment from sam
Time: May 22, 2012, 2:22 pm

I am new to this – but tend to find, so far, that mindfulness of breathing goes 1 of 3 ways for me.
1. Mind wanders a lot – result- suddenly realise I am not focussed on breath at all and start counting again. repeat for 30 mins!
2. I focus successfully on breath and nothing else for first 10 mins or so, then my mind begins to wander more but not as much as number 1.
3. I am still focussed on the breath, but am seemingly simultaneously wandering mentally gently. The two seem to sit peacefully side by side. It feels ‘natural’.

Sam

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 23, 2012, 9:42 am

Hi, Sam.

This is all very normal! In the third type of experience you’re establishing some access concentration (as it’s called). You can probably help this to happen more, and to take those experiences deeper, by paying attention to a wider range of sensations connected with the breathing, as suggested in this article.

In the second type you’re probably trying a little too hard, and getting tired.

And the first type — well, we’ve all been there! When you notice your mind wandering a lot in this way, I’d suggest trying this technique.

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Comment from sam
Time: May 23, 2012, 1:46 pm

Bodhipaksa,

Thank you for your support. I shall check out those links with interest.

One thing I can say, as I’ve been meditating and reading a bit about Buddhism (Buddhism plain and simple by Steve Hagen) I feel more attuned to myself and the world. After lots of teens/20’s angst, a bit of therapy and then kids and marriage etc I’ve always been a seeker of answers to the ‘who am I and why do I do that’ kind of questions. Focussing on the moment/reality/truth and starting to recognise thoughts and feelings etc for what they are is exciting. Even at this early, early stage I can feel little benefits and have little ‘Eureka moments’ . Can’t imagine how fulfilling it will be after more experience/practise.

Finally if there are any other insightful books on Buddhism that you know of/have read – I’d love to be pointed in the right direction.

Many thanks again for your help, support and this site.

Sam

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Comment from sam
Time: May 23, 2012, 2:02 pm

Sorry,

Just been browsing the site and have seen the ‘books section’ and the books you have written.

I shall endeavour to answer my own questions first!

Sam

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 23, 2012, 3:02 pm

Hey, no problem. I think you might find my book Living as a River to be very interesting. The entire book is a guided reflection on non-self, which is just an extension of what you talked about in regard to recognizing thoughts, feelings, etc., for what they are.

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Comment from john
Time: May 29, 2012, 4:17 pm

hi great article. However i have a question?

My meditation consists of following the breath only through the tip of the nose and so far my progress had barely raised. My goal is to keep a one pointed view on that spot where the breath touches(tip of nose or upper lip), and wanted to know if its common amongst practioners to really struggle with this type of meditation? And if not, what can i do to help my predicament?

There are at times where i do find it but then i never find it again hitting that same spot. Please help me, i dont my practice go to waste knowing that i might have to pick another object for the jhana or absorbtion concetration.

Th

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 29, 2012, 4:50 pm

Whew. It’s taking longer and longer to scroll to the bottom of this page as the comments mount up.

Your practice never goes to waste! You’re building neuronal muscle by working on paying attention (or trying to pay attention) to a subtle object of awareness.

However, having said that, it doesn’t seem like it’s working for you. I would never advise anyone to start with trying to pay attention to the rims of the nostrils, but to start with a fuller awareness of the breathing and to work toward those finer sensations. I’d suggest you start at Stage One of this practice and work your way through it. Sometimes the long way around is the quickest path to where we want to go.

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Comment from david knowles
Time: July 20, 2012, 6:40 am

i have been practicing the body scan for around 4 years and so metimes i get an overpowering feeling of bliss and other times i feel nothing.My point is that during meditation i spend all 25 minutes trying to get that feeling of bliss back and become dissapointed and feel it is a waste of time when it doesnt come.is there anyway of overcoming this?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 20, 2012, 8:06 am

Hi, David.

You need to learn to sit without expectation. You might want to try practicing more appreciation of what is arising in your experience rather than focusing on what’s not arising in your experience. A lot of the posts in our blog by both me and Rick Hanson can help you with that.

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Comment from Randy Whitwell
Time: August 29, 2012, 7:59 pm

Just want to say thanks. I have respected Buddhism from afar most of my life. I facilitate groups in Folsom Prison and frequently use poetry and other writtings in my sessions with the inmates. I stumbled on to your site recently and am now using it not only for others but for my own education in Buddhism. It has encouraged me to sign up for a meditation retreat in order to learn more about how to meditate. So again, Thank you for a great site for learning. Randy

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 29, 2012, 10:13 pm

Thank you for your kind words, Randy, and all the best with your prison work.

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Pingback from Managing the pain ……. « by the fellside
Time: September 17, 2012, 8:05 am

[...] mindfulness practice based on developing an awareness of breathing. You can learn more about it here. It might sound complicated, but its not at all. In fact the breath, its something we always have [...]

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Comment from Biswajit
Time: October 23, 2012, 3:54 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa,

Thank you for the wonderful site. I have been following your advice and reading thru your articles for last couple of years. I have been practicing mindfulness for last 3 years and seen tremendous benefit.

However, lately I have been struggling. I have not been able to stay focused on the breath for long and see constant chatter in the mind. I have also observed that my reactivity to external stimuli – verbal, emails is becoming very strong. Though I can feel the body sensations changing to the stimuli and feel the stress, I have not been able to accept and manage it.

Request your advice.

Regards

Biswajit

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 24, 2012, 11:27 pm

Hi, Biswajit.

Have you been doing any lovingkindness meditation? I regard it as an indispensable companion to mindfulness.

It may also be that you’re clinging to the experience of calmness, or at least to the idea of experiencing calmness, which leads to increased sensitivity and reactiveness. Lovingkindness practice would help here too, but so would “just sitting” practice, where the breath may still be a loosely held focus, but there’s little effort made beyond simply coming back to a mindful state. I don’t have a formal guide to this practice, but I did write this article about it.

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Pingback from Multitasking – The Good and Bad « tommyslater
Time: December 12, 2012, 10:50 am

[...] You may not even realize it. Even if you think you’ve dropped everything else, while you are reading this very sentence, you’re also breathing right now. Well, I hope you are. If you aren’t, stop multitasking, stop reading, and go focus on your breath. [...]

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Comment from Max
Time: January 12, 2013, 9:32 pm

This website has been very helpful to my journey in mindfulness meditation. Bodhipaksa, you are the best!

Anyways, I have had one burning question about mindfulness meditation, and I have truly looked everywhere for the answer. It is very hard for me to find the sensation of my breath passing by my nostrils. Sometimes I feel the breath in my nostrils, and sometimes I can’t seem to find it at all. When I am doing mindfulness meditation, sometimes the feeling of breath in my nostrils is so subtle i’m not sure if it’s really my breath or if I am just imagining it! My question is: If I am just imagining the feeling of breath passing through my nostrils, is it okay to focus on that? Or does meditation only work if it’s a real, tactile sensation of breath? I really hope this question wasn’t too convoluted, and if It was I would love to re-phrase it. Thanks so much in advance for your help!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 14, 2013, 12:45 pm

Thank you for your kind comment, Max. If you’d like to show support for what we do, please feel free to join our “Sit : Love : Give” program by making a one-time donation or becoming a monthly subscriber.

You didn’t mention how you get on in the other stages of the mindfulness of breathing practice as I teach it here, or whether in fact you do those stages. I’d encourage you to do so, since you begin with the less subtle sensations of the breath and then home in on the more subtle ones. In the third stage we learn to appreciate the subtlety of the “pause” between in breaths and out breaths, and in moving from the third to the fourth stage you can do this by gradually narrowing your focus, taking quite a few breaths to do this.

Is this the kind of thing you do, or do you tend just to plunge in to the fourth stage?

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Comment from Max
Time: January 15, 2013, 1:41 am

Thank you for sharing that link, I will definitely support the work you have done with this site!

I have to admit, I do just start with the final stage. I will go back and start from stage 1 again to truly find my breath. Thank you for the reply.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 15, 2013, 8:49 am

Ah, I’d wondered if that was the case. It would definitely be helpful to do the full practice, and also to do body scanning.

And any contribution would be gratefully received!

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Time: January 17, 2013, 7:55 pm

[...] of my New Year’s resolutions was to meditate daily. I simply concentrate on my breathing. Thoughts pop up, and I observe them and let them [...]

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Comment from Norman MacArthur
Time: February 6, 2013, 5:12 pm

I’ve been practising the mindfulness of breathing for about a month now and it’s going really well, feeling more awareness the more I practice and have already noticed some positive results and changes in my behaviour, so this is all good. I do however have a concern, this might sound strange but lately I’ve been noticing my thoughts processing rather slow, it’s as if (on occasion) what i’m thinking about is going slower in my head than it should (sorry, this seems to be the best way I can explain it) I don’t experience this during mediation at all. I don’t have any kind of mental illness or anything like that, used to experience anxiety issues a long time ago though. Could this just be my mind being clam for the first time in a long while? And for some odd reason i’m anxious about it? I’d really appreciate any feedback on this at all. Thanks =)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 6, 2013, 6:14 pm

It certainly sounds like you may be anxious about a quitemnaturalmlevel of calmness. Do you do any lovingkindness practice? It’s good for developing more of a sense of appreciation and confidence.

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Comment from Norman MacArthur
Time: February 7, 2013, 9:33 am

I’ve only just started practising the first stage of the Metta Bahavna, so I still need to learn how to do that. It does sound like it could help with this though. I’m hoping that this passes with time as it could be a result of the meditation actually working and I’m having an anxious response to it, obviously the opposite effect of what I’m going for here.

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Comment from I.P. George
Time: February 11, 2013, 10:41 pm

Dear
Good day!!!
I am practicing mindfulness breathing for almost 4 months. I am very comfortable to sit calm without any disturbances almost 30 to 40 min to practice mindful breathing. But,there are certain concerns and those are:-
a) While closing the eyes, my mind is moving through various thoughts and I am seeing places where I never had seen earlier ( like a dream)
b) When I close the eyes, when I start practicing,. I am giving full attention ( or sensing ) the breathe from the starting point of inhalation and following the breathe up to the end and repeating the same. Is this correct Practice? or wrong? But, when I practice in this way, I am enabling myself to follow the breathe or be with the breathe. Is this correct? or wrong Practice?
In anticipation to have your guidance.
Love
I.P. George

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 12, 2013, 10:48 am

Hello, IP George.

It’s good to hear that your meditation practice is going well, and that you have few disturbances. This is impressive after just four months.

The dream-like imagery suggests to me that you could look for a little more alertness and attentiveness in your practice. So make sure that there is not any subtle slumping in your posture, since this can lead to poor breathing and a lack of mental clarity. Also make a gentle effort to perceive the breath vividly. You may need to focus on parts of the breathing that are a bit clearer and more vivid. Often this is in the nostrils.

Following the cycle of the breathing from beginning to end is fine, but I’m suggest that you try being aware of the fact that the sensations of the breathing are continuous. The breathing is an unbroken process, and by noticing that fact, you can develop greater continuity in your mindfulness.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from I.P. George
Time: February 12, 2013, 1:28 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa
Thank you very much for your wonderful guidance. Thanks!!!!
I am trying to be more vivid and clearer but I was a heavy cigarette smoker for 20 years and quitting slowly. So, I hope, this bad habit which I carried so many years have seriously damaged my lungs and hence some difficulties. Is that so???. can you also suggest me what are the best hours of day for practice. Now I am doing it two times ( morning after breakfast) and then late evening before dinner. 30 to 40 min I am feeling and are with great urge to sit calm and Practice. Is that fine?? kindly guide me or do I need to increase the duration of practice.
with Love
I P George

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 12, 2013, 3:56 pm

Dear I P George.

I’m sorry to hear about the damage to your lungs. That shouldn’t affect your ability to detect the breath vividly, though. Mostly the vivid sensations are up in the nostrils.

You’re doing a very respectable amount of meditation! I commend you. I don’t know what you do in terms of mindfulness of daily actions, but generally I would suggest making more effort to take mindfulness and compassion into your daily life. You might want to create reminders to yourself (notes, or mental associations) that prompt you to become more mindful of your body, your breathing, your thoughts, feelings, and the world around you.

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Comment from I.P.GEORGE
Time: February 18, 2013, 2:19 am

Dear Bodhipaksa
Good day!!!!!!!
Thanks again for your wonderful insightful guidance which will be followed in coming days with due respect and in the meanwhile, It will be highly appreciated if you could clear few of my doubts once for all and those are:-

(1) Regards to mindfulness of daily actions:

You are guiding me to follow mindfulness daily actions and by that are you guiding me to watch the daily actions as how it happening? I read the book “Power of Now” by Eckart Tolle and in that he explains to watch the actions of present moment. Is that same what you are recommending by way to follow mindfulness daily actions… If that so, when I cook food or when I eat food is that me need to give 100% attention only to that present action by way of diverting attention ( mind) from all other activities other than the action of that present moment.

(2) Regards to the reminders:
By this, are you guiding me to remind myself internally ( by self instruction to mind )? is that what you mean? As I told you earlier, I used to be a heavy smoker so the urge to smokes occurs in my mind all the time, so, in this time to avoid the urge is that required for me to give INSTRUCTION or reminders to self not to smoke… Is that what you mean by reminders????
(3) Regards to the Feelings:
watching/feeling the thoughts are practiced slowly even though sometimes getting confused at my own feelings. You are guiding me to watch the word around me, why?? and how?? Is that you mean to observe the world around me closely by way of giving attention to sunrise/day light/climate change or need to give attention/observation to my friends talks/laugh/complaints?

Please guide me…I am sorry to bother you with all these doubts but it will be great assistance for me practice mindfulness breathing with more joy and attention when the above doubts are clarified by you. Please Bodhipaksa
Regards
I.P. George

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 18, 2013, 12:52 pm

Good day, I.P. George.

1. “when I cook food or when I eat food is that me need to give 100% attention only to that present action…” Absolutely. When doing everyday actions, try to keep your mind on those actions, rather than daydreaming.

2. By “reminders” I mean this: We simply forget to be mindful a lot of the time. When we meditate, the mind wanders. When we’re working, or walking, or taking the bus, or having a conversation, the mind wanders. So it’s helpful to set up an intention to be present throughout the day. Our mindfulness will come and go, but it will come more often and go less often if we intend to remain mindful. But to help yourself remember this intention, it’s helpful to have reminders. For example, you can have notes in your workplace saying “notice” or “breathe” or “smile.” Or you can change the ring-tone or text-message alert on your mobile phone, and when you hear the different sound you’ll be reminded to be mindful. Or you can wear your watch on the wrong wrist. Do whatever you can to remind yourself to be mindful during the day.

3. I advise you to be mindful of the world around you because mindfulness needs to be applied to every experience we have. We need to be mindful of other people, mindful of the spaces we live in, of the things we use, of things that attract us or repel us. So you’re aware of things or people you’re seeing, and you’re aware of your immediate responses to those things, and being mindful we catch the mind when it goes wandering and starts creating stories. You might see someone smoking and feel desire, but when we remain mindful, thoughts of “I’d love a cigarette” are less likely to arise, and when they do we’re less likely to believe them and take them seriously.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: March 9, 2013, 10:25 am

Hi Bodhipaksa

I would like to ask something regarding stage 4 of the mindfulness of breath exercise.

During stage 4, I observe the sensations of the breath at the nostrils. However, while doing this, I do not try to deliberately hold my attention around this area (the nostrils) I just simply look for those sensations, which I can first detect during in-breath (or last during out-breath), and observe the qualities of these sensations (their exact position, length, etc), without using conscious effort to hold my attention at the nostrils.

I am asking this, because I find it really hard to deliberately hold my attention at my nostrils throughout the whole session. Therefore, I have decided to focus on the qualities of the sensations themselves (including their exact position), and let my attention automatically ‘be drawn to’ the place where these sensations occur (this does not always happen).

Is it all right if I do the exercise the above way?

Thanks for the help and support you provide for meditators. Its really helpful.

Nasdor

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 11, 2013, 12:24 pm

That sounds ideal, Nasdor. The less effort, the better.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: March 12, 2013, 12:22 pm

Thanks for the quick reply.

Sorry, but I have forgot to include one more thing in my comment. Since I do not pay conscious effort to hold my attention at the nostrils, during the exercise, I am not aware of the exact ‘position’ of this small area (since I do not hold my attention there).

As I have said, I just simply look for those sensations, which I can first detect during in-breath (or last during out-breath), and observe the qualities of these sensations, without trying to ‘discern’ the rims of the nostrils from the other(higher) parts of my nose or consciously hold my attention there.

Is it all right if I do the exercise this way.

Thanks once more

Nasdor

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 12, 2013, 1:18 pm

I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re saying. You don’t have to make an effort to hold your attention anywhere to know where the position of a sensation is. Right now I’m feeling my bottom on a chair and my fingertips on a keyboard. I don’t have to make any effort to notice these sensations, and yet I know exactly where they are.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: March 12, 2013, 4:16 pm

So, in other words, I can ascertain the qualities of these sensations of the breath (including their position), even if, during the exercise, I am not aware of the exact ‘position’ of the nostrils or can not discern this small area from the other parts of my nose.

Am I right?

Thanks once more

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 13, 2013, 12:14 am

If your concern is whether you’re doing it right, I’d suggest just letting go of that form of anxiety and returning to the practice. Experiences vary widely, and I don’t imagine that any two people experience the breathing in exactly the same way. If its working for you, then that’s excellent. It certainly doesn’t sound to me that there’s anything to be concerned about.

In fact I’d suggest going just a bit further and becoming more conscious of the impermanence of the breathing — not just the beginning and ending of each in breath and each out breath, but the impermanence of each moment of experience. It sounds like you have enough stability of attention to be able to do that.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: March 13, 2013, 5:27 am

When you say that one should become ‘…more conscious of the impermanence of each moment of experience…’, do you mean that one should pay attention not only to the ‘stages’ (of the breath), like the beginning or ending of the in/out-breath. Instead, each little moment/part of the experience should be observed and noted.

In other words, I should regard the breath as more like a continuous process, where every little moment is ‘unique and impermanent’ and can serve as an ‘object of attention’.

I hope this is what you meant in your prev. comment.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 13, 2013, 9:44 am

Yes, although you can begin with noting that each in breath starts and ends, and each out breath does likewise. And then once you feel established in that you can note the stream of unique and impermanent moments. You can then, once you feel established in that practice, go on to notice that the consciousness that is aware of this is also changing moment by moment.

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Comment from Vrajesh
Time: March 27, 2013, 8:42 am

Hey bodhipaksa,

I understand that this is “mindfulness of breathing” but then how is this different than vipassana? Because in both you just use your breath as the object of meditation. I am just having difficulty understanding the two.

Thanks
Vrajesh

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 27, 2013, 1:52 pm

Hi, Vrajesh.

There’s not necessarily a lot of difference earlier on. In both cases you simply pay attention to the breathing, and when the mind wanders you bring it back.

The traditional approach (which I take) is that once the meditation is more established you can settle into jhana and then begin to notice the impermanence, non-self, and unsatisfactoriness of your (jhanic) experience. It’s doing those three things in meditation that makes the practice “vipassana.”

The Vipassana tend to be very suspicious of jhana, and try to cultivate insight without it. A lot of what they end up doing, however, isn’t actually vipassana at all. At that early stage of letting go of distractions and returning to the breathing, you’re doing a basic form of samatha (calming) meditation.

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Pingback from The Tapestry of Life | Meanderings
Time: April 13, 2013, 5:12 pm

[...] Buddhists promote a style of meditation called mindfulness. This style of meditation does not require a person to clear their mind. Instead, a practitioner [...]

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Comment from Jennifer
Time: April 14, 2013, 8:10 am

I just wanted to thank you for making this guide available online. It sounds trite when I put it into words, but it has made such a massive difference to my life.

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Comment from Sanjeev
Time: April 27, 2013, 8:54 am

The main problem what i am facing is being conscious of breathing, which in turn leading to heavy and disturbed breathing pattern. This is happening during the normal times of the day and not particularly during meditation. I am trying hard to divert the mind from being breath conscious, but not successful all the times. I tried the solutions suggested in your website such as “letting it go”, but even then I didn’t not find much relief. My strong feeling is observing the breath is not a good idea and should be left unconscious. Could you please help me out how to get rid of from being breath conscious during the normal time of the day. Thank you!!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 29, 2013, 10:17 am

When you find that you’re involuntarily paying attention to your breathing and also controlling it, start focusing on your heartbeat instead. Really notice the sensations of the heart beating, and how that feels in your chest.

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Comment from I.P. George
Time: May 5, 2013, 9:19 am

Dear Bodhipaksa
Wish you a god day!!!!
I am doing the mindfulness everyday almost 1 hour ( 30 min at morning & 30 Min at evening) and I have the urge to do it more often than this, but again, my problem is based on the concentration. Even though I am able to count/observe the incoming & outgoing breathe, I am unable to concentrate more on it. In the meanwhile, one of my friend who does ( Trartak Meditation) or Flame Glazing told me that, it is better to do stare at a DOT without blinking eyes ( based on Hata Yoga ) and improve concentration and side by side doing mindfulness will be good idea but I am not fully convinced on this and I would like to hear your opinion about this Please.
Regards
I.P.George

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Comment from I.P. George
Time: May 9, 2013, 1:39 am

Dear Bodhipaksa
Wish you a god day!!!!
I am doing the mindfulness everyday almost 1 hour ( 30 min at morning & 30 Min at evening) and I have the urge to do it more often than this, but again, my problem is based on the concentration. Even though I am able to count/observe the incoming & outgoing breathe, I am unable to concentrate more on it. In the meanwhile, one of my friend who does ( Trartak Meditation) or Flame Glazing told me that, it is better to do stare at a DOT without blinking eyes ( based on Hata Yoga ) and improve concentration and side by side doing mindfulness will be good idea but I am not fully convinced on this and I would like to hear your opinion about this Please.
Regards
I.P.George

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 9, 2013, 9:49 am

Good day to you, too!

It’s great to hear that you have a regular practice. It takes time to train the mind to become more focused, and in the meantime there are other qualities that you can be developing as part of your practice, including being patient with yourself (not being too concerned about progress), and having confidence in the process.

If you try this Trartak meditation you may well end up just wondering if you’re making enough progress, and then someone will come along and suggest something else, and it goes on and on. You need to stick with a practice in order to master it.

I don’t know if you’re doing any lovingkindness (maitri/metta), but I highly recommend alternating mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: June 3, 2013, 11:36 am

Hi Bodhipaksa

I would like to ask a question about the mindfulness of breath exercise. In stage 4, one observes the sensations (of the breath) around the nose-trills. During my session, I find it rather difficult to determine the exact position of these subtle sensations. Sometimes, I am less aware where a certain sensation is felt, and I wonder to myself:” where was it exactly?” (this happens rarely, maybe 2-3 times/session) When this occurs, I usually apply either of the two following approaches:

1, When I am less aware of the position of a certain sensation, I try to focus a bit more on the location of the (subsequent) sensations, while trying to remain aware of the other qualities of the breath (the temperature, its length, the pause between,…) as well. (I do not ‘zoom in’ an focus only on the position of the sensations)

2, I simply note the fact that “there was a sensation, whose position I do not know”. In other words, even if I am unaware of their position (or know only vaguely), I do not focus more on determining the position of the sensations (as I do in point ‘1,’), and continue observing the breath with ‘impartial’ attention (focus/observe all the qualities of the breath with more or less equal amount of attention).

Which of the above mentioned methods do you suggest? I tend to favor the approach outlined in point ‘1,’ since it helps me become more immersed in the observance of the breath. Thanks for your advice

All the best

Nasdor

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 3, 2013, 1:02 pm

Hi, Nasdor.

What you’re doing sounds fine, although I’m not clear why you need to try to pinpoint the position of these sensations. If you’re observing the sensations, that seems good enough. In meditation our sense of the body can change, so that the normal body shape alters or is lost completely. So it seems normal to me not to be concerned about the position of sensations.

How do you feel while you’re doing this stage of the practice? Do you feel happy? Vibrant? Calm? Relaxed?

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Comment from nasdor
Time: June 4, 2013, 5:48 am

Thanks for the quick reply. When sg worries me concerning the proper execution of my exercise, it usually prevents me from reaching calmer states. However, if I manage to hold a reasonably empty mind (without such worries), I usually reach a calmer,relaxed state, which is often (not always) accompanied by certain energetic sensations. In addition (as you noted in your post), the awareness of my body can also change (I feel like ‘expanding’, my arms/legs seem to get lighter or my perception of my body becomes somewhat ‘muted’,…). If the perception of my body becomes too vague, I no longer try to determine the position of a sensation, and simply note that ‘there was a sensation somewhere’ (I do not try to ascertain its position), and continue observing the breath (with all its qualities) where I feel it first entering my body.

However, while I still retain some degree of perception of my body, among their other qualities, I usually note (or try to be aware of) the position of the sensations as well. For instance, if I only feel the in-breath in my left nose-trill, I note that ‘I felt something only in my left nose’. While doing this, sometimes, I am less aware where a certain sensation is felt. When this happens, I apply either of the two methods outlined in my prev post.

I think either one is fine. If you say that I should not be concerned about the position of the sensations too much, I will go for the method given in point ‘2,’, and when I am less aware of the position of a sensation, I simply note this fact and continue observing without focusing more on determining the position of the sensations. Is my approach all right? Is it all right, if I observe (try to be aware) of the position of the sensations as far as the ‘level’ of my perception (of my body) permits it?

Thanks once more

Sandor

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 4, 2013, 9:26 am

Is it all right, if I observe (try to be aware) of the position of the sensations as far as the ‘level’ of my perception (of my body) permits it?

Of course. The calmness and energetic sensations you’re describing are a good sign. I’d recommend not getting too caught up in whether you’re doing the practice right and allow yourself to be aware of any pīti (pleasurable energy in the body) and sukha (joy) that emerge. Let the emergence of those be the sign that you’re moving in the right direction.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: June 10, 2013, 12:58 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa

A question occurred to me during stage 4 of my last practice: When I experience peculiar sensation (for instance, I feel the tactile sensation only during the second part of the in-breath, and feel nothing in the first part), it sometimes piques my interest. Therefore, when having a new/peculiar kind of sensation, I begin to focus a bit more on that aspect of the breath (in my example, I begin to pay a bit more attention to the in-breath), while trying to stay aware of the other qualities/parts of the breathing as well.

Is my approach all right? Or should I, when experiencing sg peculiar, simply note that ‘there was a tactile sensation only in the second part of the in-breath’, and continue doing the exercise without reacting.

I believe, both approaches are correct, and I tend to alternate between the two (sometimes I begin to focus a bit more on the peculiar sensation; whereas, other times, I simply note its occurrence and continue without any change)

Thanks for answering. I am really grateful for your suggestions.

Nasdor

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Comment from nasdor
Time: June 16, 2013, 9:16 am

Hi Bodhipaksa

In stage 4 of the ‘mindfulness of the breath’ exercise, one should observe the sensations around the nose-trills. (I tend to consider a bit wider area, stretching a few millimeters above and below my nose-trills)

Is it all right, if I disregard a sensation, which I feel to be noticeably above (in my nose) than my nose-trills, even if at that particular in-breath that is the first/lowest place where I can detect the breath? (at that moment, I do not feel anything below in the lower parts of my nose)

In ‘deeper’ states, I find it harder to perceive the position of my body (and the position of the sensations). Therefore, in these ‘deeper’ states, I am less concerned about the fact whether the particular sensation I am feeling corresponds to the position of my nose-trills or not. I usually, simply observe those sensations, which first can be felt during in-breath, and only dismiss those sensations, which are noticeably elsewhere than my nose-trills. This entails that sometimes I might dismiss a sensation, which actually is at my nose-trills, or the opposite (consider a sensation, which is elsewhere than my nose-trills).

Could you tell me? Is it all right to do the exercise this way? Thanks for answering

All the best
Nasdor

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 17, 2013, 10:09 am

I can’t help thinking that you might be too caught up in “doing the practice right.” Do you enjoy your practice? Is it deeply joyful? I hope that you’re able to relax into it and experience the flow of jhana.

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Comment from Dheeraj
Time: June 18, 2013, 4:15 am

Thanks Bodhipaksa for this wonderful site. You very nicely explain everything! it is very helpful!

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Comment from nasdor
Time: June 18, 2013, 6:09 am

I believe, you are right. Over analyzing things tend to have a negative effect on my practice, since it leads to unnecessary amount of worrying, which prevents me from reaching a calmer deeper state.

In my above post, I just wanted to know if it is all right to dismiss a sensation, which I feel to be above that small few millimeter wide area surrounding my nose-trills? (even if, at that moment, I do not feel anything below that sensation)

In addition, in deeper states, I am less aware of the position of these sensations. Therefore,I might dismiss a sensation, which actually is at my nose-trills, or the opposite (Consider a sensation which I feel to be around my nose-trills; but in reality, that sensation is elsewhere above in my nose).

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 18, 2013, 7:55 am

Yes, but it’s that “wanting to know” that fuels your worrying. Worrying isn’t helpful for your practice. Try letting go of those concerns and relax into the experience.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: July 2, 2013, 6:17 am

Hi Bodhipaksa

When doing ‘mindfulness of breath’ exercise, besides other qualities, one observes the duration of the in/out breath.

While doing this, is it a good idea to silently note/be aware if the breath is shorter/longer (than usual)?
Can I also pay attention to the difference in length between the in-breath and the out-breath?
For instance, in my case, I often find that the out-breath is a bit shorter than the in-breath. Therefore, I believe, its a good idea to pay attention to it and silently notice when this happens. (be aware of it without verbalizing)

Thanks for answering.

Nasdor

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Comment from Patricia Heyworth
Time: July 25, 2013, 4:17 pm

Hi,

This is possibly a silly question but I have stomach issues (not sure if IBS or hiatal hernia as my Doctor hasn’t identified it). This means I feel as if i often can’t expand my stomach to get a proper breath in. As a beginning mediator focusing on my breathe is really difficult because the discomfort of not being being able to expand my stomach causes me to be irritated with myself. I would just be grateful on whether I can still get any benefit from meditation even if I don’t breathe properly:(

Kind wishes

Patricia

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 25, 2013, 5:17 pm

This isn’t a problem. Just let the breathing happen and notice the sensations and notice what your mind does. Meditation isn’t a breathing exercise, so it’s not strictly necessary to have “proper” breathing, although “proper” breathing never does any harm :)

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Comment from Jeff
Time: September 19, 2013, 8:14 pm

Bodhipaksa,

I’m trying to practice mindfulness by focusing on my breath.

When something other than my breath grabs my attention I acknowledge it and then come back to my breath.

The problem is so many things grab my attention I spend most the time just acknowledging those things. It’s to the point where most of my time meditating is spent acknowledging things that grab my attention and very little time is actually spent focusing on my breath.

My question is it OK to spend the majority of the meditation time acknowledging the things that come into your awareness and very little time actually focusing on the breath?

Thanks!!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 20, 2013, 11:24 am

Yes, it is OK. If that’s what’s happening, that’s what’s happening. Just keep going and things will, on the whole, tend to settle down.

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Comment from Aura
Time: October 9, 2013, 2:57 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa,

Thank you for all you do.

While practicing mindfulness meditation I am increasingly experiencing, from time to time, an unexpected deep release of air through the mouth. It does not interfere with my regular breathing or with the meditation.

I am curious to know whether this is something that indicates a positive or a negative sign of my meditation’s progression.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Light and blessings.

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Pingback from Using our emotional intelligence – Pathways To Change
Time: October 31, 2013, 7:13 am

[…] am a great advocate of breath work.  There’s a  buddhist practice – the ‘mindfulness of breathing‘ that asks the meditator to become aware of two pause points within the cycle of in and out […]

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Pingback from Why would I want to count my breath for twenty minutes ? | Love Life Project
Time: January 27, 2014, 5:09 pm

[…] during my meditation. I find it hard to stop the mind wandering. Fortunately, I have found a great website that explains meditation very clearly and provides guided […]

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Comment from Chris
Time: February 25, 2014, 8:16 pm

Hi,
I’m just wondering how long to focus on one stage before moving on to the other. I am truly finding this site helpful, I just find myself guessing or contemplating if I am developing a proper practice.
Thank you.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 26, 2014, 8:23 pm

Usually people give an equal amount of time to each stage. So if you have 20 minutes and a four-stage practice, then five minutes for each stage.

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Comment from Wesley
Time: March 2, 2014, 9:49 am

Hello Bodhipaksa, I hope this message finds you well.

I am in the process of beginning meditation, and I need a bit of guidance. I know that I should not worry much on the practice and simply let things flow, but I still would like a bit of advice in the overall direction of my practice.

I feel that there are two paths I can take during meditation. One is where I focus on the breathing to the extent that it fills my entire awareness. The only problem is this seems to put me into a semi-trance state, where my conciseness simply becomes the breathing.

The other direction is where I attempt to hold my consciousness back, and be aware of myself and the breathing at the same time. This is much more difficult to do, as I feel I am fighting to focus on two things at once.

I enjoy the trance state more, but I feel that it might be counter productive. When you are practicing mindfulness during the day, you need to be aware of what your doing. I feel that the point of the entire practice is to be conscious of what is happening to you, and choosing to remain focused on it. Because of this, I feel that while this trance state may feel better and be easier, it is not really helping learn how to focus in everyday life. What do you think?

Thank you for all your amazing guidance!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 3, 2014, 9:54 am

Hi, Wesley.

I don’t know what you mean by a “trance” state, never having experienced anything in meditation that I would use that word to describe (except for states of distractedness).

Anyway, both directions that you’ve identified are useful — whether it’s allowing ourselves to be absorbed in the breathing to the point where other sensations fade away, or maintaining a broader field of awareness where we’re open to noticing whatever sensations are arising.

They’re actually complementary activities, and both will help you to be more focused in everyday life. The approach in which you have a narrower focus on your breathing is still training the mind to be less distracted and more present. That undistractedness and state of presence will carry over to your daily life and be of benefit.

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Comment from Wesley
Time: March 11, 2014, 7:06 am

Thank you for the quick response! I was finally able to work out my problem. I discovered that this trance state I mentioned really meant I was beginning to fall asleep.

I do have one more question though. I noticed when I meditate with my eyes closed, it is much easier then attempting to keep mindfulness throughout the day (when my eyes are open). Because of this, I am considering the idea of switching to meditating with my eyes open as well. What are your general thoughts on this, and do you have any suggestions for starting a new practice using this technique?

Thanks again!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 12, 2014, 2:07 pm

“Falling asleep” is certainly an experience I can relate to, even if “trance” isn’t :)

I’m not quite sure I understand your question. You seem to be saying that meditating with your eyes closed is easier, and therefore you want to meditate with your eyes open? I don’t follow the logic.

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Comment from Nemanja Stefanovic
Time: March 27, 2014, 1:02 pm

Good day Bodhipaksa,thank you for existing and for making this site.

To explain “my problem” (will try to keep it short,but it still may be long..) i will begin with very reason i started meditating. I am a professional volleyball player,that is what i do for living,born on February the 12th 1989. My career so far wasn’t quite what i expected it to be. I had a great start,won championships,played for youth national… But all that was very stressful,i had a good coach but was really affecting my mind(i was 18),by the way he was yelling,cursing,implying fear. Even though i was playing very good,was the best in country for my age,i wasn’t enjoying,it was too much adrenaline and stress. I changed clubs,never got to play for national team again (when there was my rightful place,i thought) and in each club i had “problems” because it wasn’t going the way i expected,having in mind the effort i put into training and play. I was too much attached to volleyball,i still probably am,i was aiming for wrong goals. Especially after last year season,i was playing in Poland (in the top 3 leagues of the world) and i thought “this is it! my chance! there won’t be second chances”. It was the biggest defeat… I didn’t play almost at all,self confidence was zero. I was afraid to even touch the ball,cause the object (volleyball) would instantly produce negative thoughts. I went back to my home,low level league,to play more matches,to regain what i once had,good play. Alas, another coach,this time the opposite of the 1st one,he was just getting on my nerves. Not to mention the still present stress and adrenaline in play. This had to stop! Voila,somehow i stumbled up on meditation and on your precious site with instructions. And it started working! After meditating for a while(3-4 weeks),for the first time after 6 years,i played and i was smiling! Not thinking about errors,no coach or anyone else could affect me,simply enjoying! This got very interested in meditation,and buddhist teachings and every day i enjoy reading something about it. And now here is the problem (finally) :D I now know that something i consider/feel bad about is just because i think it that way,that its no the the truth.

Now,4 months since i started meditating,old fears are coming back,showing me that they were not extinguished. I don’t want to be the best or to be happy when i am playing good. I just want to play the best i can and not think about errors or (most of the time) think of myself playing bad,which brings emotions and feelings of grief,sorrow and low esteem. And sometimes i think that because of concentrating on other stuff than volleyball,i will play bad. If i make mistakes,which is normal,it seems like these thoughts get the confirmation that they are true,and continue to bomb me. And these thoughts,if they succeed in poisoning my mind,are followed by bad thoughts considering any object or any activity i do. I fight them with all techniques,which work,bud the number of thoughts and their strength is sometimes overwhelming,and cant be fought off unless constantly focusing on something else – meditation. This was quite a problem for me for last 3 weeks or more,and i am constantly thinking of the way how to end this,alas, thinking how to end a problem is thinking of the thoughts of problem, which is a problem :D I feel better already by writing all this,but a word of advice would be appreciated.

Best wishes and thank you for everything!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 28, 2014, 10:25 am

Hi, Nemanja.

I managed to combine both of your comments into one.

Thanks for writing, and for sharing such an interesting story. I’m glad to hear that you found meditation to be so beneficial. It seems you had an experience of what Suzuki Roshi called “beginner’s mind,” where things go well. Unfortunately, as you’ve found, the reactive parts of our mind can find ways to reassert themselves.

I’d suggest that the most beneficial thing you could do right now is to befriend those feelings of fear, grief, and sorrow. My guess is that you tend to get caught in a reactive loop, where you’re responding to anxiety with more anxiety. This is very, very common. The way out of that loop is first, acceptance, which means that you have to accept that it’s OK to be anxious. You have to be prepared to allow your anxiety to be there. When you’re experiencing anxiety you can say things like “It’s OK to feel this. Let me feel this.” It helps to notice exactly where you feel your anxiety most strongly in the body. Notice the shape and texture of your anxiety. You may find that you have a sense that anxiety is present as part of your experience, but that the totality of “you” is not anxious.

Second, you can recognize that your anxiety is a part of you suffering, and give that part of you your love and compassion. I don’t know if you’ve learned any lovingkindness meditation, but basically as you mindfully notice your anxiety, you regard it kindly and say things like “May you be well; may you be happy.” Regard the suffering part of you as being like a frightened animal that needs kindly reassurance.

The aim is not really to get rid of the anxiety, but to give it your compassion because compassion is the most appropriate response to pain. Imagine if you had a friend who had experienced a bereavement and was in a state of grief. Your aim would probably be to be a compassionate presence for your friend while the experienced their grief, rather than to try to make the grief go away.

What I’ve said about anxiety can be applied also to grief and sorrow, and to any painful feeling. And you may come to recognize that it’s OK to experience these things. You can experience anxiety, for example, and not have to be dragged down by it.

I hope this is helpful in some way. Please do feel free to let me know how you get on.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Nemanja Stefanovic
Time: March 28, 2014, 6:18 pm

Thank you for quick response!

I must say again that putting my problem on “paper” helped. What i tried yesterday and today on trainings,before reading your reply,is constantly focusing ,more and harder, on emptiness,keeping the mind in noting mode,focusing on something else (breath,body parts,sound) when the thoughts arise,just like when meditating in posture. Simply noting those thoughts,not looking back,immediately getting back to present moment and emptiness. It does work,with everything,every bad thought. I have a feeling sometimes that i am overdoing it,applying this method to all thoughts,sometimes even to pleasant ones,when not needed,during the day,cause i feel stable,better not let good thoughts because more bad thoughts might follow ,”feels good not to feel”. Bad thoughts will “attack” and affect if my mind is “off guard”.
This method seems a bit forceful,sometimes producing more confusing thoughts (i.e. “are you relaxed?” “is this the way to do it?” “will you be able to always to this?” …) but i deal with them quickly in the same way. Could this be one of the “five faults”- over application? Am i doing something wrong? Its hard to get in this state,and very “exhausting” if it takes more time. Can bad thoughts somehow forever be extinguished? I will try acceptance and loving kindness method,never actually did anything else than breathing and walking meditation.

Thank you again for everything!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 30, 2014, 11:33 am

Hi, Nemanja.

If it’s exhausting, then I think it’s safe to say that you’re over-exerting yourself, and that it’s not sustainable. You might also create more problems because you’re repressing your doubts rather than dealing with them.

There aren’t really any “bad” thoughts. Think of them more as “unhelpful,” because they’re not contributing to the kind of quality of experience that you like. But the more we practice mindfulness and lovingkindness/compassion, the less those thoughts tend to arise. And when they do arise, they’re easier to deal with, by simply acknowledging them, letting them go, and responding compassionately to the pain they cause.

Lovingkindness really is an essential complement to mindfulness practice. I would never suggest that someone do only mindfulness meditations.

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Comment from Nemanja Stefanovic
Time: May 4, 2014, 12:54 pm

Hello Bodhipaksa! Thank you so much…

I guess this is going to be another long post :) … I have a great urge to write what i have realized. Maybe i won’t be able to put it all here and in the words. I am not going to write about meditation (the doing of it,visions,sounds,problems…) but instead what i have gained so far from it. To the the people who want to know my story,and are reading this comment,scroll up to my previous posts,they are very long and wont be missed… :) What i gained is realization which came after 6 months since i started meditating (Thanks to you again,Bodhipaksa,and this precious site). Think i was at the edge of madness,because of all the
ignorance,missunderstanding,impatience,when i realised the following a few days ago(it was no magical moment,just the thoughts came up,and it happened while i was training my jump). I DO deserve everything that happened,everything that is happening,everything that will happen. I should be happy with what i have and what i feel,because what i have is what i wanted,what i wanted is what i thought about,what i think is what i am. This does sound like someone else wrote it,but i have putted these words from my on thoughts and they are written by me at back of my notebook,in my native language.Now, I am certanly not saying that i am enlightened,just
to make that clear,because i do have desire(s)… This all helped me realize what i have forgotten. I have forgotten what i did when i was younger. I forgot how and how much i trained. I did it with more heart,compassion,learning,but with always wanting more aswell (the best!) also,i can surely say,to the point of madness… And i always got the result which i wanted,almost instantly. Justified,yes,i really have comitted myself to volleyball. But still, i wanted more and better :) … I will jump to the point (i should leave details for a book maybe). Suffering is given to me ,and to all, in exact amount according to our desires. From suffering we learn,from learning we do,
from doing we know,from knowing we have. So love and say “thank you!” to everything, because it is teaching us. Every moment,every thought,every breath,everything is teaching you if you can look at it through the prism of noble path. Even when if something is only bad,does not have virtue,whatver it is(say you saw the devil itself),you will ,at least, know where not to look,which is already a good. Always look for good in everything. People should understand that it is not bad to desire,it is smart not to desire because you wont suffer,suffering is not bad by itself,it is our attitude ,not wanting to learn and get from suffering, that hurts us… People who are enlightened have no desires,but surpassing the desire not to desire anything,only to see truth,is the biggest desire of all,and it probably bears greatest suffering. It is not the point not to think (though i can see the benefits of this aswel),but to think right and good,and in everything i begin to see good now. One is master in any skill,when he is able to perform at maximum and without exerting himself in effort,when he just does,and this is achieved through practice,of body and mind. Bodhipaksa,when you told me i should do lovingkindness and accept things and be gentle,i saw only words,now i see the meaning,and the reason to do it… Can’t believe i wrote this all by myself,i feel so inspired,everything starts to make sense.
All the best and only the best wishes,thank you Bodhipaksa.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 9, 2014, 9:39 am

One think I encourage people to do, and which I’m delighted to see that you too have stumbled upon, Nemanja, is to say “thank you” for every experience we have, even the difficult ones. There’s always something to be thankful for, even if it’s just that we’re alive or that our senses are functioning.

There’s only one thing you said that I think could be misunderstood: “Suffering is given to me, and to all, in exact amount according to our desires.” That’s true for the secondary and self-inflicted suffering that we experience, but there is also primary suffering, such as pain, hunger, and even fear, that has little or nothing to do with our desires, and is just a consequence of being human. If a child is hurt or terrorized by an adult, for example, we should never assume that the child’s suffering is the result of his or her own desires…

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Comment from Jonathan
Time: June 8, 2014, 11:35 pm

One thing I noticed after three sessions of this type of meditation is I enter a state of super awareness after the meditation. It wears off after awhile, but then I also start to realize how much of my life I spend in my own little world. When I think about things that happen in my day, or scenarios that I wish had happened differently, I nudge myself back to awareness and am amazed by how much time I spent in thought and not paying attention to anything going on around me. This technique is amazing.

One thing that I still don’t quite get. I understand the benefits of being more peaceful, into each moment, and really enjoying life. Is meditation just an infinitely ongoing process? Is there an end goal?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 9, 2014, 1:28 pm

I’m glad to hear that you’re experiencing this, Jonathan. Yes, meditation is an ongoing process. There is no end point (except perhaps enlightenment). We just keep working on becoming kinder and more mindful, so that we improve our own lives and have a better effect on the lives of those around us.

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Pingback from Mindfulness – An Alternative Approach to ADA
Time: June 27, 2014, 7:11 am

[…] Mindfulness of Breathing | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation I would actually recommend the above followed by Mindfulness in Plain English, the reason is that I feel Mindfulness in Plain English is actually poorly structured as a book, it just feels all over the place sometimes, it has a lot of great insights and it is definitely a must-read but it can also be confusing and in my opinion can come off as somewhat cynical (I don't think that's the intention and once you start meditating you realise what it's talking about, but at first it might seem that way). […]

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Comment from Chris
Time: July 10, 2014, 3:47 pm

Firstly can I thank you for the time you have spent helping others with your kind words Sir.

It can be the hardest thing ever when you first start to mediate. Having someone so wise to answer your initial questions is clearly a blessing and much help to all.

Sir, I asked a local Buddhist group the follow question, and they ignored it, and then sent me a URL for a book called Introduction to Buddhism!

However I have been meditating for the last 22 years since I was 17 (1992) on Mindfulness and Metta, and other visualization techniques.

So could I please ask you the same question, even though in truth you answered a similar question near the beginning, if only again so people can read about experiences with deep meditation?

Once you ‘separate’ via mindfulness, and see symbols (“thoughts”) at the root nature, outside and floating up, Is there still more than can be achieved? (see questions at end of post).

Just to explain this further to others. In deep Mindfulness, when I watch my breath to a deep level, I know “I am NOT my body!, and, “My body breathes me.” Also, “thoughts” become things external, I am able to inspect and watch them. These includes things such as “There is an Itch!”.

1) In Mindfulness, should I just learn what I see (“thoughts”), and then ignore them and try and go deeper?

2) Can I use Mindfulness, to go ALL the way? Or would I need a teacher or guide to take me further.

3) Do you use the 9 levels of consciousness? If so, can I ask, are these just experienced during mediation, or can some of the later ones, err, “become part of normal life”. (eg Level 7?)

Thank you for any replies. I hope this message finds you well.

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Comment from Bubba
Time: August 17, 2014, 7:43 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa,
I have really enjoyed your website have been practicing and reading here for two months now. I have been sober from drugs and alcohol for seven years and last year I went into a deep depression which landed me in the hospital. Coming out of that depression, I realized I had replaced drugs and alcohol with sex. I am now free from all three and am finally experiencing growth for the first time in a long while.

Ever since I was a child I had strong unreasonable fears. When I was 8, in 1978, my mother committed suicide and these fears escalated to near dysfunctional levels. When I was young, I had a close neighbor who was very religious and he told me a story about when the end of the world comes, animals and insects will become very large and devour humans that are bad. Ever since I have had dreams where an insect descends upon me- usually a mosquito -growing larger and larger. This would conjurer up fears, of course, and through the years I have experienced this “bigness fear” outside of dreaming and the context of insects.

I have been practicing the breathing meditation and when breathing out, arrive at the number 1. I can see it in my mind. Waiting for my arrival at the end of the exhalation. As I continue, the numbers have been getting bigger and this “bigness fear” comes alive. One part of me was excited because I thought I might begin to approach this fear, sit with it and accept it. The other day I thought I was doing the “breathing two” meditation but it turned out to be the emotional awareness meditation. I just went with it. The fear came over me so powerful this time that I had to open my eyes. The fear lessened. I am becoming frustrated because the fear overpowers me and I end up not wanting to meditate.

I would like to thank you in advance for your response. I am open to any insight and suggestions you might have with this strange scenario.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 25, 2014, 6:33 pm

Hi, Bubba.

Apologies for the delayed reply, but I’ve been on vacation with my children and so the unmoderated comments have been piling up.

Yes, that is an unusual situation. I’ve read a little about Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) which is an offshoot of hypnotherapy, and one of the principles they use is of consciously making images larger or smaller in order to change their emotional impact. So if you want to, say, help yourself to meditate every day, and part of your motivation is that you’d like to be serene and happy, you can imagine yourself serene and happy and magnify that image, until it’s very large. You can also make the colors more vivid. Conversely, if there’s something that frightens you, you can consciously make the image smaller to make it less threatening. Obviously you’re doing the opposite of this (and you’re doing it unconsciously) but I wonder what would happen if you tried simply “zooming out” of scary-large images until they’re very far away, and if you made them black and white, and grainy, like on an old TV. It’s just a thought.

In terms of meditation, I don’t encourage people to visualize the numbers, but to say and hear them. Perhaps you’ve tried that and the images have spontaneously appeared, but even then you can choose to focus more on the sound (as well as making the images smaller, more distant, and less colorful). Is this something you can try? I’d be very interested to hear how it goes.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 28, 2014, 11:08 am

Hi, Chris.

It’s great to hear that you’ve been meditating for so long.

You asked three questions:

“1) In Mindfulness, should I just learn what I see (“thoughts”), and then ignore them and try and go deeper?”

I’m not 100% sure I understand your question. If thoughts arise, then just acknowledge them and keep going with the practice. But I assume you know this :)

“2) Can I use Mindfulness, to go ALL the way? Or would I need a teacher or guide to take me further.”

It’s hard to make generalizations, but I think most people need a variety of practices, and a sangha. Sangha challenges us, and also gives us support. As part of a sangha we may have one or more people we can turn to for advice. You could call them teachers, or mentors, or friends.

“3) Do you use the 9 levels of consciousness? If so, can I ask, are these just experienced during mediation, or can some of the later ones, err, “become part of normal life”. (eg Level 7?)”

I assume you mean the four jhanas, the four formless spheres (ayatanas), and the nirodha samapatti. I do explore the jhanas and have some experience of the formless spheres, but not of the nirodha samapatti. It’s certainly possible to carry experiences of the first three jhanas into daily life, but not the fourth jhana or any of the other five states.

By the way, apologies for the delayed reply, but I had a very busy summer and couldn’t keep up with the volume of comments on the blog, especially since many of them, like yours, were rather lengthy.

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Comment from Deepak
Time: September 27, 2014, 8:26 am

Respected Bodhipaksa, I also started to meditate but not getting time because of office timing. As i heared meditation is good in the morning and evening.My office timings are 3:00 pm to 11:30 pm. So please suggest me what time is best for me for meditation.

One more question can this do just after dinner?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 27, 2014, 10:10 am

Hello, Deepak. I think the most important thing is to meditate, and that when we do it is less important. Meditating in the evening is much better than not meditating at all! When we talk about meditating in the morning, though, we don’t literally mean “the morning,” but just “soon after rising from sleep.” At that time (whatever the time actually is) the mind is much quieter than it is later in the day, and meditation tends to go better. Later in the mind has been stirred up by the events of the day, and the mind is more unruly. We can still work with it, but it can be more of a struggle.

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Comment from Vilma
Time: September 30, 2014, 12:08 am

I am finding it hard to concentrate on my breathing. I don’t know how to do it. Please help.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 30, 2014, 8:53 am

If by concentrating on your breathing you mean “keep your attention on your breathing in a sustained way,” then that is hard. So we just accept that it’s hard. Notice your breathing, realize you’ve got distracted, come back to noticing your breathing. And repeat…

Guided meditations might help you, if you’re not using them already.

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Comment from Deepak
Time: October 1, 2014, 1:25 am

Hello,
Whenever I meditate with earplugs I found complete silence. And I focus on my breath while this a beep sound comes in my mind also sometimes I feel my heartbeat. Should I gradually move to this sound or should concentrate only breathe. Please clear me I m confused?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 1, 2014, 8:16 am

I’d suggest just continuing to follow your breathing, Deepak. The meditation doesn’t have to feel like it’s a competition to see if you can notice the breathing and only the breathing. If that’s your mindset, then you’ll always feel like you’re losing. You can hear sounds and feel your heartbeat and also pay attention to your breathing. You can notice your heartbeat and your breathing side-by side. As they say in the US, it’s like walking and chewing gum :) If you hear a sound in your mind you can notice it when it’s there, notice any emotional response to it, and then let go of it, returning to your breathing again.

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Comment from Sam
Time: October 1, 2014, 11:40 pm

So I keep hearing about mindfulness where ones needs to pay attention to everything. But I am a bit confused and hoping someone can explain it to me in details. Am I supposed to be mindful of everything all at the same time?! For example, every time I talk, I automatically remember to be careful about what words I should use. But how can one be mindful of everything all at the same time? If I am reading a book and fully concentrated, such that I can’t hear the background noises, or won’t notice the muscle tension in my back, etc., is that considered not being fully mindful? Or am I supposed to pay attention to those sounds as well? If so, it seems kind of impossible to do so.
It is getting a bit confusing for me.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 2, 2014, 9:32 am

Hi, Sam.

No, it’s not necessary, and usually not possible or desirable, to pay attention to everything at once. Right now I’m typing a message to you, and so I’m not paying attention to the sounds coming from outside the house. I can pause and listen to the sound of a passing airplane, but then I have to stop typing. So what’s my purpose — listening or typing? Right now I want to type. But if I want to type, then I need to check my posture from time to time to make sure it’s going to support my purpose. If my posture had been trained to be perfect, then I wouldn’t need to do this. But it’s not perfect, so I pause for a second and check in which my body. I notice I’m slumping a little; I straighten up. What’s my purpose? Typing. Why am I paying attention to my posture, then? Because I want to type.

Another example. You mentioned being aware of the words you’re using. But you’ll also want to be aware of the person you’re talking to, because you want to know what effect they’re having. Is the other person understanding you? What’s their emotional response to what you’re saying. To know that you have to pay attention to them, and also to yourself — you’ll sense whether the other person is at ease by sensing whether you are at ease, for example. And you need to be aware of what your response is to what they say to you. Again, you need to notice your feelings, what your thoughts are, etc. You probably don’t want to be paying attention to a passing airplane, to the sound of a ticking clock, or to another conversation that’s going on elsewhere. Those are distractions to your purpose, which is being in communication with the other person.

So what you do is dependent on what your overall purpose is. We don’t practice mindfulness for the sake of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness isn’t an end in itself. It’s a tool. There are a few times you want to be open to everything that’s arising — for example in meditation — but that’s quite rare, and done as a form of training. Generally, you need to bear in mind what you’re actually doing (this is called sampajañña) and then pay attention to a set of experiences connected with that task (this is called sati).

Sometimes you’ll need to shift your purpose. I’m not suggesting being dogmatic. Having the attitude “I’m not going to pay attention to what my colleague is saying because I’m typing” isn’t helpful. There are higher-order purposes.

This need for higher order purposes is implicit in the eightfold path, in which mindfulness is just one part of that path. Mindfulness stripped of that context is still a useful tool, but it can also be confusing, as you’ve found.

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Comment from Sam
Time: October 2, 2014, 1:08 pm

Thank you so much for taking the time to type all of this. The reason I got confused to begin with is because I was reading a book about mindfulness and it was explaining how you should pay attention to everything at present time. For example be aware of your breathing. I probably misunderstood and over analyzed that I have to notice my breath all the time and everything else around me. To be sure I fully understood this , let me rephrase something.

So Basically one should pay attention to the primary task. For example, If I am driving, I should pay attention to the driving and stop fantasizing about what I may do later in the day or what I did 3 days ago and so forth, because fantasizing is not the primary purpose of driving. Correct?

Further, if I am sitting behind my desk and reading a very interesting article which makes me completely focus and not be aware of the background noise, or feel the itching sensation in my leg, or even not notice the chronic lower back pain, it is an acceptable form of mindfulness?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 2, 2014, 8:02 pm

Hi, Sam. I think your first example is spot on. If you’re driving mindfully, just drive. You might even want to have the radio off.

If you’re reading an article and the way you’re sitting is causing you back pain, however, then that’s probably not very helpful in the long term. You want to be able to pay attention to anything significant that arises, like in the example when I said you might be typing and someone speaks to you. Bodily discomfort would be similar — it’s significant and needs attention, meaning that it would be wise to change your posture, or get up and move around. But if you just meant that you have back pain anyway (and that’s probably what you meant by it being chronic), then sure, you might just tune it out and keep on being absorbed in your reading.

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