Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Mindfulness of Breathing

Sit : Love : Give

Wildmind is ad-free, and it takes many hours each month to create and edit the posts you see here. If you benefit from what we do here, please support Wildmind with a monthly donation.


You can also become a one-time benefactor with a single donation of any amount:


Benefits of the practice

woman stretching in yoga In the mindfulness of breathing meditation no matter how many times we become distracted we come back to the breath over and over again, and that has a number of important benefits, which are detailed below. This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list of the benefits of this practice, which also include improved immune function, the development of greater amounts of brain tissue, delayed aging, etc. Here we’re talking mainly about the changes in your experience that will take place if you regularly practice this meditation.

Developing Awareness

  • The breath becomes a kind of anchor that helps us to stay in awareness.
  • We’re practicing recognizing the difference between awareness and unawareness.
  • We’re also working on developing those qualities of patience, kindness, and gentleness that are so important when we realize when we’ve been unaware — when we’ve just come out of being distracted and have regained our awareness.

And we’re also training ourselves to stay out of “the hindrances,” which are distracted states of mind that cause us to suffer. Becoming distracted is a bit like falling over when you’re a little kid. When we try to follow the breath it’s like we’ve decided to walk. But then after a few steps we stumble and get distracted. But we keep picking ourselves up by going back to the breath. The way kids learn to walk is by taking a few steps, falling over, and picking themselves up over and over again. The way we learn to be more aware is by following the breath, getting distracted, and then going back to the breath — over and over and over again.

Developing Calmness

I’ve mentioned that the hindrances are not very satisfying states of mind. Being annoyed, or fantasizing, or undermining ourselves, all involve a lot of mental disharmony. They cause turbulence in our minds, and so we find that we’re not very calm. Learning to spend less time in the hindrances means that we develop a calmer mind.

Becoming More Content

The hindrances are also not states in which we’re very happy. If we’re fantasizing, for example — either about things we’d rather be doing, or about things we’re not happy about — then there’s emotional disharmony since we’re not happy what we’re doing. Spending less time in distracted states of mind means that we become more content.

Developing Concentration

And when we’re distracted then we’re not very concentrated — our mind is jumping from one topic to another like a butterfly. This means we don’t experience anything very deeply — like when we’re talking to someone and we’re also preoccupied and realize they’ve been talking but we don’t know what they’ve said. Or when we’re eating handfuls of raisins but not really tasting them because we’re reading and the radio is on. That kind of thing doesn’t help us connect very deeply with our experience. And how can we reflect if we can’t keep up a focused train of thought? And if we can’t reflect then how do we learn? Practicing mindfulness helps us to be more concentrated so that we can live more deeply, and appreciate life more fully.

Later, we’ll also be looking more closely at calm, contentment, and concentration and looking at ways we can cultivate those qualities more directly, as part of the tool-kit of methods we’re developing to work with our mind.

Comments

avatar

Comment from elli
Time: August 6, 2009, 9:48 pm

What if the fantasies that perpetually occupy my mind are fun, entertaining?
I know this sort of hyper and consistent mental activity is a distraction and a hindrance to awareness – but within this state it is possible to create an alternative existence to ‘real’ life – to exist in the mental world – creating for oneself a satisfying and addictive place to escape. Less healthy, less blissful than states of pure conscious awareness, yes – but a seductive and perhaps common place for the distracted mind to occupy.

avatar

Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 7, 2009, 9:44 am

Hi Elli,

Distractedness can be creative and fun — no doubt about it. There’s a state where we have sufficient distractedness to let the mind explore and sufficient mindfulness to prevent the mind from wandering away from what we’re thinking about, and in that state we can be very creative. I often allow myself to go into that state when I’m preparing a talk or thinking about some writing I’m going to be doing. Here’s a link to an article about research on daydreaming. I think you’ll find it interesting.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

avatar

Comment from Alina
Time: October 28, 2012, 10:39 am

I just wanted to thank you so much for this webpage, it is so helpful, so interesting… I have been practicing mindfulness of breathing for 6 years now, and even though I have read many books about it and practice in the local dojo, I felt I needed “something more”, like a study course, to help me deepen my practice. So I started reading one article per day and reflected on that during the day, and so far (and I am just beginning) it has been so helpful, I feel I really found what I needed…
so Thank you very much for all you give through wildmind! :)
Gassho

Leave a comment