Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Mindfulness of Breathing

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Stage 4

The mindfulness of breathing practice as taught here is available as a CD or as an MP3 audio download.”
The Mindfulness of Breathing, fourth stage.

In the fourth stage of this meditation practice we work on developing one-pointed concentration.

This involves encouraging the mind to move to a more subtle level of perception by deliberately paying attention to very delicate sensations connected with the breath.

By doing this we help produce a much deeper level of calmness in the mind.

We’re also going to be paying attention to some rather subtle sensations connected with our breathing, and this requires that we “change” gear and look at our experience at a finer level of detail. It also means that we really have to let go of unnecessary thinking so that we can become absorbed in these subtle physical sensations.

Stage Zero

Prepare for the meditation by setting up your posture, by becoming more aware of the physical sensations of the body, and by relaxing as best you can.

Stages One, Two, and Three

Follow the stages in order, first of all counting after the breath, then before the breath, and then letting go of the counting.

Stage Four

In the fourth and final stage of this practice, begin to narrow the focus of your awareness, so that you’re focusing more and more on the sensations where the breath first passes over the rims of the nostrils.

You may even notice the sensations where the breath passes over the upper lip. But if any of these sensations are hard to find, just notice the breath at the first place you can feel it as it enters and leaves the body.


You can listen to an MP3 guided meditation that will lead you through the full four stages of the practice by clicking on the player below:


Comments

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Comment from Harryd
Time: March 13, 2007, 1:11 pm

I have just done my first meditation and it felt strange I also seem to now be buzzing with energy. does this mean its working?

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Comment from Naiya
Time: March 23, 2007, 8:52 pm

I find that I have started to be more sensitive to my feelings and emotions in the few hours after doing this meditation, especially when I do it just before going to work. I have now been doing the mindfulness of breathing meditation for nearly 4 weeks, pretty much every day and I am noticing lots of changes within and around me.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 23, 2007, 9:53 pm

Harryd: sorry this reply is so late — I was in Ethiopia when you posted and hadn’t noticed that you’d asked this question.

Meditation certain does give us more energy, and there’s even a technical term for this, which is priti or piti, depending on which language you’re using. Sometimes this is experienced as tingling or just a general sense of energy. Sometimes it’s experienced as bliss.

So it’s not only normal to experience this, it’s a good sign that something is happening in the practice.

Watch out for any craving you may have to repeat this kind of experience. That kind of desire for results is the opposite of the letting go that allows priti to arise.

Also it’s best just to accept priti when it arises and not to get too excited about it! Priti needs to be balanced with calmness and mindfulness.

All the best with your practice!

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Comment from Wei Hao
Time: August 29, 2007, 4:56 am

hi,i gt a question.When i first time meditated,i feel very calmed right after the meditation.After practicing a few more days,when i finished meditating,i dont feel as calmed as the first time i meditate.Is this normal?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 29, 2007, 10:43 am

Wei Hao: There can be a lot of variability in what you experience in meditation. This can be because the results change (you are actually less calm) or because you are calmer than you realize. But the fact that there is this variability is not important.

What is important is that the effort you put in to our meditation practice will have an effect on your life, whatever you feel during or immediately after your meditation.

I’ve known people (many people) who have reported that they notice no changes from their meditation practice — except that everyone else says they’re more relaxed and easier to get on with. So sometimes everyone else notices the changes apart from the person who’s changing!

Anyway, the moral of the story is just to keep practicing. Changes are taking place even if you’re not aware of them at present.

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Comment from Stephen Shayler
Time: October 5, 2007, 11:19 pm

Greetings,
Ever since I read this book entitled “The Dharma of Star Wars.” which explains some of the basic concepts of Buddhism. I have tinkered with mindful breathing excercises. In many ways i find that they help a great deal in dealing with the stress of my job. The question I have for you though is how should i go about meditating in a highly distracting environment such as my ship. I find the obvious answer is to find as quiet a place as possible which is quite a challenge. I guess what i’m asking is, is there a technique to help me filter out the external distractions when i begin my meditation exercises?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 7, 2007, 7:24 am

Hi Stephen,

It’s always good to hear from members of the armed forces.

I’d suggest moving in the other direction and instead of seeing external noises as distractions to be filtered out see them as simply part of your experience that you’re paying attention to.

As you go into your meditation, setting up your meditation posture and relaxing the body, become aware of the sense of space, light, and sound surrounding you. Look for a sense of 360 degree awareness (look for the peripheral awareness exercise on the page that the link points to). As best you can simply accept the presence of all the sounds you hear. Treat them all just as sensations to be observed.

You can then start to notice the breath as being the sensation that is at the center of a field of awareness — as the focal point to which you return when your mind wanders.

There’s no need to see sounds and the breath as being in competition with each other — you can easily pay attention to both.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Robert
Time: December 9, 2007, 2:50 pm

I have meditated for many years on my own. By observing my breath I can become entirely focused. However, once my thoughts are set aside and all that exists is my breathing, I begin to have dreamlike experiences. They are not worrisome or disturbing – just meaningless. In most cases, as I come back to some other level of consciousness, I do not remember what experiences were – just that they did not make sense. I do not fall asleep. I stay upright and have awareness. Can you explain for me what is happening? Is this going to lead me to greater awareness or is it taking me somewhere else?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 9, 2007, 3:33 pm

Hi Robert,

Those dreamlike experiences sound very much like a simple distracted state, especially given that you can’t recall what they were about and also because you describe them as meaningless. Because they’re distractions the best thing to do is to identify them as quickly as possible and simply return to the breath.

Without knowing more about the content of the dreamlike states and about how you feel towards the content it’s not possible to say exactly which kind of distraction you’re experiencing (there are five basic types) but my guess would be either that you’re engaged in some kind of mild sense-desire or that there’s a slight degree of sleepiness present and some dream imagery is bubbling up. Given that you say that the thinking doesn’t make sense I’d further guess that it’s the latter of these two that you’re experiencing.

I can’t go into detail about how to deal with this (especially since my guess may be off the mark!) but when this happens I’d suggest paying more attention to the in-breath, lifting your chin a little, and paying more attention to the breath in the upper chest, throat, and head.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Fletcher
Time: April 7, 2008, 1:36 am

Hi, I just recently started this whole meditation thing. Is it okay that I tend to fall asleep right after, I think it has to do with the fact that I tend to lose all stress after doing this meditation.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 7, 2008, 5:28 am

Hi Fletcher,

So you fall asleep *right after* meditating? That’s interesting, and I don’t think it’s a problem (unless you have to go to work or something — presumably you’re meditating in the evening?).

The interesting thing is that presumably you’re falling asleep because you’re tired, and yet you’re not falling asleep during meditation, which is what commonly happens.

Often people don’t realize how tired they are until they stop “doing stuff” and start relaxing in meditation; in fact often they don’t realize how tired they are until they fall asleep.

Anyway, it’s a really good sign that you’re staying awake during meditation. As you suggest, it’s a sign that you’re relaxing and letting go of tensions.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Katy-did
Time: May 17, 2008, 2:50 pm

I was reading a book on meditation at one time. In it there was a girl who connected to the earth-became a part of the
planet during meditation. She could become a tree(because of the oneness), and rain etc,. I would like to know if this is a
form of buddhist meditation or something else. And if it is, could you please describe what she is doing to get into the state
she is? Thank you so much, I greatly appriciate it!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 17, 2008, 3:00 pm

Hi Katy,

I don’t know that story, but it’s a nice metaphor. It sounds like a story that might be used to illustrate the six element practice, which you can find elsewhere on this site.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Jen
Time: December 13, 2008, 11:38 am

Hi. Sometimes I feel numbness at my chest or nose during the breathing. I count 4 while inhale and count 8 while exhale. What is the reason and what should i do? Appreciate your great articles and reply. Sukhi hontu.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 16, 2008, 10:57 am

Hi Jen,

Thanks for the kind comment. You know, I’ve never done that kind of breathing, where you count for different lengths of time for the inhalation and exhalation. (Now that I think about it I did do pranayama in a yoga class once, but I have to say that it brought about an unpleasant feeling of tension). What you’re doing very different from the kind of meditation I do, where we generally try to let the breath be natural and unforced. So I don’t know anything about the kinds of things that would happen when trying that kind of exercise. All I could suggest is that you try letting the breath flow naturally and see what happens. My own belief is that the breath is best left under unconscious control as much as possible.

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Comment from Jennifer Medeiros
Time: January 25, 2009, 5:27 pm

I’m enjoying your CD of Breathing Meditations which, along with Swami Saradananda’s book, I’ve added to the yoga classes
I teach . My husband and I are planning on moving to New Hampshire, Conway. Do you teach at a center, and if so
where?
Jennifer

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 25, 2009, 6:18 pm

Hi Jennifer,

I do some teaching at Aryaloka, but it’s been rather sporadic since I became a father. Child number two will be arriving in the spring, but I hope to continue doing at least some teaching. Aryaloka’s in Newmarket, which is quite a distance from Conway, I’m afraid.

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Comment from ruth
Time: August 5, 2009, 1:36 pm

i tried my first meditation. i got to a point where i started feeling sleepy. does this mean i did it wrong?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 5, 2009, 2:07 pm

Hi Ruth,

Actually, I think it just means that you were feeling sleepy. Perhaps you were already tired and you became more aware of that. Or maybe your posture was a little slumped and that prevented you breathing properly. What you have just now is one data point, and if you find repeatedly that you’re tired then you’ll have an opportunity to look into why that is and what you can do about it. No matter how much you meditate, though, there will always be times that you feel sleepy (or restless, or irritated). Just this morning in my meditation I was nodding off. It happens, and it’s no big deal.

Hope this helps,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Kerrie
Time: August 8, 2009, 12:36 am

Thanks so much for the wonderful tutorial video. I am new to meditation and I have a couple of questions:

1. Is it ok to ‘picture’ an image while I am focusing on my breathing, like a crescent moon, or a peaceful lake or a tree?

2. I find it so hard to not say to something to myself while focusing on my breathing , like ‘rising, falling’, or ‘in breath, out breath’. Is this OK?

thanks so much,
Kerrie

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 8, 2009, 12:53 pm

Hi Kerrie,

Both of those things are fine. I often suggest to people that they visualize in the mindfulness of breathing, although generally only when they need to help cultivate a particular state of mind — for example developing calmness by visualizing a still lake or cultivating a sense of playfulness by visualizing that they are on a swing that is moving in time with the breath.

It’s also traditional to mark the in and out breaths with words — either numbers or something like in/out or the examples you gave. At some point, when the mind settles down, it’s beneficial to let go of the words, though, and to let the concentration grow stronger. Once that happens the meditation can move onto a much deeper level and can be much more pleasurable.

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Comment from Galadriel
Time: August 18, 2010, 1:46 pm

Hi

I would like to ask a question regarding the way one should
observe the breath. I have been mediating for quite a while, and during the
practice, I observe the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves my nosetrils.
As I know it, during this, one should not think about anything, and should not think about the breath.
Therefore, I just hold my attention on the sensation of the breath in my nose and do nothing.

However, I have read that one should also notice the many subtle changes (how the breath becomes shorter/longer,
the pause between the in and out breath,…). The problem is that, in order to be aware of these changes
and small details, I have to start thinking about them. This is not good, since one should not think about anything.
In addition, if I am not allowed to think, I am unable to notice any other sensations occuring
(feelings, like calmness,…). I may be vaguely aware of them, but I can not comprehend them fully, because I do not think about them.

I think that the correct way of doing is to observe the breath without thinking about anything. It is not
necessary to try to notice the above mentioned sensations and details, if it means that you have to start
thinking about them.

Can someone tell me if I am right in this?
Thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 19, 2010, 1:15 pm

Hi Galadriel,

There’s a difference between noticing a physical perception and thinking about a physical perception. Thinking about the perception would involve having a stream of commentary moving through your mind. Noticing a perception is just that — being aware of something that’s happening in the body.

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Comment from Galadriel
Time: August 20, 2010, 4:32 am

Thanks Bodhipaksa for the reply.

I am still not sure in something. If I am only passively observing the sensation of the breath as it enters and
leaves my nose, I find it difficult to comprehend the changes occuring in the breath.

For instance, if I want to notice how the breath becomes shorter/longer, I need to concentrate( pay extra attention)
on the duration of the breath. I am unable to notice such subtle things with the mere passive observance
of the breath as it enters and leaves my nose. This is a simple, relaxing mental activity, with which I am
unable to comprhened subtle details. The only way to comprehend them is to concentrate on them specifically.
However, if I do so, it is no longer a mere passive observance of the breath.

What do you suggest?
1,Should I continue passively observing the sensation of the breath
as it enters and leaves my nose, and do not care if I am unable to properly comprehend the more
subtle details/changes concerning the breath? I believe this is the right way of doing it, because, in mediattion,
one focuses on the object (breath, an image, mantra) only gently and with relaxed attention.

2, Or should I try to concentrate( pay extra attention) on the details/changes concerning the breath?
This would require a great deal of concentration (and maybe a little bit of thinking as well), which, I believe, is too
much for meditation.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 20, 2010, 9:28 am

Hi Galadriel,

It’s not a question, in this case, of there being a “proper” way to meditate. It depends on what approach to meditation you’re taking, what you want to achieve, and how your meditation is going. There’s certainly nothing wrong with passively observing the breath without noticing the specific details. Doing that would bring about greater calm and relaxation, although without some active engagement your mindfulness is going to be limited and you’d probably end up sinking into a state of dreamy unclarity.

If you’ve already calmed the mind, it’s actually very beneficial to pay active attention to the specific qualities of the breath. This requires noticing and exploring your experience. Once again, this does not require “thinking about” your experience. It does take concentration, but then that’s the whole point! Meditation isn’t, ultimately, meant just to be relaxing. It’s meant to develop a range of faculties, including concentration, that are necessary for a radical restructuring of our experience.

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Comment from Galadriel
Time: August 20, 2010, 10:40 am

“It’s not a question, in this case, of there being a “proper” way to meditate.
It depends on what approach to meditation you’re taking,
what you want to achieve, and how your meditation is going.”

My aim is to reach a reasonably deep meditative state or trance state/”alpha state”. I believe, a good tecnique to get into tintostate is when into this state is when you focus/concentrate on the object of meditation (breath, mantra,…)
only gently. In fact, I have read that too much concentration or focusing too hard can hinder you in geting into
such a meditative state.

Let us look at mantra meditation. One way of doing it, is to silently repeat the mantra in the mind, while focusing
on it only gently. You can even let the repetition of the mantra develop into a “semi-automatic” process. In addition,
too much concentration can hinder you from getting into such meditative state or “alpha state”. Rather, you shoul let
the mantra “lead” you into the trance state, while holding your concentration on it only gently.

I thought that these same principles can be applied, if the object of your attention is not a mantra
but something else ( the breath in this case). That is why, until now, I have done the exercise in this way:
focusing/concentrating on the breath only gently.

If my aim is to reach a certain meditative state called trance or alpha state,…, what meditation
technique should I use? Is it good if I do the exercise in the above mentioned way: focusing on the breath as
it enters and leaves my nose, while concentrating only gently? (This amount of concentration means that I
might be unable to notice some of the more subtle sensations/details concerning the breath.)

Sorry for such long questions, but it can be quite disturbing during meditation, if you have doubts about
how to do the exercise properly.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 20, 2010, 10:51 am

I’m afraid I don’t know what a “trance” state or “alpha state” are. These aren’t terms found in Buddhist meditation, which is what I practice and teach.

But generally , focusing too hard will not be helpful for your meditation. There are exceptions, such as times one is very tired or very distracted, but our effort should ideally be light and natural. There should be enough effort that the mind is not simply daydreaming, but not so much that it causes tension and “tunnel vision.”

I’m confused, though, by your insistence that light concentration means that you can’t notice the more subtle sensations of the breath. That’s certainly not my experience.

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Comment from Galadriel
Time: August 20, 2010, 1:32 pm

Let me explain.

During the exercise, I gently hold my attention on the sensation, which is felt as the air passes through the nosetrils.
I do this for 40-45mins (including stage 1,2,3,4). After the practice, if one askes me to tell what sensations/changes
I experienced concerning the breath, I will be able tell him or her the general features only (that the there was an
inbreath and an outbreath, there was a little pause between them, that I became a bit calmer or sleepy
sometime around the middle or that I drifted off into my thoughts several times).
However, I will not be able relate such details like the lenghtening of the breath (unless
it lenghtened significantly) or wheter a bit more air were passing throught the left or right nosetrill.
What I am trying to say is that if I passively observe something without thinking about that thing, I will only notice
the more general features or those which are pronounced. The others I will either miss or forget by the time
my practice ends.

Nonethles, If you say that “light” concentration is the proper way of doing the exercise, then I will continue
what I have been doing until now. My aim is to get into a meditative state This is what I mean:
when your brain wawes are changing from beta to alpha/delta, you feel calmer,
you might experience some energetic sensations, other sensations like floating or slight heavyness,
your phisical body feels to expand a bit, mild vibrations and so on.
I think that it is possible to reach this state with gently focusing on the breath,
even if I might miss some of the less detectable features of the breathing process.

Once more, Thank you for answering.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 1, 2010, 11:58 am

Hi

Do you know something regarding the effect of regular meditation on the brain?
I have always thought that certain kinds of meditation (breath awareness, mantra,…)
have a positive effect on such mental abilities, like concentration, logical thinking and memory.
However, recently I have decided to do some research on the net. The result was:

- majority of the articles I have read stated that regular meditation improves mental abilities like concentration,
logical thinking and memory.

- However, few articles maintained that, in some cases, regular meditation can be harmfull. Mainly emotional
negative effects were mentioned (like emotional imbalance, inactiveness,…). However, some articles mentioned
“lack of concentration” as well.
This confused me a bit.
Is regular meditation beneficical or harmful for mental abilities? (I am only interested in
cognitive abilities like concentration, logical thinking,memory…)

I have read elsewhere that meditation is harmfull only if you do it too much.
I am meditating 40-45mins a day. Do you know wheter this amount of meditation can
be harmfull or not?

I know that this is not realy a practicall question, but thanks for answering.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 1, 2010, 8:16 pm

Hi Nasdor,

I’ve had a lot of experience teaching meditation over the years, and before that of being taught and seeing others being taught. I’ve seen very few people who have reacted badly to meditating. I’ve known a couple of people with low blood pressure issues who have experienced dizziness. I’ve heard of a couple of people with schizophrenic tendencies who have experienced heightened delusions. I’ve known a few people who are prone to panic attacks who would go into a tail-spin.

Apart from that, the effects have been vastly beneficial. I should say that some ups and downs are an essential part of the process. For example, when I was learning the development of lovingkindness practice I’d sometimes take a mental nosedive, because I’d look for some element of self-metta, not find it, and go off on trail of rumination in which I talked myself into a worse and worse state of mind. Or sometimes we remember a person doing something that annoyed us and we spent the whole meditation being angry with them. All those things, and more, can happen. It’s not the meditation that is doing this to us, but the fact that we’re not distracted by external events means that we’re more focused on what’s going on inside, and the mind’s tendency to negativity can get out of hand. All this is ultimately self-correcting, though. Mostly, such “binges” of negativity are harmless, and because they’re ultimately a source of pain we eventually learn to let go of them.

As for meditating too much, I don’t think that’s the problem at all. I’ve sometimes meditated 8 to 10 hours a day, and the effects are frnkly wonderful! What you’re doing is a very normal amount of meditation.

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Comment from Galadriel
Time: September 24, 2010, 3:02 am

Hi
I would like to ask a question about the mindfullness of breath meditation.
In stage 4, I observe the sensations caused by the breath as it enters and leaves the nose.
However, these sensations are so subtle that sometimes I loose track of them.
Is it all right if I sometimes hardly feel these sensations or don’t feel anything at all?

In addition, I find it too dificult to locate where exactly the breath enters, so instead Í just
“approximate” this spot or simply focus my attention the area around my nosetrils and observe the sensations
( of the breath) there.
Is it all right if I do the exercise this way?
Is it all right if I sometimes hardly feel these sensations or don’t feel anything at all (the latter is very rare)?
Thank you for answering.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 2, 2010, 10:28 pm

Hi Galadriel,

Sorry for the delay. I’ve had family visiting and I’ve also been doing some traveling.

It’s fine for you to do the practice as you have been doing it. Rather than sit with an awareness of no sensations, it’s best to find the closest sensations to the rims of the nostrils.

It’s because these sensations are so subtle that we’re trying to pay attention to them. In order to experience them fully we have to let go of everything else and surrender ourselves to the sensations of the breath.

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Comment from Dylan
Time: November 17, 2010, 8:53 am

Hi

Thank-you very much for this interesting site and your CD.

I have a question on changes in breath. I have been meditating for a while now [20 minutes, twice a day] and am starting to go into deeper states during the last few minutes.

I watch my breath with eyes open and focus on my Tan Jon area. Towards the end when I have really let go, I find my breath is quite [but not excesively] fast. It’s not a shallow breath but there is no real pause between the breaths to take any notice of despite me reading about ‘pauses’. The speed of the breathing in the deeper state when I have truly let go is sometimes faster than after 10 minutes?

I try not to worry about it and accept it but wonder if this is a normal aspect of deeper states?

Thank-you

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 18, 2010, 3:56 pm

Hi, Dylan.

Sorry about the long delay in replying.

It sounds like you’re getting a bit hung up on what’s happening (or should be happening), and I think you’re right not to worry about it and just to accept things as they are.

The important thing is what’s happening mentally. Is your mind becoming calmer? Are you experiencing greater contentment? Are you able to maintain the focus of your awareness on the object of concentration for longer periods of time? Notice whether those things are happening, and just let the breath do its thing.

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Comment from Boru
Time: January 21, 2011, 9:21 am

After developing one-pointed concentration what should you do to enter the first jhana. I’ve read somewhere that after maintaining a stable one-pointed concentration for a while you should notice a pleasant physical sensation somewhere in your body and if you switch your attention to it, it will start to grow and “absorb” you in the first jhana. Is that right?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 21, 2011, 10:18 am

Hi, Boru.

First jhana arises (in my experience) when there’s a balance of calmness (reduced thinking), contentment (physical relaxation combined with emotional ease), and concentration (which is not necessarily “one-pointed” concentration, but is more a sense of continuity of attention). What you need to do to get into jhana depends on where any imbalance lies in these three factors. Usually I start my practice by cultivating calmness, then focusing on contentment (and paying attention to a pleasant sensation or positive emotion will work), and finally concentration pretty much takes care of itself, although we need to balance effort and relaxation. But it’s a question of seeing where you are at any given time in terms of any balance or imbalance in the three factors of calmness, contentment, and concentration, and doing what is necessary to bring all three into being at the same time. The method you describe works if there’s a continuity of awareness (i.e. concentration) and calmness, but insufficient contentment. But the starting point may be different. For example we can be full of pleasant experiences but lacking calmness and concentration because they mind is excited.

This “three C’s” formulation is my own, by the way, rather than traditional, although it’s intended as a restating of the traditional jhana factors.

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Comment from Boru
Time: January 21, 2011, 11:21 am

Thank you Bodhipaksa ! You and your site have been of much help.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 21, 2011, 11:27 am

You’re welcome. It’s my hope that Wildmind is of help.

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Comment from Ollie
Time: May 11, 2011, 2:16 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa,

First of all, thank you for your wonderful site and guided meditations.

I’ve been enjoying stages 1-3 of the mindfulness of breathing meditation for 6 months now, however, I am unfortunately struggling with stage 4 and I wondered if you could help. My lack of progress arises from a confusion over what “noticing” means, specifically how much energy is required to “notice” ones breath sensations. Please could you elaborate a little on how I can best gauge the effort required to unite my mind with these, I find, elusive sensations?

Very many thanks.

Best regards,
Ollie

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 11, 2011, 3:03 pm

Well, that’s a very interesting question. To notice those sensations is to turn our attention to them so that we’re selectively picking them out from the thousands of other sensations that are simultaneously arising. But how do we notice anything? How do we selectively pay attention to any given sensation? How do you become aware, right now, for example, of the sensations on the sole of your left foot, or of the touch of your shirt on your back? I can’t really tell you how to do those things. Assuming you can do this, how much effort does it take? Probably not much effort at all. You simply want to pay attention to the sole of your left foot, and the sensations appear at the focal point of your awareness.

It’s a bit harder to pay attention to the sensations of the breath touching the rims of the nostrils because the touch is quite delicate, and it’s harder to pick them out from the surrounding “noise” — from other physical sensations, thoughts, etc. But that’s the point. We have to reduce our inner chatter in order to be able to notice those sensations. And even once we’ve contacted them, we can work on becoming more sensitive toward those sensations, to the point where everything else falls away, and the distance between “us” and our experience of the nostrils closes to nothing, and we are those sensations.

You might want to spend some time delicately touching the rims of the nostrils with a fingertip in order to see how sensitive they are (you can do both at the same time). It can almost feel like you’re (literally) pointing out to your mind where the sensations are, and after a minute or so you can remove the fingers and you’ll find that the skin is now remarkably sensitive and it’s easier to keep your attention there. This isn’t something I’d suggest for every meditation, but as a training exercise to help “cue” the mind to notice that part of the body.

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Comment from Ollie
Time: May 24, 2011, 2:51 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa,

Thank you very much for your above response. I have tried your suggestions over the last few weeks, but I’m still struggling to make progress with stage 4 unfortunately – I find the sensations at the nostril tips so hard to find or get any real grip on. Would you suggest, in this instance, I instead turn my attention to the rise and fall of the abdomen? The breath sensation here is much less subtle, even clumsy, but at least I can find it!

I would really appreciate your thoughts.

Thanks,
Ollie

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 24, 2011, 3:00 pm

Hi, Ollie.

The point of the fourth stage is to refine our perceptions, so it would be better to look for something more refined than the rise and fall of the belly. Perhaps the insides of the nostrils?

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Robert Van Mell
Time: August 10, 2011, 4:22 pm

Does the still space between the inbreath and outbreath represent anything?
Does focusing on these pauses – assuming the mind is reasonably stilled – bring any form of insight?

Thanks.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 10, 2011, 5:06 pm

Hi, Robert.

I wouldn’t say that those still spaces represent anything. Paying attention to them does help to still the mind, and this is what we call shamatha, or calming. Shamatha provides the basis for insight, but it’s not enough in itself. We need to use the still focused mind in order to appreciate the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and unowned nature of our experience in order for insight to arise.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Jill
Time: September 12, 2011, 9:48 pm

Hello Bodhipaksa,

I’m a mother of two small children and am 7 months pregnant. On some days, I find it impossible to set aside 30 minutes for meditation because I am so exhausted. If I only have 5 or 10 minutes to meditate, how do you recommend that I use those few minutes? Condense the 4 stages of the mindfulness of breathing down to approx. 1 minute each, or just focus on one stage (which one?). Or, would you recommend something else? Thanks so much for your time and thoughts.

Jill

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 12, 2011, 10:09 pm

Hi JIll.

I know the feeling. Well, about exhaustion and having two small children, not about the being pregnant part.

I’d suggest taking just one stage, but choosing the one that seems most appropriate. If you feel tired, do stage two. If you feel stressed, do stage one. If you’re stressed and tired, still do stage one. If you’re feeling half-way human (I’m an incurable optimist), try doing stage three and maybe a touch of stage four. But at least half the time do lovingkindness meditation instead, again choosing the stage that seems most appropriate.

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Comment from Jill
Time: September 13, 2011, 11:12 am

Thank you very much, Bodhipaksa. I think with this bit of guidance I’m much more likely to mediate, since I can make use of what time I do have rather than approach it as an all-or-nothing commitment. I very much appreciate your input.

Best wishes,
Jill

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Comment from kate
Time: November 22, 2011, 5:03 am

Hi , I have been meditating everyday for 4 months, after reading about the 4th stage here yesterday i decided to try it this morning.
All was going well ,then i felt i was going very deep , breathing was very shallow and felt unconnected to my body ,also feelings of elation, i was really concentrating on rims of nostrils. i felt i wanted to go deeper but felt a pain in my side, i carried on but then felt like i was spinning round and round and had to stop because of nausea . Feel scared to try it again. Would you have any advice please ? thankyou, Kate

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 22, 2011, 9:24 am

Hi, Kate.

It sounds as if you were entering what we call jhana, which is a very concentrated, calm, and joyful level of concentration. It’s a very wholesome place to be, and in as much as there is a “point” to meditating, it’s pretty much the point, or at least one of the points. You may not have quite entered jhana, but been in a stage called access concentration, which is just below jhana.

I don’t know why you would have felt a pain in your side. It may have been unrelated, or there may have been some control of the breathing going on, leading to tension in the muscles. If there was breath control happening, then that could also explain the dizziness. It’s possible that, sensing the arising of joy, you were (even unconsciously) trying to control events, rather than letting them unfold naturally. Really, when jhana happens it happens to us, rather than being something we do. It’s a flowering of joy from within.

With this in mind, I’d say just keep going. You probably will have fear when you get closer to jhana again. It’s like you’ve fallen off your bike on your first attempt at cycling — naturally there will be nervousness about future attempts. But it’s worth trying again. Just know that where you were going is very natural and wholesome, and a place that countless thousands of meditators have been before you. The territory is well known, and it’s a good place to be.

When you sense the joy arising again, accept that as a normal thing. Don’t try to control or accentuate it (I suspect you may have been controlling things here too). Just observe it, and in fact switch your attention to the joy, so that it becomes your object of focus. You’ll still be aware of the breath, but that will be a secondary experience. Once you let go, jhana will emerge naturally. It’s like a flower blooming — it does the work itself, and you just need to be there and observe. If you try to help the flower along by forcing open the bloom, well, that’s not going to enhance the experience. So just relax into it, and let the experience happen.

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Comment from kate
Time: November 22, 2011, 5:19 pm

Thankyou very much for your helpful comments and prompt reply.
I did do some more meditation this afternoon and didnt get dizzy.
I think I was quite excited when it happened , I will try to relax and observe from now on . Its great to have someone to discuss this with, thanks again ,Kate.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 22, 2011, 6:38 pm

Yes, there aren’t many people you can talk about this kind of thing with :)

A state of excitement certainly wouldn’t have been helpful. You described yourself as “elated” which is what happens when we’re excited about feeling joy. It’s best just to accept joy and to just be joyful!

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Comment from Adam
Time: November 25, 2011, 1:57 am

I just want to say thank you for making the meditation available on line. I often do the meditation during my lunch break at work and when I do I have a productive but calm afternoon.

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Comment from kate
Time: December 1, 2011, 6:49 am

Hello Bodhipaksa, I’ve been experiencing access concentration everytime I meditate , I was researching it on the web and starting seeing many references to the Dark Night . ie developing negative mental states after you have entered the first jhana. Do you think these ideas are exaggerated ? I have spent years suffering from depression and anxiety and have had lots of psychotherapy ( successfully ) dont really want to go back to that. Can i still meditate and avoid the jhanas ? I know you said they are the point of meditation, do they occur in Metta practice as well as Mindfulness of breathing? Am I being over alarmist ? I get a lot of benefit from meditation and dont want to stop :) Thanks Kate.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 1, 2011, 10:13 am

Hi, Kate.

I’ve been meditating for almost 30 years, and I’d never heard of the “dark night” until the week befor elast, when someone pointed me toward a blog post by Ryan Oelke. The term seems to come from Daniel Ingram, who has borrowed the term from Christianity, and as far as I know there’s no term corresponding to this in the original Buddhist suttas. Doing a quick search brought up this blog post, which resorts to completely misinterpreting the Buddha’s words in an attempt to connect this supposed Dark Night with the jhanas (the extensive quotation from the Buddha describes his practice, before enlightenment, of asceticism, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the practice of the jhanas, let alone the transition from second to third jhana). Ingram himself doesn’t connect this Dark Night with the jhanas, but with the ñanas, which are states of insight, which likely won’t arise until there’s been extensive experience of jhana. So I don’t know where this idea of “developing negative mental states after you have entered the first jhana” comes from.

Certainly, sometimes people hit jhana for the first time (or even access) and then the next time they sit they are clinging to the notion of re-experiencing what happened last time, and it doesn’t happen and they find themselves plunged into despair. But that’s normal. It’s just something you have to work through. Even if you’ve been warned about it, it’s may still happen. But this kind of thing happens to everyone, and although it’s unpleasant it’s brief. It’s no more a “dark night” than it is a dark night when a child drops his ice-cream of the sidewalk — it’s pretty much the same dynamic in both cases of wanting something and not being able to have it. We have to learn that jhana emerges from letting go, not from trying very hard to experience it.

By the way, I’d guess that if you’re hitting access every time you meditate, then at least some of the time you’ve actually been in first jhana. Jhana can manifest in flashes.

I suspect that some people like to dramatize: how much more exciting meditation is if it’s risky! If it takes you to the edge of the abyss! (Insert maniacal laughter here.) We must be such glamorous and exciting people to undertake such a risky venture! Yes, there are ups and downs in practice. And there are going to be times of self-doubt, and times of fear, but that’s especially not related to jhana — it’s just part of being human, and especially part of being human and attempting to learn more about yourself. Meditation does challenge us sometimes, especially if we’re doing it intensively, as on a retreat. It’s common on a retreat to have times when it’s just hard for one reason or another, but the usual pattern is that it’s hard and then you’re glad you did it.

There are periods of doubt of oneself and of one’s sangha and of practice generally that are going to come up. These are just things that we have to work through, and this is intrinsic to commitment to anything, whether it’s spiritual practice, or a marriage, or a career, or to writing or some other creative endeavor. But I’d say that without meditation, life itself is one, long, low-grade Dark Night.

So I would encourage you to dump the entire terminology of the “Dark Night” and to continue faring in access, until your flashes of jhana become more consistent. There will be doubts (hey, your question was an expression of doubt, so you know that) but those are bridges you’ve yet to reach, and you can’t cross them until you do. It’s rather pointless to decide not to set out on a journey in case you might meet a bridge you don’t want to cross.

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Comment from vance
Time: December 1, 2011, 8:24 pm

I have been meditating on the breath or practicing meditating for about two months.Using your guide has been very helpfull especially identifying stages in which you pass priti etc.A few questions I finish work late most evenings after midnight and have been sitting down to meditate before I go to bed so as not to disturb the rest of the family I am in complete darkness is this alright or does there need to be a form of light also sometimes I have been finding that random chatter or talking have been popping up and this is quite distracting not in my own voice but just random voices sometimes even a scottish accent no conversation just random words which don’t make sense.This has only happend a handfull of times over the course of the two month period is it a concern? or just part of the process a meditating

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 2, 2011, 10:13 am

Hi, Vance.

No, there’s no strict need for light, although it can be pleasant to have candles. You might actually benefit from the extra light that candles provide, and the stimulation that comes from the illumination, since the almost dream-like voices you’re hearing suggests that you’re maybe a little tired and dreamy. This is normal, and nothing at all to be worried about; it’s just what happens when you’re a bit sleepy. On the other hand, if waking yourself up more to meditate were to interfere with your sleep, then I’d forget about it, and just meditate in the dark and put up with a little less clarity.

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Comment from Boru
Time: March 1, 2012, 4:30 pm

Why do meditation teachers avoid the subject of jhana . In my opinion it would be a great way for the student to feel real progres in his practice. Most of them teach meditation in such a way as to reach what is reffered to as acces concentration. Which is the step before entering jhana .

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 1, 2012, 9:00 pm

Insight meditation is the “in thing” and many insight teachers look down on jhana. Also, for some reason many people get suspicious when they hear about jhana because they think it’s selfish to be so happy during meditation. It’s odd, I know.

Anyway, jhana is something I teach, and I encourage people to cultivate it.

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Comment from ellis kirk
Time: April 23, 2012, 3:38 pm

I have a question that requires a complex answer. i was doing some deep meditation to see how i was doing subconsciously. doing repairs. i then finished and started the dive to go deeper and out of nowhere this dark women appeared. so close in fact that all i could see was here eye. she wouldn’t let me go deeper. i tried being mindful and aware of this presence and tried to see the root cause of the projection but couldn’t get any where. i was hopeing you could possibly help in giving me some advice on how to approach this.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 23, 2012, 8:53 pm

Hi, Ellis.

I don’t understand everything you’re saying (“doing repairs”?) but visions like this are not uncommon. It’s probably what we call a nimitta (a word meaning “sign” or “hint”), which is an experience (image, sound, physical feeling) that arises naturally in the mind as we’re moving deeper into concentration. The nimitta becomes the object that we should pay attention to. I’ve had an almost identical nimitta, except that my woman was very fair, and her eye was an amazing shade of green. My experience was very emotionally charged, so that I couldn’t talk about it afterward without getting all choked up. I didn’t realize that it had that degree of emotional significance, in fact, until I tried to talk about it.

You talk about things like “she wouldn’t let me go deeper” and that you “couldn’t get anywhere.” Where were you trying to go? The image is there; just sit with it. Abandon any idea of trying to go anywhere. There’s a communication going on, and you have to let the communication unfold at its own pace. You can’t hurry these things.

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Comment from ellis kirk
Time: April 23, 2012, 9:32 pm

well the rapairs are something i was taught to help with emotion and mental damage to chi. but what i meant by the figure not allowing me to move deeper is that when ever i would become aware of her presence and then move on it was like she would move in front of me again. what happened was as i was traveling deeper i got to the point of mushin or when my mind was the most still her face just appeared out of no where literally right in my face. it was very startling. i think you may be right because the expression on her face was very meaningful like she wanted me to know something or to see something that i may have been over looking.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 23, 2012, 10:10 pm

Ah, that’s a term I haven’t heard before. Anyway, this vision may or may not return. Sometimes nimittas can be very consistent and keep coming back. Other times they visit once. The important thing is not to try to make anything happen. The nimitta arises as a result of letting go, and any effort to generate it is likely to undermine its reappearance.

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Comment from raghav
Time: September 14, 2012, 1:47 am

MP3 version of the meditation described on this page is not working. (just above the comments)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 14, 2012, 1:43 pm

Sorry. There’s some kind of plugin malfunction going on. I’m trying to get it fixed.

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Comment from Liz
Time: October 15, 2012, 8:05 pm

I have been coming to your site for many years now and I even took one of your courses. I have been meditating for over 30 years and I do feel more energy and love now. I especially like the mindfulness of breathing meditation and it is one of the meditations I do every day. Thank you for being here and helping people learn meditation. I appreciate you and your website.
Liz

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 15, 2012, 10:08 pm

Thank you, Liz. These are lovely things to hear.

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Comment from Glenn Spencer
Time: October 17, 2012, 7:49 am

Like Liz, I started coming here years ago. I just came back for a tune-up, and a very good one it was. These are the best guided meditations I have ever found, by far.

thanks so much.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 17, 2012, 9:41 am

It’s good to hear this. Thank you.

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Comment from Bass Stokes
Time: November 28, 2012, 1:08 pm

Greetings Bodhipaksa, I have been looking for an answer for some time and was hoping you might know a little more about it. Ok so, if you have heard about the emerald tablet; the one from Hermetic lore. On it it suggests a way that any mortal would become “Godlike” from a breathing technique. I assume it’s suggesting a form of enlightenment can be attained from breathing techniques similar to the ones you talk about here. I was just wondering if you knew more about a particular technique akin to the one they may have used. As when I meditate my breath seems to be the key trigger to most phenomena, and was just wondering what knowledge you could impart, Thanks! Also I read some where that some people believe Hermes and Budda to be the same person.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 28, 2012, 1:50 pm

Hi, Bass.

I confess I’d never heard of the Emerald Tablet, but I’ve just been looking it up, and it does sound very meditative. I’m assuming you’re referring to the following lines when you talk about meditation on the breath?

You will separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the dense, sweetly, with great skill.
It ascends from earth into heaven and again it descends to the earth, and receives the power of higher and of lower things.
Thus you will have the Glory of the whole world.
Therefore will all obscurity flee from you.
Of all strength this is true strength, because it will conquer all that is subtle, and penetrate all that is solid.

As I said, this certainly sounds like an account of meditation, although not necessarily meditation on the breath. To “separate the earth from the fire” could mean to move one’s focus internally, into a more mental realm, as in jhana. To separate “the subtle from the dense” could refer to focusing on the breath, or again it could refer to moving from awareness of the body into awareness of the mind. But the distinction isn’t absolute here, since the vehicle for refining our awareness is often the breath, which is subtle, although not as subtle as, say, joy, which is substanceless.

But the way to a “godlike” state in Buddhism can also involve emotion directly, as in the four Brahmavihara meditations (Brahmavihara means “divine abode” — the development of lovingkindness is the foundation of these), or can involve a progressive letting go of the elements from the grossest, earth, to the subtlest, consciousness, as we do in the six element practice.

“It ascends from earth into heaven and again it descends to the earth” sounds like an ascent of the jhanas, and then coming back to normal consciousness, with receiving “the power of higher and of lower things” seeming to refer to either the concentrative power brought back with one, or insight, or both. “Therefore will all obscurity flee from you” suggests it is both.

“Of all strength this is true strength” is very similar to metaphors that the Buddha used, where he would take some worldly quality (“strength” for example) and point out that there is a spiritual quality that represents the “true” form of that quality. “It will conquer all that is subtle, and penetrate all that is solid” is reminiscent of the Buddha’s teaching that in understanding the mind we understand the whole world (of experience). By this he didn’t mean that if you meditate you’ll gain scientific knowledge, but something much more subtle: by understanding “the world” the Buddha meant that we would understand our experience of the world.

Thanks for a very interesting question! I hope my answer helps connect the dots a little. Do you have any further thoughts based on what I’ve written here?

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Comment from Bass Stokes
Time: November 28, 2012, 4:24 pm

The clarity and speed you used to make thousand year old writings come to light is much appreciated.

As for the breathing part let me paste a few excerpts

True, without error, certain and most true; that
which is above is as that which is below, and
that which is below is as that which is above,
for performing the miracles of the One Thing;
and as all things are from one, by the mediation
of one, so all things arose from this one thing
by adaptation; the father of it is the Sun, the
mother of it is the Moon; the wind carried it in
its belly; the name thereof is the Earth

The belly of the wind means that our most
direct access to the Universal Prana (the Potable
Gold) is through our breathing. “The belly” is a
pun for the digestive process — the other way that
we bring the One Thing into ourselves, digesting
solar energy from the vegetable and animal foods.
“Belly” also refers to the diaphragm used in
conscious breathing.

It will descend to the earth, containing the strength of the high and the low, he means by this the breathing in (istinshaq) of the air, and the taking of the spirit from it, and its subsequent elevation to the highest degree of heat, and it is the Fire, and the low is the body, and its content of the controlling earthly power which imparts the colours. For there lie in it those higher powers, as well as the earthly powers which were submerged in it.

The text it’s self is fairly cryptic as with all Religious or Mythological doctrine. So what I’m wondering is, which type of meditative breath technique would best come close to what people of that time could have or would have been practicing to enhance the one-minded or single-pointedness that both Hermes and Buddha spoke of so often.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 28, 2012, 6:43 pm

You’re welcome. The particular section I quoted seemed like very familiar territory. The meditation methods that strike me as closest are the Six Element practice (although it’s only partly a breath-based meditation, and classic anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing). The form of mindfulness of breathing taught on this site is intended to give rise to jhana, which is what the Emerald Tablet seems to be referring to. Some other approaches to mindfulness of breathing (e.g. those taught by most insight teachers) are not intended to lead to jhana.

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Comment from Norman MacArthur
Time: January 21, 2013, 10:31 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa. I’m also new to meditating, I’ve been following your tips on your audio and practising the four stages for a little over a week now. It’s going great, feeling a deeper sense of awareness each and every time I practice.
I do have one question though, bringing awareness into the body to begin with (such as the feet) proves to be rather difficult at first. I find that my awareness broadens well with the breathing later on, but bringing myself into the mediation to begin with I find very distracting. I know that you say distracted thoughts are to be expected, but is it normal to take longer (going by the speed of the practice within the audio) in order to reach stage two?

Thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 22, 2013, 11:30 am

That sounds quite normal. You’ll find that as you continue to practice awareness of the body, your ability to pick up on sensations there will increase. Your brain will literally create new neurons in the parts of your brain concerned with monitoring the body. It’s just like exercising muscles in the body — use that part of the brain and it gets bigger. In fact it’s been shown that people who meditate regularly are more aware of sensations in the body than professional dancers are.

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Comment from Radu
Time: January 29, 2013, 6:44 pm

Thank you Bodhipaksa, I’ll follow your advice.

Radu.

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Comment from Ricardo Almeida
Time: March 3, 2013, 4:18 am

Hi. I would like to know if its ok to stair at images of Buddha while meditating. I take great confort in Buddha. In my meditation area i have some pictures of Buddha including a picture of a statue that depicts Buddha before awakening at the deepest of the ascetic stage. Looking at Buddha helps returning to awareness of breath and helps me correct my posture. Besides sometimes i feel a deep love (the kind you feel staring into a baby) when i look at those images. Neverthless I would like to know if Im doing something wrong. Thank you.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 3, 2013, 10:48 pm

This is a form of meditation practice in its own right — Buddhānussati, or recollection of the Buddha. In Mahāyāna Buddhism it’s the basis of visualization practice.

The feeling of love is good. Sometimes you might feel the love coming from the figure you’re seeing, and that’s even better.

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Comment from Ricardo Almeida
Time: March 4, 2013, 12:15 am

Thank you for the reassurance.

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Comment from Izimar
Time: March 24, 2013, 2:07 am

Hi bodhipaska, I have read your steps and I am going to try it out for this week and ile tell you how it goes. In the mean time I have a few questions. If I listen to your audio, should I still count to 10 and still listen to you at the same time? And I don’t know if your a dream expert or if you know where I can fine one, but I had a recent dream and saw a man make a circular shape with his arms arround his head that resembled an eye (his head was like the pupil) then the shape he made turned into a giant bright eye with golden light coming from it that got even brighter and bigger untill all I could see was the eye, then I woke up, now I don’t know if you belive in the chakras and third eye but do you think this could be a sign of some sort?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 24, 2013, 1:38 pm

Hi, Izimar.

Sure, breathe at your own pace and count your breaths at the same time as listening to me — unless listening to me is a real distraction, in which case move to meditating without a guide as soon as you can.

I’m no expert in dream analysis. I’d guess that the circle represents completeness and that the eye looking is you being aware of your own “knowing” — the basic underlying function of cognizing that is what consciousness does. We think we know, but actually we’re even more “known” by the depths of our own minds. I think it’s more likely something like that than it is to do with chakras.

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Comment from Izimar
Time: March 24, 2013, 3:30 pm

Alright thanks, so do you think it means Im beginning to know my true self? Does that mean that my meditation is working?

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Comment from Izimar
Time: March 24, 2013, 3:32 pm

Oh and one other thing, are you all for binaural beats? Because I don’t know if it actually helps your meditation or if its just an artificial feeling you get from brain waves

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 24, 2013, 3:42 pm

Well, the Buddha wouldn’t have accepted the terminology of a “true self,” but I think it’s a glimpse of what lies beyond what you identify with as being “you.”

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 24, 2013, 3:43 pm

I don’t really know anything about binaural beats, but I think you summed up my thoughts — anything that’s “doing the meditation for you” isn’t really meditation, in my opinion.

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Comment from Izimar
Time: March 24, 2013, 5:45 pm

Yea I’m not going to use them, I think it’s distracting anyways. If this is to personal then don’t be afraid to tell me so, but what do you normally experience during breathing meditation? I’ve read that people end up seeing a 4th dimension during their deep stages of meditation and that they can hear conversations or see their sprit guide. So I was just curious as to what you normally experience and what was a really intense moment for you during deep meditation?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 24, 2013, 8:17 pm

I know nothing about 4th dimensions, conversations, or spirit guides. I’ve had experiences of deep, wordless peace. And the practice makes me happier in everyday life.

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Comment from anne-marie
Time: August 20, 2013, 8:02 pm

Hi! Bodhipaksa,
I have been using your meditation technique for a while now and would like to know if I can continue doing this meditation, will it still continue to be effective over time or do I need to move on to other types of meditation?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 21, 2013, 8:19 am

Hi, Anne-Marie.

I’m still doing this mindfulness of breathing meditation after 30 years, so I’d definitely say you can continue doing the practice and that it will continue to be effective. But I always advise people to alternate between mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana. In time it’s also advisable to bring more of an insight focus into your practice, which you can do in a variety of ways — for example by taking up the six element practice, or even simply by starting to notice the impermanence of each experience that’s arising in the mindfulness of breathing or metta bhavana practices.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: December 11, 2013, 11:10 am

Hi Bodhipaksa

I have a question concerning later (more deeper) stages of the mindfulness of breath meditation.

As I know, in the early stages of the practice (where the Anapana Sutta says “Breathing in long breath, one knows: ‘I breathe in a long breath’…”), one can do the following: while focusing on ‘holding the mind constantly on the breath’, the meditator should pay a (mild) attention to certain characteristics of the breath (the length of each in/out-breath, whether the breath is heavy or light, its beginning/end, or the pause between the breath). By observing these characteristics, the attention is established more easily on the breathing.

However, as I know it, later on (in deeper states), the observance of these characteristics should be better dropped, and only the simple act of „holding the mind constantly on the breath” remains. My question refers to this stage: Is this the stage, when the Anapana Sutta says: „ …conscious of the whole (breath) body, I shall breathe in – the meditator trains himself-conscious of the whole (breath) body I breathe out…”?

When should I drop focusing on the above mentioned characteristics (the length of each in/out-breath, whether the breath is heavy or light, its beginning/end, or the pause between the breaths)? If this happens automatically, then its all fine. However, in case this does not happen by itself, when should I stop focusing on them?:
1,Should I drop them when I feel that my attention is well-established on the breath, and such ’tools’ are no longer necessary?
2,Or should I stop focusing on them only when I feel that, since I has reached a more subtle mental state, the act of observing them has become too ’intrusive’(or too coarse), and it disrupts the stillness of my mind?

In addition, should I stop deliberately paying attention to all above mentioned characteristics of the breath? Or only the observance of the ’duration of the breath’ should be dropped (and the observance of the others retained)?

Many Thanks

Nasdor

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Comment from Richard
Time: December 12, 2013, 11:06 pm

Hello there! I have began meditating for the first time in my life starting 2 weeks ago. I’m not a focused person at all in anyway , in and out of meditation. I begin college in 1 month and I’m desperate to become much more focused, so I have turned to meditation. Also, my whole life I have been intriged by the human mind (my mind and others around me) I analyze thought patterns way more than anyone I’ve ever known. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I feel I am destined to explore the human mind through the physical and mental world. In my 2 weeks of making my effort to meditate I find myself fixating on different methods of focusing , like breath , then air through nostrils, then movements in stomach , etc. , all in 1 sitting. May I please have advice on how to focus on 1 thing and let it become my foundation? Your audio was the best thing I’ve ever found to help me focus better. Also I’m looking to buy a book to also aid me in my efforts. Please and thank you!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 13, 2013, 11:23 am

Hey, Richard. Thanks for the kind words about my recordings. Wanting to learn to focus better is a great aim, but it’s a bit, well, too focused. You’ll probably find it a bit more helpful to practice a variety of meditations, like mindfulness of breathing (good for focus), development of lovingkindness (good for keeping your emotional life harmonious so that there’s less going on that’ll interrupt your focus), and just sitting (so that you’ll be able to de-focus — since all that focusing can end up with us becoming willful and driven and can lead to us being stressed). And then all this has to be worked out in daily life as well, through our learning to be mindful and compassionate toward others, and in being honest and careful about how we relate to the world ethically.

There are also good time-management and personal management books that can be very helpful. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is good, as is Getting Things Done, by David Allen.

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Comment from Richard
Time: December 13, 2013, 1:50 pm

Thank you very much . I know I am probably imagining the path to focusing better and enlightenment in the wrong way. 1 last thing, if ihappen to have too strong emotions would practicing lovingkindness more be a better choice? Or how would I go about balancing the different methods as someone who often let’s emotions and stress interfere with my daily life?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 13, 2013, 5:09 pm

Well, we’re all focusing on the path in the wrong way, to some extent. It’s never about doing it perfectly. Both mindfulness practice and lovingkindness practice are valuable in dealing with strong emotions. Mindfulness helps us to catch emotional processes unfolding, so that we have the freedom not to get caught up in old and unhelpful habits, and lovingkindness practice helps us develop a “buffer” of emotional positivity, which is also helpful in stopping us from getting emotionally reactive. I recommend alternating mindfulness of breathing and lovingkindness practice daily. I’ve linked to our online guides to these two practices.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 20, 2013, 11:14 am

Hi, Nasdor.

Apologies for the delayed reply.

First, I wouldn’t take the “long breath, short breath” thing too literally. My guess is that the Buddha was just advising us to notice the qualities of the breathing, including, for example, whether the breathe is long or short (but also whether it’s relaxed/tense, rough/smooth, taking place in the belly/chest, etc.)

For me the purpose of this initial stage is to develop calmness. In other words we’re aiming to reduce the amount of thinking that’s going on. And then once the mind has started to calm down we can start to notice how the breathing affects the entire body. It’s particularly useful here to notice how every part of the body relaxes as we breathe out. This helps to “calm the bodily formation” (or to relax the body). And this relaxation in turn becomes the foundation of pīti, which is the next factor we cultivate.

I hope this is helpful.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from nasdor
Time: December 25, 2013, 5:26 am

Thanks for your reply. If I understand correctly, I should not observe the duration of the breath too closely, and ‘label’ each breath as long, short or normal. In addition, it isn’t necessary to decide what you consider long or short breath before the meditation.

Rather, its enough if I observe the duration of the breath more loosely, only noticing more prominent differences. (for instance, if you experience a breath, which is much longer than the others, or if you notice that your breathing has become much longer/shorter during the session). I do this with minimal effort, and do not force myself to be aware of the length of breath too much. In addition, I can observe other qualities as well (the beginning/end of breath or the pause between, or if the breath is heavy or light, the touch sensation as the breath enters my nose,…).

And later on, as I reach deeper states and my mind calms down, I should stop focusing on the above particular characteristics of the breath, and focus only on the ‘continuous awareness of the breath’ (focus on the actions of ’vitakka’ and ’vicara’ (’connecting’ and ’fixing’ the mind on the breath)). This is because, observing the above particular qualities of the breath in the beginning is done in order to establish mindfulness on the breath more easily. Later on, when the mind is already connected to the breath, and one feels that these more ‘crude’ methods are no longer necessary, one should drop them and keep only the more ‘subtle’ method of ‘continuous observance of the breath’. Am I right?

Many Thanks once more,

Nasdor

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 25, 2014, 3:57 pm

Hi, Nasdor.

Sorry for the long delay. I managed to lose sight of your comment and just came across it again.

Yes to the first points. It’s enough to have a sense of the relative length of your breaths — “my breathing is quicker than usual” versus “my breathing is slow and relaxed.” It’s not like you have to time your breaths or decide on an arbitrary system for deciding what’s long and what’s short. And you’re free to notice any other qualities of the breathing, whether it’s tight or free, mainly in the belly or the chest, warm or cool, etc.

And yes, we move to a continuous awareness of the breathing, usually with particular attention at first to the transitions from an out-breath to an in-breath and so on. Initially we perceive the breathing as divided into in-breaths and out-breaths. This seems natural, and that tendency is reinforced by practices such as counting the in or out-breaths or saying “in” and “out.” But the “gaps” are places where we cease to pay attention, and so thoughts are more likely to intrude at those points, and the mind to wander. In paying attention to the continuous flow of sensations we develop a more continuous state of mindfulness, with much less likelihood of distraction, and if thoughts do arise then it’s easier to let go of them.

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Comment from swapnil
Time: June 20, 2014, 7:30 am

I m from India…and i have a very able guru to guide me across all paths leading to one final goal on the path of self realization. I stumbled upon this page of yours.
And I must say… I m so impressed ans moreover happy for the efforts this divine soul bodhipaksha is putttig in.
This is a perfect example of good karmas… I must say.
Keep the good work. God bless you.
-Swapnil ( body name), identity- atmah

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