Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Mindfulness of Breathing

Sit : Love : Give

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Stage 1

The mindfulness of breathing practice as taught here is available as a CD or as an MP3 audio download.”
First, set up your posture, using our posture guidelines, then come back and read what’s next…

Okay, now we’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin.

Stage Zero

Before we can start on Stage 1, we need to do some essential preparation — what I call “Stage Zero”. Stage 0 involves setting up your meditation posture, then taking your awareness through your body relaxing as much as you can. You might find it beneficial to read a fuller description of the background and practice of this important stage before beginning Stage One.

This meditation is not a breathing exercise, and we don’t control the breath in any way, simply letting it flow naturally in and out. Generally we inhale and exhale through the nose, unless perhaps the nose is blocked.

It’s natural for there to be a slight pause between the end of the in breath and the start of the exhalation, and a slightly longer pause between the end of the out breath and the start of the in breath. Again, we allow the breath to flow naturally, and there’s no question of deliberately holding the breath or controlling it in any way.

Sometimes it can be beneficial to take a few deep, long, breaths, or to breath more fully using the abdomen. This is done to encourage the body and mind to slow down. But if this is done it’s just for a few breaths, after which we let the breathing return to a natural rhythm.

Stage 1 – Counting the Breath

Once you’ve taken a tour of your whole body, begin to focus on the physical sensations of your breath. Let yourself become absorbed in the sensations of the breath flowing in and out of your body. Notice how the sensations are always changing.

Then begin counting (internally) after every out-breath:
Breathe in – breathe out – 1
Breathe in – breathe out – 2
Breathe in – breathe out – 3
Breathe in – breathe out – 4
Breathe in – breathe out – 5
… and so on until you reach ten. Once you get to ten, start again at one.

Keep following the breath, and counting, for at least five minutes.

If your mind wanders, just come back to experiencing the physical sensations of the breath, and begin counting again.

Really notice the qualities of the out-breath. Notice the sense of letting go, the downward movement in the body, the feeling of relaxation as your body releases, and perhaps even a sense of mental calming.

Bring as much patience into the process as possible. It’s normal for a lot of thoughts to arise, and from time to time you’ll completely forget you’re supposed to be following your breath. Distraction is a normal part of the meditation process.


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


Comments

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Comment from David Brown
Time: June 26, 2008, 7:01 pm

Thanks. I’m a counselor at a crisis facility. This will be helpful to some of my more engaged clients.

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Comment from Toni
Time: July 7, 2008, 1:10 pm

Sometimes when I meditate I like to run my water fountain. Do you recommend this practice, or should I keep my space quiet?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 8, 2008, 4:10 pm

Hi Toni,

I don’t see any problem with that at all. It’s actually very unnatural to meditate indoors — in the Buddha’s day most meditation would have been outdoors, to the accompaniment of the sound of water, buzzing insects, birds, monkeys, passing oxen, people, etc. A water fountain is just giving a slight taste of that naturalness, and I’m assuming you find it helpful.

That’s not to say that absolute silence is a bad thing. It can be very helpful indeed, in fact.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from eamonn
Time: August 3, 2008, 2:42 pm

i suffer from bouts of social anxiety i get in my head alot.it like i have very poor awareness could mindfullness meditation be the best 4 me or can u recomend any other meditations?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 3, 2008, 9:28 pm

Hi Eamonn,

May I share a pet peeve of having people writing in “txt” when it’s not a text message? Is it really that much extra work to type “you” instead of “u”?

That aside, it’s very likely that some form of meditation will be helpful with the anxiety you’re experiencing. Without knowing you or anything about your experience it’s impossible to say exactly what kind of meditation would be best. Mindfulness meditation, with its emphasis on non-judgmental observation may well be beneficial, but lovingkindness meditation might also be very helpful. You may have to do some experimentation. I’d suggest you don’t give up too easily if you think it’s not going well. Often we need to stick with a particular method for a while in order to find ways to make it work for us.

Best wishes,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from eamonn
Time: August 4, 2008, 7:33 pm

thank you for the reply sorry about the text writing a habit of mine i am going to give the mindfullness meditation a go for a month see how i get on thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 4, 2008, 7:40 pm

Hi Eamonn,

No problem, and sorry if I came across a bit harsh. On the other hand, maybe we need to remind each other from time to time of writing etiquette, especially since the web can sometimes give us a false sense of familiarity with people we don’t know.

Anyway, please feel free to let me know how you get one, and if you have any questions feel free to ask. Taking up meditation isn’t an easy thing, and some support is generally advisable. We’re here and willing to help.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Hayley
Time: October 22, 2008, 4:25 pm

Hello,

I just felt compelled to comment to say how helpful this site has been to me, as it has been to many other before me too I’m sure.

I haven’t had much experience with meditation and I was slightly dubious that I would personally get anything from it, however I dispelled the negative thoughts from my mind and I have been surprised at the results.

Thank you for the information here that helped me so much.

Hayley x

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 22, 2008, 6:17 pm

Hi Haylay,

Well that’s a nice compulsion to have. All the best with your fledgling practice.

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Comment from Justin
Time: November 13, 2008, 10:34 am

First time writer. I have anxioty issues and was wondering what type of meditation is best for me. The things I struggle with are repeditive(sp) thought process. I have a hard time pushing un-wanted thoughts from my mind and moving on. I also find my self emagining situations that haven’t even happenned yet and trying to emagine how they will end up. I also think back on past events and wondered how they could have been different or emagine situations and changing them to different outcomes. Most of the time alot of the “daydreaming” becomes confrontational, not physical but vocal. Any direction?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 13, 2008, 3:12 pm

Hi Justin,

The kinds of things you’re describing — repetitive thoughts, imagining future scenarios and going over past events — are very common, although it may be that you experience them more often than average.

I’d suggest that the Mindfulness of Breathing practice that we teach on this site will help you let go of unwanted thoughts more quickly and help you to calm your mind. And the development of lovingkindness practice will also help you to be more forgiving towards yourself as you go through the sometimes difficult process of coming to grips with an unruly mind.

I wish you all the best!

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Pingback from Mindfulness it only takes a moment! » AUTAP
Time: December 4, 2008, 4:37 am

[...] to start http://www.wildmind.org/mindfulness/one « Waiting | [...]

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Comment from Corinne
Time: December 24, 2008, 9:10 pm

Hey! I have a question, Today was my first day meditating, I could only do five minutes, is that alright for beginners? I, however, do plan on extending my minutes as each day goes by!

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Comment from leah vincent
Time: December 30, 2008, 12:03 am

hi,

this question has probably already been answered somewhere on this site so thanks in advance for repeating.
i’m wondering what suggestions/theories there are on which direction (north/south/east/west) one should face while meditating.

thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 30, 2008, 6:42 am

Hi Leah,

I’m not aware of any source that regards as important the direction you face while meditating. It’s what happens inside that’s important.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 30, 2008, 3:40 pm

Hi Corinne,

Sorry to have missed your comment. I’d say that any start is a good start and any length of time spent meditating is a good length of time spent meditating. If you’re “flying solo” then I think there are many other people who would only manage five minutes. If you want to meditate for longer and have an easier time then I’d suggest that listening to a guided meditation might be supportive. Having a voice to guide you can help bring you back on track more quickly and give you a better sense of what you can be doing.

Good luck with your practice!

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Comment from Maria
Time: April 16, 2009, 12:43 am

I have been exploring the mindfulness of breathing for a month now and while I am excited about my improved concentration there is one thing bugging me; although I feel mentally alert after meditating I find myself yawning for the next few hours, which makes me feel sleepy again! I breathe in and out through the nose and I sometimes have difficulty not controlling my breath. I usually have to breathe deeply and deliberately in the beginning of meditation to slow my thoughts down, and I was wondering whether this might be the reason for my yawning. What are your thoughts on this?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 16, 2009, 7:47 am

Hi Maria,

This is a new one to me. All I can suggest is that perhaps you’ve developed a tendency to control and slow your breath after meditation, and that you’re therefore yawning in order to get more oxygen. If this is what’s happening then I’d expect it to sort itself out. Many people find that they initially have a tendency to control the breath, but that as they learn to let go this ceases to be a problem.

But all of this is just guesswork!

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Comment from David
Time: August 9, 2009, 3:46 am

Hi, Bodhipaksa,

First of all, thank you for your website and all the information and guidance you share here. The more I explore your site, the more interested I become in signing up for one of your courses.

I’m wondering, do you have any guidance on the length of time which one should commit to each stage of breathing meditation before moving on to the next? I realize the answer will depend largely on the practitioner, but do you suppose that there is a general framework we as lay practitioners should follow? For example, how many days, weeks, or months should we spend in Stage 1 before we should think we’ve laid a fair foundation for Stage 2? Should it be a few days? Some months? A year? Am I taking too linear an approach to the matter?

Also, in my young practice I’ve done little with counting the breaths and instead have moved directly to watching the sensations of the breath in the nostrils. Do you think this is a mistake? Will my practice lack something if I don’t spend some time counting breaths?

Please excuse me if my questions are a bit foolish or poorly formulated. I guess part of the problem is I’m not sure exactly what I’m asking!

Thank you for your help.

David

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 9, 2009, 8:56 am

Hi David,

Thanks for the kind comments. And your questions all seem very natural to me.

In general I think something like a few days of practice with one stage are enough before moving onto the next. I think that’s enough to get a sense of each stage as a practice, so that we understand what we’re doing and why. When people rush through the practice with a very goal-oriented view that they almost “want to get it over with so they can say they’ve done it” I think the experience is less than satisfactory.

I don’t think it’s a mistake to go straight to observing the breath at the nostrils. In fact it’s a perfectly valid form of the practice, and it would be horribly arrogant of me to state that there’s only one valid way to approach being mindful of the breath. But going straight to the sensations in the nostrils is just not the form that I’ve been taught. I think there’s a value in having preliminary stages, and in fact most teachers will recommend having some way doing those earlier stages, even if it’s just saying “in, out” or “rising, falling”. Those approaches have the same intent of using the inner voice to help us stay connected with the breath.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Rachel
Time: September 1, 2009, 5:28 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa,

First of all I wanted to thank you for this wonderful site. It really demystifies meditation, and most importantly, makes me look forward to it every day.

Now for my question: When I shift from setting up my posture and relaxing my muscles over to stage 1, I keep yawning! For some reason this is distracting, mainly because it keeps happening and interrupting my breath, and also it seems to make my shoulders tense up afterwards. Is there any way to avoid this? I know my breathing shifts when I “notice” it, but I’m not sure how I normally breathe when it’s automatic. It doesn’t tend to settle on it’s own with continued practice.

Thanks!
Rachel

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 2, 2009, 9:10 am

Hi Rachel,

From time to time I get asked a question that just baffles me. Yours is a case in point! All I can suggest is that you just treat the yawning as something to be aware of when it’s happening. Actually, I’ve been fascinated recently by all the automatic things that go on in the body, including the simple act of breathing. I watch the breath flowing in and out and think to myself, “who’s breathing?” It certainly isn’t my conscious self. I notice this also while driving the car and noticing my hands jiggling the wheel with no conscious intervention on my part, and while walking. Yawning is just another example of a “non-self” action. It’s curious to observe how much of what we do happens outside of consciousness.

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Comment from Pat
Time: December 30, 2009, 3:34 pm

Hi,

I was searching the net on meditation and yawning and landed in this page. I have a similar case.
I sometimes do meditation by concentrating on the Lord. In about 4-5 minutes of intense concentration, I start to yawn.
The yawns come one after another and run for several minutes by which time I am forced to discontinue my meditation.
Today, I have found several similar cases as mine. Also there are certain explanations for this which I have discovered.
One of them is that the brain gets heated and yawn is the simplest mechanism to cool it down. Another person says that
he experiences yawns just before he gets into a highly meditative peaceful state.

I am kind of apprehensive if something will happen to me if I continue meditating after the yawns.
Do any of you have any clue on this?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 1, 2010, 3:20 pm

Hi Pat,

I’d read about the “cooling the brain” theory a while ago but had forgotten about it. For anyone interested there’s a news story about it here. This makes me think that it may be the slowing of the breathing that takes place during meditation that leads to a yawning reflex if the brain is indeed heating up.

This would fit with your friend’s experience if his breathing slows as he becomes calmer and more concentrated.

I think it’s highly unlikely anything bad is going to happen as a result of keeping meditating after you start yawning. Yawning is just one mechanism for cooling the brain (increased cerebellar blood-flow being another) and the body is rather good at maintaining a stable brain temperature even during exercise and in hot weather.

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Comment from Edward
Time: January 11, 2010, 5:50 am

Hi Bodhipaksa,
I’ve been practising for about a week now, and I’m finding it a very positive experience although I’m sure I’m doing everything badly.
At the moment I find when I ‘notice’ parts of the body, or my breathing, etc. I’m actually moving my eyes (behind the lids of course), or moving my tongue when I count the breaths. I also have a tendency to visualise everything, as if seen through the right eye.
What’s going on, and how do I stop ‘doing’, rather than just noticing?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 13, 2010, 2:01 pm

Hi Edward,

I wouldn’t worry about “doing everything badly.” One of my favorite saying is, “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”

Anyway, I’d suggest that you just keep going with the practice. Sometimes the more we’re bothered by something we do, the more we do it, so if you just keep going and don’t worry about how to stop “doing” you’ll probably find that the “doing” just stops all on its own. But there’s no harm in visualizing, anyway. In some forms of body awareness (for example in the Six Element practice) it’s necessary to use visualization. Consider the images a free bonus feature of the meditation practice!

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Comment from Marc
Time: September 9, 2010, 10:12 am

Hi!

I’ve been wandering in this site for a few days, and you have really interesting and insightful material. I’ve already done some meditation before but now I tried to start with the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation.

What I noticed a few minutes after starting was like a current of little involuntary movements in my whole body (kinda like little sparks of electricity in my legs, torso, and face) that made really hard for me to stay still, let alone be focused on counting the numbers.
I don’t know if it has something to do with anxiety or some kind of restlessness.

It was an interesting experience and I would like to know if you could give me some insight about this. Also I will ask you if meditation can be helpful in cases of procrastination and/or (I forgot the exact word hehe, so I’ll put the idea) tendency to drift away thinking about the future or nonsense imagination.

Thank you very much!

P.D: Sorry if my english isn’t the best, I’m from Argentina.

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Comment from Adrian
Time: September 23, 2010, 10:49 am

Hi, Firstly, thanks for a great site and all the free help !
I have been interested in spirituality and meditation all my life although this has lapsed as a consistent practice for the last 15 yrs or so.(kids & work ect)
But now due to stress and anxiety ! I am meditating 15 mins in the morning 30 mins approx at night. Samatha and then Vipassana. for the last 3 months great to start with and much much better than when I reacted directly to stress. But now I seem to have hit a wall my mind seems so much more noisy I cant count to 10 and breathe more than once, and the vipassana is turning into a daydream in a warm fog! …help.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 30, 2010, 11:43 pm

Hi Marc,

Sorry for the long delay in my replying. I’ve had a book being published and my parents visiting. Lots going on.

This kind of thing isn’t uncommon, and I’ve experienced it myself a lot. It’s nothing to worry about. Sometimes they seem to be sudden bursts of relaxation (a muscle suddenly giving up its tension) and sometimes it seems to be more a release of energy. Sometimes there can be a cycle of energy being released, followed by tension gathering (possibly because of unwise attention to what’s going on) and things can get a bit stuck. So I’d advise not giving it too much thought. Just note that it’s happening, don’t read too much into it, accept it as normal, and keep on with the practice.

I suspect meditation (or mindfulness) would be helpful with procrastination, although I haven’t given that much thought. Procrastination can presumably have many forms, but I’d imagine that a common aspect of the phenomenon is avoiding something we find to be unpleasant. Certainly mindfulness practice teaches us to face up to and go through unpleasant experiences. I think there are other tools we can use, however, but right now i don’t have enough time to write them up. Maybe I’ll write an article later on.

And daydreaming? I’ve long believed that daydreaming can be creative. The secret is to have a degree of background mindfulness so that we can notice and remember the creative thoughts, and keep the mind from daydreaming in destructive ways.

And your English is great!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 2, 2010, 11:35 pm

Hi Adrian,

There could be many things going on. It could be that you’re doing something different from what you used to do. Sometimes we slip into certain unhelpful habits and so we find that things aren’t working like they used to. On the other hand, you may be doing exactly the same things you used to do, when that’s no longer appropriate — in other words your practice may have become habitual, and you’re not responding appropriately to what’s going on in your practice.

It might help (either way) to shake things up a bit — perhaps by listening to a guided meditation (not one you’re used to listening to), or otherwise changing things around. For example, don’t do the meditation practice the way you’re used to doing it — e.g. don’t count the breath at all, but instead pay attention to the sounds around you, or do a body scan, or visualize that you’re meditating with the Buddha. Hopefully something like that will help you get out of the fog.

It’s not a question of novelty, however — the simple idea that you need some kind of “new” practice to jazz things up. It’s more that you may need to break out of an unhelpful relationship with your meditation practice, and to be more alive to what’s going on. Changing what you do is just a way of opening things up so that you can bring more aliveness to your practice.

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Comment from Roy
Time: October 23, 2010, 4:07 am

Greetings,

I was looking through your site and was really interested in doing the mantra meditations. However I was wondering if I should first start off doing basic breathing or would I just start with mantras? Also I am quite new to meditation and I was wondering if there is any general tips that you could give me as I start out.

Sincerely,

-Roy

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 25, 2010, 5:49 pm

Hi Roy,

I think both are good, although when I teach I always introduce mindfulness of breathing as the first practice. But if you have a particularly devotional bent, it would be interesting to experiment with mantras first. It’s really up to you. You can even do both, perhaps with mindfulness of breathing as a formal sitting practice, and mantra as something you can carry around in your head as you go about daily activities.

General tips? I guess the site is full of them, but I think posture is crucial. Many of the tips in the posture workshop section of the site are of use in daily life as well.

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Comment from Diane
Time: November 16, 2010, 11:33 am

Hello,

I have recently discovered the wonders of Buddhism (where has it been all of my life?!) after many years of suffering. My local library has many informative books on the subject & I’ve learned a lot.

I have a pressing question re: controlling the breath. Meditation practice was started about 6 months ago. I can’t seem to count or recite the ‘in;out’ without modifying my breathing & it becomes mechanical. If I simply allow the breath to be without doing those things, it’s fine & enjoyable. What can I do to stop manipulating my breath when I count (sort of sets up this unnatural cadence) or do mantras?

Thanks for the site.

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Comment from Diane
Time: November 16, 2010, 11:47 am

Hi again,

I just noticed the page on tips for the above question. I’ll try them. Thank you.

P.S. Have you heard of anyone else having trouble with controlling the breath when counting or doing mantras?

PPS: While meditating, the question of ‘who am I’ keeps coming up, and I recount the 5 aggregates. We contain each of them, they work together, but we are not only this. Is this correct? I go through each & identify that I have form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations & conciousness, but that I am not those things- as a separate indentity. I’m getting slightly confused. Is it correct to say- I have a consciousness but I am not my consciousness?

Thank you.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 16, 2010, 11:58 am

HI Diane,

Im glad you spotted the tips… (I take it you mean this page?)

It’s very common for people to control their breathing, more so with mindfulness of breathing, but it can happen in any meditation. It’s something that passes, eventually. At some point you get more absorbed in the meditation and you “forget” to control your breath.

The question of “who am I?” is a very interesting one. The fact that we want to have an answer is also interesting. My take on what the BUddha was saying in regard to each of the skandhas as being “this is not me, this is not mine, this is not my self” is that he was saying: Stop trying to define yourself. When you define yourself you’re clinging to something, and that clinging separates you from your experience and fro other people. So just be. Be content with being. Let go of al the mental activity that goes into defining who you are, and just experience your experience.

Your question , is it correct to say “I have a consciousness but I am not my consciousness” is problematic. Who has a consciousness? In what way to you have, or won a consciousness. What’s the nature of this entity that possesses a consciousness? We end up tying ourselves in knots.

What we’re working towards is a radical simplicity in our experience. As the Buddha put it, “in the seen, only the seen, in the heard, only the heard, in the cognized, only the cognized — thus there will be no “in here” or “out there.” This is the Buddhist approach to non-duality — not creating a split in our experience by continually referring to ourselves. Of course that’s a hard thing to attain, and it means rooting out a lot of negative emotions, since they all have the function of strengthening our false sense of having a separate self.

Baby-sitter’s about to leave now, so I’ll have to call it a day!

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Comment from Diane
Time: November 17, 2010, 3:14 pm

Thank you!

This morning, I recognized that I was judging & chattering (mentally), always trying to manipulate the experience. Constant comparisons & analyses, instructions on how to meditate ‘properly’ dominated the session. Now that I realize what I’ve been up to, how to proceed? I’ll take your advice and ‘just be’. This evening’s session will be the first time I’ll be giving myself this sort of compassion.

Thanks again!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 17, 2010, 11:07 pm

For now, I’d suggest just noticing the chatter, perhaps mentally labeling it as “chatter, chatter,” and keeping going with the practice. As soon as you notice the chatter as chatter, rather than simply engaging with it, you’ve moved into a freer state of mind. Thereafter it’s a question of having patience with yourself, because the habits that give rise to the chatter do not go away overnight. You’re going to have mindfulness present, and lots of thinking. That’s just how things are, and we need to accept it. Eventually the patience and mindfulness win over, and the mind quiets down.

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Comment from Diane
Time: November 18, 2010, 2:54 pm

Thank you. Last night & this morning were very peaceful sessions. I read Thich Nhat Hanhs’ book “You are here” & have been incorporating his suggestions, as well as yours & have found them to be very effective.

Peace & blessings of happiness to you & all sentient beings.

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Comment from Mickey
Time: February 8, 2011, 10:16 pm

I’ve tried meditation before with little success. This site has helped me persist because you describe the traps and pitfalls one might experience along the way. Instead of getting angry, or despondent and giving up, now I watch those feelings come and go with understanding. There are still moments of frustration which I realise are part of the journey and not part of my personal failure. I am looking forward to the progress to come, even though I think I still have a long way to go.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 9, 2011, 4:25 pm

Hi, Mickey.

I’m glad you’re recognizing that meditation is a process. It’s a kind of exploration, really, and one in which we often find ourselves falling into pits, walking into walls, stumbling into ditches, and marching confidently up dead ends. But all of this is, believe it or not, progress, because we’re learning the landscape of the mind, and — most importantly — learning to recognize how we crave results and thereby cause ourselves pain, and how we respond to the experience of not getting that we want.

There’s no way to learn patience without putting ourselves in situations that provoke impatience. Over time, we find ourselves in situations that used to provoke impatience, but find that we’re fine with them.

And we all have a long way to go! You’re not alone.

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Comment from Cynthia
Time: February 28, 2011, 2:37 pm

Hello Bodhipaksa,

Thank you for this website where you give such kind, practical help about spiritual matters. I’ve started doing mindfulness meditation (all of three days ago). I know I’ll continue.

Several people ask here about yawning, and I wanted to mention that with horses, it’s a sign they’re letting go of tension. Sometimes you’ll work with a horse a while and if you’re fair and clear and all, he’ll start to yawn and just keep yawning, letting out the butterflies. Then the horse is calmer. He can be more open to what’s next. Maybe this applies to human yawning too?

Best, and thank you again.

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Comment from mike
Time: March 11, 2011, 12:26 pm

I am taking the mindfullness course and find it helpful. I still find i control the breath though i am focused on the in and out breath. Is it ok to control it if you are focusing on the in and out breath.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 11, 2011, 12:46 pm

Controlling the breath, especially if it’s not done completely consciously, is not ideal. Even controlling the breath consciously, even though it’s done in the Yogic pranayama tradition, isn’t something I’d advocate. I’d suggest just keeping at it until you find that you just “forget” to control your breathing. There are also things you can do to help you let go of this controlling tendency, such as visualizing yourself floating on buoyant water, which is rising and falling in time with the breath. But more widely, you can notice how much of “you” is not under your control. You can catch yourself walking and realize that you’re not consciously giving instructions to the dozens of muscles involved in that action. Notice how thoughts and feelings arrive unbidden. Notice that while you’ve not been paying attention to your breathing your body has somehow managed to keep you alive. The conscious mind likes to think it’s in control and running the show. Rather, it’s a bit of a jackass, always plagiarizing by taking the credit for actions it isn’t responsible for. It’s a good practice to notice how little the conscious mind actually does.

By the way, there’s no need to post more or less the same comment multiple times. Once is enough, and the others have been deleted.

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Comment from donna
Time: May 24, 2011, 9:24 pm

hi i just wanted to say that i find this very intresting and i am going to try it. thankyou for sharing this with us all.

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Comment from Carol Anne
Time: July 21, 2011, 3:13 pm

Thank you for the work you do to maintain this website. I’ve had one of your audio CDs for a while & have also embarked on many introductions to meditation but I never managed to sustain practice steadily for a long time. Now I’m moving house & city & all sorts of other changes are in process. I can’t carry a CD or drive & listen but I can log on, hear your voice & remember to focus on the breath or simply look at the website for several minutes-as and when. It’s really helpful in a time of transition.

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Comment from Nasdor
Time: July 23, 2011, 2:40 pm

Hı Bodhıpaksa

I am practıcıng breath awareness medıtatıon. Lately, the act of ‘swallowıng’ has become a bıt dısturbıng. Sometımes I am not aware of ıt, and I swallow automatıcly.The problem ıs that often I do not do ıt automatıcly, but I become conscıously aware of the ‘need to swallow’. I try to pay no attentıon to ıt, but ıt´s not always workıng.

1, Should I swallow whenever I feel the need?(Thıs could lead to too frequent swallowıng)

2, Or should I resıst the ‘need to swallow’(only a lıttle), and when ıt becomes a bıt uncomfortable, do the swallowıng? (Thıs way I mıght be able to avoıd too frequent swallowıng) Thıs ıs the same approach, whıch I use when my body ıs ıchıng somewhere. I resıst ıt a lıttle, and when ıt becomes unconfortable, I scratch ıt lıghtly.

Could you please tell whıch of the 2 above ıs better, ıf I want to cultıvate a calm/deep medıtatıve state.

Thanks for the reply

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 23, 2011, 3:09 pm

This is a fairly common problem. When people are meditating together it can even become an epidemic, where people become conscious of their own swallowing because they can hear other people’s swallowing. It’s always a passing phase, and at some point you’ll just “forget” to be conscious of swallowing.

Until then, when you do become aware of the need to swallow, try to swallow as loudly as possible. I’ve found that to be more helpful than trying to swallow quietly. I’m not quite sure why!

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Comment from nasdor
Time: August 31, 2011, 9:34 am

Hi Bodhipaksa

I have one more question regarding breath awareness meditation. In one of my exercises, I observe the sensations of the breath as it fills my abdomen (I finds this more natural for me than to follow the whole course of the breath).

I focus on different sensations caused by the breath:

1, the sensation of movement as the air enters/leaves my abdomen, the pause between the in/out breath,…

2, In addition, I am also aware of some more “physical” sensations as well: the pressure of the air during inbreath, which causes a little strain in my stomach. Sometimes I can even detect a slight pain (its hardly noticable, more like a little sting).

Is it all righ if I focus on all these sensations including these later (2,) more “physical” ones?

With this exercise, my aim is to reach a calm meditative state. Is it possible to reach this state if I do the exercise the above mentioned way?

Thanks in advance

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 31, 2011, 10:03 am

Hi, Nasdor.

Yes, it doesn’t particularly matter at this stage exactly what sensations you pay attention to, as long as they’re connected with your breathing. Even the discomfort you’re experiencing is fine as an object of attention. And paying attention to these things — as long as you’re simply accepting the sensations and not mentally fussing about them (as sometimes happens with discomfort) will help you calm the mind.

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Comment from Adrian
Time: August 31, 2011, 10:34 am

Hi Bodhipaksa,
I would just like to thank you for the support you have given this community, and advice. I have in the past suffered from anxiety and panic disorder, particularly waiting for things – queuing, in a traffic jam , waiting to board an aircraft !
All things I would usually avoid (and hate ) , and make excuses for. Impacting my life greatly, now I BREATH in queues and practice breathing or concentration meditation or try to every day. It is changing my life ! not an instant cure, but just 30 mins per day or more if I can . These small changes to your day like small hinges , they can swing big doors , and change your life for the better !
Thank you again , Metta. Love to all !
Adrian

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 31, 2011, 11:12 am

Hi, Adrian.

It’s a real pleasure, especially when I hear how people are benefitting by practicing meditation.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 1, 2011, 5:55 am

Dear Bodhipaksa

Thank you for the quick reply. I have attented one of your online courses (which was great and informative), but for some reason these questions did not occur to me at that time.

I have one last question. My aim is to reach a reasonably deep meditative state.
I hope focusing on these more “physical” sensations (mentioned in point 2., above) will not prevent me from getting into a deeper meditative state. After all, the sensation of the “movement of the air” is also a “physical” sensation (albeit a bit different).
Am I right?

Thanks once more

Nasdor

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 1, 2011, 10:38 am

Hi, Nasdor. I’m glad you brought that up. I didn’t comment on this previously, but I thought your distinction was a bit odd. Both the movements of the body and the contact with the air are physical sensations. The latter are a little more refined, and I’d say that as our mental stillness grows there’s generally a shift from the grosser movements of the body to the finer sense of the air moving through the airways. But this is a natural process, and not to be rushed. There are days when the mind is restless and it’s hard even to keep our attention focused on the movements of the body. But obviously that’s a good place to start. As the mind settles, we can move to more subtle sensations connected with the breathing.

There are other subtler physical sensations that can be paid attention to as well: there’s one called piti (in Pali) or priti (in Sanskrit) which is a sense of energy in the body. This starts to arise as we relax the body more deeply, and it can be experienced often as tingling or as a sense of flowing, or even rushing, energy. It’s subtler in the sense that it’s not part of the external five senses, but it can be very powerful. Generally, as the mind quiets and the body calms, piti becomes more prominent, and we find ourselves following the breath as well as noticing the piti. Once piti is well established, we can switch to being aware of the breath and feelings of joy (which by this time are becoming more prominent), and we let piti fade from our attention. The experience here is of the breath surrounded by joy. And if we continue, we end up simply noticing the breath, and even the joy fades from our experience. There’s at this point nothing in our experience but the sensation of the breath (the air in the passageways, not the movements of the body). This is a very “cool” state, and one that’s deeply peaceful. It’s also a quasi mystical state, because the sense of self has become completely merged with the object. You are the breath.

Basically what I’ve just give you is a tour of the four jhanas (dhyanas in Sanskrit), or at least my experience of them. Other people may experience them differently, or describe the experience in different ways. These are definitely deep states — I’m not sure how deep you’re aiming to go when you say you want to go “reasonably deep.”

I hope this is helpful.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 2, 2011, 5:31 am

I have also experienced the energy surge you mentined (“piti”) several times. Once this surge subsides, it leaves me in a quite different mental state than my waking state. I would like to learn to maintain this blissful, calm state for longer periods.

If I understand your words correctly, in deeper meditative states, one focuses on the “movement of the air itself” rather than on the “movemet of the body”. However, one can only preceive the air throught the bodily sensations caused by the air’s interaction with the body (the nerves which detect the movement and temperature of the air). Consequently, anything you can detect is some form of bodily sensation.

Is it all right if I do the exercise in the following way?:

I begin with simply observing all the sensations caused by the breath (whatever I can detect with a gentle effort at the time).
When I reach a calmer and deeper state, I become aware of the more finer sensations (the feeling of the air touching the inner surface of my body). Then, I began to focus on these as well. However, I also keep focusing on the other more grosser sensations caused by the breath (the rise and fall of my abdomen as the air enters and leaves, the little strain in my stomach during in-breath…). In other words, I focus on everything casued by the breath without making any conscious distinction. In addition, I observe the breath only around the abdomen (this feels the most natural for me): Here, the movement of my abdomen during in/out breath is quite apparent, so I probably stay aware of this movement even in deeper states.

Is it all right I I do the exercise in the above mentioned way? Or should I drop the more grosser sensations and focus only on the finner, less detectable ones when I begin to feel them? (I find it very difficult to feel the actual “touch” of the air inside my abdomen, thats why I would prefer to keep focusing on the rise and fall of my abdomen as well)

Thanks for clearing things up

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 2, 2011, 11:35 am

Yes, obviously when I say to focus on the “movement of the air” I mean to focus on the physical sensation of the movement of the air. I thought I’d already said that.

I can’t say there’s any one right way to pay attention to the breath, but personally I wouldn’t take the approach you outline. I’ll go through your method step by step. Although this rather muddies the waters in some ways, I do want to point out what I think are some misconceptions.

I begin with simply observing all the sensations caused by the breath (whatever I can detect with a gentle effort at the time).

More or less. I wouldn’t necessarily try to observe all the sensations of the breath at first. It would be best initially to pick the one sensation that’s the most prominent. However, it can also be very calming to focus on two separate sensations. You can also pay attention to the movements in the abdomen when you need to calm the mind, and to the breath in the upper chest to head when you need to wake yourself up a little and develop sharper focus. These are preliminary tools, to help you calm the mind and develop alertness.

Once the mind’s a little calmer, it can be useful to notice the sensations of the breathing throughout the body, right down to the fingertips and feet. But this is optional. You can just stick with following the breathing in one (or two) places until the mind settles. And then…

When I reach a calmer and deeper state, I become aware of the more finer sensations (the feeling of the air touching the inner surface of my body).

Yes.

Then, I began to focus on these as well.

It would probably be more useful to drop any focus on the grosser sensations, and just to stick with the sensation of the air in the airways. So once the mind has settled, move to the more subtle sensations.

However, I also keep focusing on the other more grosser sensations caused by the breath (the rise and fall of my abdomen as the air enters and leaves, the little strain in my stomach during in-breath…). In other words, I focus on everything casued by the breath without making any conscious distinction.

If you’re going to do this, do it earlier on, as a way of calming the mind. Then make the switch to the more refined sensations.

In addition, I observe the breath only around the abdomen (this feels the most natural for me): Here, the movement of my abdomen during in/out breath is quite apparent, so I probably stay aware of this movement even in deeper states.

Well, I’ve already covered this in my earlier comments. I don’t think you’re going to get terribly deep in meditation paying attention to the movements of the abdomen. That’s more of a preliminary step.

One last thing. You say, “I find it very difficult to feel the actual ‘touch’ of the air inside my abdomen,” but that’s physically impossible. Air doesn’t flow into your abdomen, just into your lungs. There are nerve cells in the bronchi, I believe, so we can feel at least a general sense of the air moving as far as the chest. With the abdomen we can only feel the movements of the diaphragm and of the muscles on the abdominal wall, and a general sensation of pressure and release.

I’d suggest that you download and listen to some of the guided meditations I recorded on a recent retreat. They cover the general approach I take, which I’ve found to be effective for getting into jhana. There are about 20 recordings in total.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 4, 2011, 8:42 am

Thanks for the guided mediation files, they were useful in giving me a general idea about how to do my meditation.

If I understand correctly, after the mind is sufficiently calm, one should focus more on the subtler sensations of the breath (the air touching the passageways,…)

Therefore, I decided to reshape my session in the following way:

1, Firstly, I adjust my posture, and relax my body (I tense and release each muscles in turn). I skim through my body for any residual tension.

((-I skip the part when one focuses on the outside enviroment and on the sensations of the whole body, because I have already done my relaxation by this time))

2, Then, I begin to focus on the whole course of the breath (follow breath in the whole body). At this stage, I pay attention to any kinds of sensations not just the finer ones ( the movements of my abdomen, the duration of the in/out breath, the pause between them,…). I focus on more than one sensation at a time.

3, When my mind is calm enough, I gradually narrow down my focus to the sensations of the air in my whole nose. Then, to the tips of my nosetrills (stage 4 of the practice). Here, I began to focus on the more subtler sensations (the feeling of the air touching my nosestrills). In addition, I focus on (or notice) other qualities of the breath as well (the begining/end of the in/out breath, the pause between them, the temperature of the air,…).
I keep noticing these, and end my session with the gradual widening of my focus.

Is it all right, If I focus on(notice) more than one qualities of the breath in (3.,)(only the finer ones around my nosestrills)?

I hope it is possible the reach a reasonably deep meditative state this way. (I do not expect to go very deep in the begining)

Thanks for your help once more.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 4, 2011, 9:48 am

That’s all good. You can definitely go very deep in meditation using the method you’ve outlined. Given practice, some time on retreat, and the intelligent application of mindfulness and ethics in daily life, this can take you to fourth jhana, which is as deep and focused as you can go. It might take a few years…

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 6, 2011, 9:57 am

Thanks for all the help. Now, I have a general idea how I can practice so as to reach a calm and deep meditative state.

With respect to the preliminary stage (stage 1-3). Can I observe the sensations of the breath in my nosestrills from the beginning (not the whole course of the breath), and do the counting as an addition in order to calm the mind?

Then, when my mind is calm enough, drop the counting and simply observe the subtle sensations/qualities of the breath around my nosestrills.

When I try to follow the whole course of the breath, there are so many different sensations to observe. In addition, the sensation of the movement of my abdomen is so prominent that it tends to dim the other sensations occuring elsewhere.

Therefore, I would prefer to observe the area around my nosestrills only, and use the counting so as to allign and calm my mind.

Is it allright, if I do the preliminary stage this way?

Or should I try to observe the whole course of the breath with all its sensations: those in my nose and chest, the movements of my abdomen, the sense of ‘fullness’ during inbreath,…)? In addition to these, there are such qualities like the duration of the breath and the pause between each breath and so on.

I am asking this, because as you have pointed out earlier, it is not easy to focus on to many sensations in the beginning.
In addition, I have read that in Anapasati meditation, the breath is usualy observed at the point where it enters/leaves the body.

Thanks for the help once more

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 6, 2011, 11:23 am

I’m a firm believer in “whatever works.” Paying attention to several sensations at the same time can give the mind so much to do that there’s little space in the mind for inner chatter, and so this can contribute to calmness. But if that doesn’t work for you, then just pay attention to one sensation.

Precisely which sensation to observe is up for question. You say that it’s “usually” where the breath enters and leaves the body, but my impression it’s usually recommended to pay attention to the sensations where they’re most prominent. On the other hand, going with my “whatever works” method, paying attention lower down in the body tends to calm the mind, while paying attention higher in the body creates alertness. So you can alter where you’re paying attention in order to bring about more balance (depending on whether you have a greater need for calmness of alertness).

Anyway, it’s fine just to go straight to the nostrils. If it works for you.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 9, 2011, 6:29 am

If I understand what you said correctly, during preliminary stage (1-3), one has 2 choices:

1, to observe the whole course of the breath (observe all the places where the breath goes. Here, one focuses on many sensations at different places (the sensations of the head and chest, the movements of the abdomen,…). In this case, when making the transition from stage 3 to 4 (if the mind is sufficiently calm), one gradually “narrows down” his focus to a smaller area (the nosestrills) and observes the finner sensations there. In other words, one observes a larger area (the whole course of the breath) then ‘homes in’ to a smaller area (the tip of the nose) within that larger area.

2, You have also suggested that, during the preliminary stage, a particular area (not the whole course of the breath) can also be observed. For instance, in the preliminary stage, one can focus on the sensations in the lower part of the chest (the movements of the abdomen included). Here, the sensations are prominent, which makes them a good ‘tool’ for calming the mind.

However, in this case, when making the transition from stage 3 to 4, one needs to shift his or her focus (not the narrowing down of focus as in (1,)), and begin to observe the breath at a different place (around the nosestrills). For instance, in the beginning, I can observe the movemets of the abdomen to calm my mind. Then shift my focus and observe the finer sensations at a different place (at the tip of the nose).

Are both the “shifting of focus” and the “narrowing down of focus” a valid method to make the transition from stage 3 to 4?

Is it all right, If I begin observing the movemets of the abdomen to calm my mind. Then shift my focus and observe the finer sensations at a different place (at the tip of the nose).
(I can even make this gradually, moving away from my lower chest (and the movements of the abdomen) to my head and then to the nose)

Thanks once more

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 11, 2011, 4:38 pm

This is fairly close to what I’ve said, although I’d probably have to diagram everything in a flow chart in order to make sure that what I’m saying is coherent!

But yes, generally at the start of the practice it’s generally advisable to pay attention to the breath where it’s most prominent (not, usually, as you say, to the whole breath). But if the mind is overactive then you can pay attention to the breath in the belly, or if the mind is dull then pay attention to the breath higher up in the body (especially the head).

Alternatively, instead of paying attention to one single sensation at the beginning, one can pay attention to two (which can help to keep the mind more engaged), or even to the sensations of the breath throughout the body. This is something I tend to reserve for when my mind is over-active, and so it’s an alternative to paying attention to the movements of the abdomen.

In moving from stage 3 to stage 4, there is a narrowing of attention to the nostrils.

Is it all right, If I begin observing the movements of the abdomen to calm my mind.

Absolutely. Unless you’re already tired, in which case paying attention to the movements of the abdomen will promote mental dullness.

Then shift my focus and observe the finer sensations at a different place (at the tip of the nose).

Yes indeed.

I can even make this gradually, moving away from my lower chest (and the movements of the abdomen) to my head and then to the nose

Indeed. This isn’t strictly necessary, but I think it’s best to act elegantly and to make a smooth transition in the practice, otherwise it’s as if we’re unceremoniously “dropping” one stage in order to “snatch up” the next.

The other thing is that while stages one and two focus more on either the in breath or the out breath, stage three is an opportunity to experience the continuity of the breathing process, and to observe in particular the transitions between in and out-breaths, and out and in-breaths, as well as the in and out breaths themselves.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 13, 2011, 12:14 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa

Thanks once more for answering my questions. I was supprised that I had so many things to clarify (At first glance, meditation might appear to be simple, but looking at it more closely one can see that it involves quite a few factors). I think I finally understand how I should put together my session so as to reach a deeper meditative state.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 13, 2011, 12:26 pm

Hi, Nasdor.

Meditation is really an art, and it’s not possible to predict exactly what’s going to work. What works for me may not work for you. Or it may be that even I’m not aware of exactly what’s working for me, so I’m unable to explain it. What seems to work one day may not be appropriate when the mind’s in a different state, and so we need to constantly learn what works for us in different circumstances.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 13, 2011, 12:38 pm

Hi, Nasdor.

Meditation is really an art, and it’s not possible to predict exactly what’s going to work. What works for me may not work for you. Or it may be that even I’m not aware of exactly what’s working for me, so I’m unable to explain it. What seems to work one day may not be appropriate when the mind’s in a different state, and so we need to constantly learn what works for us in different circumstances. I’d suggest that rather than thinking that you have the answer, you have a clearer starting point for working in your practice.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 15, 2011, 5:31 am

Dear Bodhipaksa

I would like to ask something about stage 4 (mindfullness of breath)

In stage 4, I observe the sensations around my nosestrills. Due to the subtleness of these sensations, I sometimes loose track of them and do not feel anything for a while (this varies with each session). When this happens, I continue to observe the same spot (the nosestrills). I do not move to elsewhere, where the sensations are more prominent, and easier to follow, since these are to observed earlier in stage 1-3 so as to calm the mind.

Is it normal to occasionaly loose track of the (touch)sensations in stage 4 ??(I might still be aware of the other qualities of the breath: its duration, the pause between the breaths,…)

Is it all right, if I continue to observe the area around my nosestrills even when I do not feel any (touch)sensation there??
(usually this is only temporal and the sensations ‘return’ after a few minutes)

Thanks for answering

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 15, 2011, 10:56 am

Hi Nasdor.

Everything you say sounds fine. Experiencing the sensations is just a support to help you maintain attentive awareness. Even if the sensation you’ve been paying attention to vanishes, you’re still being attentive, which is the real point. I’d suggest just continuing doing what you’re doing.

Incidentally, it’s not uncommon for sensations to disappear like this. Often, when observing a even a strong sensation such as physical pain, it will simply vanish for a while.

As the mind stills, often the breath as a whole becomes almost imperceptible, at which point we can pay more attention to less directly physical experiences, such as piti (feelings of energy in the body) and sukha (happiness, joy). This leads to the intensification of those factors, and what we call jhana.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 18, 2011, 6:05 am

I have 2 questions regarding ‘piti’ and ‘sukha’.

1,When the mind settles, and the ‘piti’ becomes perceptible. At this stage, in addition to the ‘piti’ and ‘sukha’, one should still observe the breath at the nosestrills. As you have put it the experience is more like the “breath surronded by joy (sukha)”.

Am I right?

2,Unlike the the breath which is observed at the nosestrills, the ‘piti’ (the energy) can be experienced in the whole body. In other words, at this stage, I observe the breath at my nosestrills, while noticing the energy ‘piti’ across my whole body.
After the feelings of ‘piti’ and ‘sukha’ fades, one simply follows the breath (since everything else fades from his or her experience).
Is this right?

Thanks for answering

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 18, 2011, 8:10 pm

Hi, Nasdor.

Yes, one pays attention to the sensations of the breathing throughout. Piti is sometimes experienced over the whole body, although sometimes it’s quite localized. But wherever and however it’s experienced, keep the sensations of the breathing in your experience.

Piti can get rather intense, in which case you should start to pay more attention to the sense of sukha, or joy.

In a way I see progress through meditation as involving various “shells” around the breath, which drop away. First we have the breath surrounded by a shell of thoughts (without either piti or sukha), and in fact we have trouble staying in touch with the breath, because the thinking is emotionally loaded and compelling (I’m talking about the hindrances here).

As the thinking settles down, we have shells of (and I think of these in order, from the center out): the sensations of the breathing, sukha, piti, and thought.

Thought is the first to go, so that we have the breath surrounded by piti and sukha. Then we shift our focus more toward the breath and sukha, and the experience of piti in the body is (I think) tuned out. Then eventually the focus shifts even more into the breath, there’s a sense of “being” the breath (i.e. there is no sense of a gap between subject and object), and at that stage there is only the breath and a deep sense of peace.

I’m still clarifying this for myself, as I get more used to jhana. For a long time I had a kind of roadblock in my practice because I misunderstood how to deal with the piti, which would often get to be completely overwhelming. Fortunately a friend put more right, and I now know to move my attention from piti to sukha when this happens.

Anyway, you now have more of a roadmap!

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Comment from jon
Time: September 24, 2011, 8:37 pm

Hello Bodhipaksa

I have been meditating pretty consistenly now for a year or so. I understand that meditating is not really about achieving goals but i seem to have reached a sort of block. I can happily count my breath wihout losing track, although i still have thoughts while doing this, and i can simply focus on the breath but it still feels as though my brain is sort of split ie. one part is focussing on the breath while the other half is watching and commenting on how well (or not !) i am doing it.

There are moments where i do feel fully immersed in the breath but these only last for seconds before i start evaluating again. So it’s kind of a constant struggle to fully concentrate on just the breath which then leads to frustration and restlessness.

I think part of the problem is that i just don’t find the breath that interesting. I’ve read a few books which say that means you are not really paying attention enough but i think where i struggle the most is the level concentration i should be using vs a more “soft” awareness if you see what i mean.

Any insights would be much appreciated.

Jon

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 26, 2011, 10:46 pm

Hi, Jon.

Yes, I’d guess that you’re not really paying attention to the breath, but just to a few selected sensations. I’d suggest you try listening to the guided meditations I led on a recent retreat. They may help you get a fuller sense of the breathing. Here’s the link: http://db.tt/bckDLRX

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 27, 2011, 3:45 am

Dear Bodhipaksa

I would like to ask some questions regarding ‘piti’ and ‘sukha’ (joy).

1, I often feel certain energy sensations (which could be linked to ‘piti’) quite early on, when my mind is still restless and I occasionally drift of into my thoughts. If it is possible to experience ‘piti’ with a still busy mind, when should I start observing it?:
-Should I wait until my mind settles more and begin observing the ‘piti’ then?
-Or should I start observing the ‘piti’ as soon as it becomes perceptible?

2, You have suggested that when piti gets intense or more prominent, one should stop observing it and switch to observe sukha (joy) in addition to the breath. Is it possible that rather than intensifying, ‘piti’ fades away from one’s experience?
If this later happens, can I move to the observance of the ‘sukha’ (+breath)? (just as I would do in the case when piti intensifies)

3, Regarding ‘sukha’, should I ‘handle’ it in a similar manner as I would do with ‘piti’?
In other words, does the feeling of joy also intensify like ‘piti’? (in this case, should I stop focusing on sukha?)
Or does sukha fade away by itself? (in this case, I end up observing the breath only, since both sukha and piti have subsided)

Thanks for answering. (With these you have indeed provided me a ‘roadmap’ for meditation for which I am very grateful.)

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 27, 2011, 11:13 am

1. Yes, piti can exist outside of jhana or even access concentration. It’s quite a common experience, actually. You can experience piti when you’re being tickled, or when being massaged, or when listening to music. It’s a good idea to pay attention to piti when it arises, since this gives the mind something positive and pleasant to become absorbed in. It’ll help you get more concentrated, in fact.

2/3. Yes, often piti will simply fade away. You know, when you’re talking about letting sukha fade from your awareness, you’re talking about moving from third to fourth jhana. If you’re there, then that’s great. If not, then just keep working with what’s arising. My experience with fourth jhana is limited, and somewhat accidental (it’s a case of “how the heck did I get here?”) but what’s happened is that the sukha has been “tuned out” of my experience in a natural way, as my mind has focused more and more on the sensations of the breathing. Because this has happened naturally, there’s been no need to actually make a conscious decision to move past the sukha. But from my understanding of the suttas (Buddhist discourses), we may well have to consciously decide that we need to move through the sukha and enter fourth jhana. This is the kind of thing I’m working on in my practice at the moment.

I’m glad to be of help. I’m glad you’re asking these questions, since it helps me articulate the map.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 29, 2011, 6:13 am

As hou have suggested, when ‘piti’ arises, I wait a little, then I begin to observe it in addition to the breath. However, I find it difficult to observe both simultaneously with full attention.

Therefore, I do the following: I focus primarily (more) on one thing, while I try to be aware of the other.

I foucus more on the breath (because its sensations are subtler and less noticable) and focus less on ‘piti’, which tend to be stronger and hence easier to follow. (especially in my arms and legs)

Is this a good way of handling the ‘piti’?

Thanks for your insights.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 29, 2011, 12:25 pm

The phrase “with full attention” is a bit ambiguous. If you mean that you’re not able to notice both the piti and the sensations of the breath in as much detail as if you were paying attention to them one at a time, then that’s fine. That’s just how things are.

I think that’s what you’re saying, given that you go on to talking about focusing more on one, and then on the other. That’s also fine.

I suspect that this is one of these things like driving, where at first you can’t pay attention to steering and changing gear, but later your ability to handle these two tasks simultaneously becomes automated. A bit of oscillation from one to the other is to be expected at first, but things should settle down so that you’re aware of both at the same time.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from nasdor
Time: September 29, 2011, 3:53 pm

What I mean is that when I focus on both piti and the breath I find it difficult to be aware of all the sensations ( I am less aware of them than when I focus only on the breath). That is especially true for the subtler sensations of the breath.

Thats why I focus more on the breath (in order to be able to notice these subtler sensations) and less on the piti.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 30, 2011, 9:26 am

That’s what I thought you meant. It’s inevitable that if we pay attention to two things, we won’t experience either of them in as much detail as we would if we were paying attention to each alone. Focusing more on the breath is a good approach. There can be a certain amount of switching the focus from one experience to the other, but in the long term the breath is the most important thing. As we move from second jhana to third, we simply “tune out” the piti, and our awareness of the body becomes more peripheral. The same process happens with joy (sukha) as we move from third to fourth jhana (although I have to say that’s only happened to me a few times).

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Comment from angela
Time: November 27, 2011, 12:52 am

Hi, glad I found this website.

I have a question about the effects of mindfulness meditation. In the past I have had bouts where I practiced mindfulness meditation for around six months. I am getting back into it now but I am having a problem which I had before. I get very vivid dreams. To the point where I wake up once or twice a night. My dreams are so vivid that I have trouble letting them go through the day. How long does this phase last? I stopped meditating before because I could not handle this effect. A professor at the time told me at the time that it could last as long as ten years? I am already beginning to have more vivid dreams this time and I am almost nervous about this.
Any thoughts?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 27, 2011, 3:50 pm

Hi, Angela.

It’s not unusual to get vivid dreams when learning meditation, or when doing more meditation than usual (e.g. on retreat), but I’ve rarely heard of them waking people up (much), being intrusive during the day, or the period of intense dreaming going on for a prolonged period. So this sounds rather unusual to me, and I’ve seen literally thousands of people learn to meditate over the years.

Have you found you can interpret these dreams? It’s possible that if you do, you’ll find that they have less of a hold on you. There may be some message there that’s been repeating and, if you’re not getting the message at a conscious level your unconscious is trying harder and harder.

It’s not that common for this kind of thing to repeat exactly, and this effect may not play out the same way this time as it did last time around, so I’d suggest continuing and seeing what happens. If you’d like to keep writing to me privately (you can use the email address this notification came from, and if you didn’t sign up for notification of replies I can send you my email address) I’d be happy to bounce ideas around.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Adrian
Time: November 28, 2011, 3:03 am

Hi Bodhipaksa, and Angela,

This is really interesting as I have found stages in my wakeful state seem to sometimes take a dream like quality, Its as though my experience of reality or the day to day is expanding in some way , a thought, a colour , a feeling provokes a link to a dream state , although usually always a good feeling or profound, something timeless. Its difficult to explain !
But I think what you are feeling is a deeper part of you wanting to be heard or experienced , and that usually is not a bad thing , as long as its not totally overwhelming.
Let it in to your day and practice , isn’t it a goal to ‘Live our dreams’ ? and add meaning to our lives.
On the other hand how ever this could also be part of a trauma once experienced , and may need counselling or therapy to work through , I am not trained in that , and you may wish to seek professional help.

Either way thank you for sharing this.
Love . Metta
Adrian.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 28, 2011, 8:46 am

Things I wondered, Angela: How long are you meditating, what time of day are you meditating, and what kind of meditation are you doing?

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Comment from angela
Time: December 2, 2011, 12:36 am

Hi, thanks for your response.
When I meditated before I would meditate before bed for between 15 and 30 minutes. I practice mindfulness meditation almost exactly as you have it here on the site. I practiced nearly every night for about six months. It was about four months in that I started having the dreams. I would not say that they were traumatizing, it was just annoying to wake up in the middle of the night. Also, it felt strange to walk around during the day thinking about the dream from last night. When I stopped meditating I stopped having the vivid dreams.
I find that I almost always go into a dream-like state when I meditate. Flashes of dreams always seem to bubble up when I get focused. I am proceeding with the practice again and have been at it for about three weeks now with no issues, so I will continue on and see what happens.

Thanks for helping me out.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 2, 2011, 9:28 am

Hi Angela.

There’s something not quite right if you’re consistently experiencing dream-like states while meditating. Obviously that kind of thing’s going to happen from time to time — we call it the “hindrance of sloth and torpor” — but it shouldn’t be a consistent state. The fact that it is consistent suggests that you’re inadvertently doing something that’s creating that experience.

The most likely causes are postural. You may be sitting too low, or not have your seat at a sharp enough angle, or you may be habitually slumping, or it may be something as simple as holding your head at the wrong angle. I’m assuming you’re not lying down to meditate, which is a posture almost guaranteed to cause dreaminess.

I’d be very happy to take a look at your posture, if you can arrange to email me photographs of you sitting. The best photographs would be full body, taken from the side — preferably in mid-meditation, although that last part isn’t always possible. If you’re tech-savvy, one way to achieve this is to video yourself meditating, and then to capture an image from mid-meditation.

Anyway, it’s good to hear that the problems you previously had haven’t been recurring.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: December 28, 2011, 3:26 am

Hi Bodhipaksa

I am practicing the mindfullness of breathing meditation as described in your website, and I would like to ask something regarding ‘stage 4′.

In ‘stage 4′ I observe the sensations of the breath at my nosetrills. Sometimes, I find it difficult to hold my attention on this relatively small area. Therefore, I tend to ‘extend’ it a bit (I hold my attention on a little bit larger area than the rims of my nosetrills. I include just a few millimeters above and bellow it).

As I do this, I pay attention to the sensations where they first enter my nose (at my nosetrills). (This seems also a bit difficult. Sometimes, I am unable to distinguish these sensations from the ones I feel at other parts inside my nose. Sometimes, I can not detect anything at all. Is this a problem?

Is it all right, if I do the exercise (stage 4) in this way? (Sometimes holding my attention on a little bit larger area than the rims of my nosetrills).

In stage 4, when I reach calmer and deeper states, I often feel certain sensations, like feeling of lightness or expansion. In addition, I feel much less that I am in my phisical body. Therefore, I find it more difficult to locate the parts of my body and hold my attention there. I am only vaguely aware of the position of my nosetrills and I can only ‘approximate’ its position.

Is this normal?

Once more, thanks for answering, and happy New Year.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 29, 2011, 8:58 pm

Hi, Nasdor.

This all sounds fine. You might want to try seeing if you can notice the sensations in each nostril as simultaneous experiences, separated in space. It’s a good test.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 29, 2011, 9:01 pm

I decided to combine your two comments, since the follow-up was posted on a different page…

Those feelings of lightness and expansion are good signs. At that point, where you’re finding it harder to sense the body, you might want to switch to focusing on any emotions of joy or happiness that may be present, or to the sense of spaciousness itself. At this point any sensations from the breathing may be quite peripheral.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: December 30, 2011, 5:41 am

Thanks for the quick reply.

I just have one question left. As I have said, sometimes I find it diffcult to locate the position of my nosetrills exactly.

Therefore, although I try to focus on sensations which occur where the breath first enters/leaves my nose (at the rims of the nosetrills), I still might be aware/focusing on sensations, which are not exactly at my nosetrills (maybe a litlle bit above it).

Is this all right?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 30, 2011, 10:38 am

Yes, that’s fine, Nasdor. Just focus on those sensations that are closest to the rims of the nostrils, and see if you can, over time, move closer in.

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Comment from Mike
Time: February 25, 2012, 4:29 pm

I am benefiting from Buddhism, embracing truth when I find it wherever I find it, no longer defending or trying to understand it.

Thanks for the help on this site from your meditation education.

:) aka borg

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Comment from Jason
Time: March 14, 2012, 2:34 am

Hi, thank you for all the great information on your site. I have recently started this meditation but, I have been having trouble with getting very sleepy and less concentrated as the meditation deepens. Almost as if I was some where between being awake and dreaming. Also after meditation I feel very numb and dull to my external environment. It’s like just waking up from too long of a nap. Do you have any suggestions about this? Thanks!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 14, 2012, 10:22 am

Hi, Jason. This could be due to any number of things, from sleep deprivation, to your posture, to where you’re placing your attention during meditation. I’m afraid it’s really not possible to tell from your description, and without seeing how you sit and without hearing more about what you actually do in meditation.

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Comment from David
Time: July 25, 2012, 2:20 pm

Hello, Id just like to ask you a quick question or two regarding my meditation practice. When I focus on my breath, I’ve noticed that a lot of what I’m focusing on is a mental image of the “flow of my breath” if that makes sense. I can’t really describe what it looks like but it’s a defined image that sort of exists as a loop connecting my inhalation and exhalation. Is there any harm in this? And of so, would you have any suggestions for how to avoid it because this far, it’s been tough to do.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 25, 2012, 4:44 pm

Hi, David.

It doesn’t sound like the approach you’re taking is very helpful. You might want to have a read of this article, and to try putting it into practice.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from nasdor
Time: August 29, 2012, 1:45 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa

I have a question regarding stage 4 of ‘mindfulness of breath’. During the exercise, I hold my attention at the nostrils, andf observe the sensations there. Sometimes, I find it difficult to hold my atention on this relatively small area, and if I try to concentrate too hard to locate its position, I often end up loosing track of the actual sensations caused by the breath. However, I believe that to be aware/observe the actual qualities linked to the breath (the tactile sensations, the duration of the in/out breath, the pause between them,…) is essential. I think, it is more important to to observe these subtle sensations than to be aware of the exact position of my nostrils.

Therefore, I only approximate the position of the nostrils using a mild effort, and do not concentrate too hard to hold my focus there (even if it means that I am only vaguely aware of the exact position of the nostrils). Rather, I focus more on such details: tactile sensations caused by the airflow or the duration of the breath.

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

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 30, 2012, 10:05 am

Hi, Nasdor.

I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean when you talk about “being aware of the exact position of the nostrils.” Do you mean that you’re not able to detect sensations on the rims of the nostrils? Or something else?

But generally, the rims of the nostrils is a good area to focus on. It’s very defined, so you can work on narrowing your field of attention, and the sensations are quite refined compared to most other senstations of the breathing. If you can’t find those sensations, then pay attention to whatever sensations are arising that general area, and see if you can relax into noticing the rims of the nostrils. It is a question of relaxing into noticing those sensations. The sensations are always there, it’s just that when we try too hard our effort sometimes stops us from noticing them.

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Comment from nasdor
Time: August 30, 2012, 11:25 am

Dear Bodhipaksa

Let me explain what I mean when I say that “I find it hard to be aware of the exact position of the nostrills.”

During stage 4 of the breath awareness, I try to hold my attention at my nosetrils, so that I can distinguish the sensations (of the breath) which occur at this small area form those sensations which happen elsewhere (above) in my nose. However, in order to “narrow down” my atention to my nosetrils, I need to be aware of its position. ((( What the later means, I demonstrate with an example: For instance, if you scratch your left toe, in virtue of the resulting sensation, you can easily distinguish it(or “its position”) from the other parts of your left foot: this is what I mean when I say “to be aware of its position”. )))

During stage 4 of the exercise, due to the “smalness” of the area corresponding to my nosetrils, I often find myself concentrating too hard to locate its position, and concentrating too hard to hold my atention there, which prevents me from being aware of the actual sensation caused by the breath.

Therefore, I only approximate the position of the nostrils using a mild effort, and do not concentrate too hard to hold my focus there (even if it means that I am only vaguely aware of the exact position of the nostrils). Rather, I focus more on the actual sensations of the breath: tactile sensations caused by the airflow or the duration of the breath.

Is it all right if I do the exercise thi way?
Thanks once more.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 31, 2012, 10:09 am

I’m afraid I still don’t understand what you’re asking. You say “Rather, I focus more on the actual sensations of the breath: tactile sensations caused by the airflow or the duration of the breath” but I don’t understand what you mean by that “rather.” Noticing the actual sensations of the breath(ing) is what you’re meant to be paying attention to throughout the mindfulness of breathing practice. In the fourth stage we do this at the rims of the nostrils, or as close to them as we can get. So if that’s what you’re doing, then that’s great.

Those sensations are always present. The nerves in that part of the body are continually senting signals to the brain. Noticing these signals results from balanced effort. We need to relax and open up to what is actually present, rather than trying to force our attention. And at the same time we need to make a gentle effort to narrow the field of attention. I find that what works best for me is to gradually narrow my field of attention. At first I’m noticing many sensations of the breathing, and then I focus more on the chest, throat, and head. Then just the head and throat. Then the head. Then the nostrils as a whole. Then the rims of the nostrils. As my attentional field narrows, the sensations in the nostrils are experienced more strongly. I’m just throwing this out there, despite not quite understanding what you’re asking…

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Comment from nasdor
Time: August 31, 2012, 3:31 pm

Sorry for being a bit vague. I’ll try to explain it diferently.

During stage 4, I try (gradually) to narrow down my field of attention to the rims of the nostrils, and keep on holding my attention there, so that I can distinguish the sensations (of the breath) which occur there from the sensations which occur at other parts (above) in my nose. This act of ‘holding my attention at the rims of the nostrils’ (sometimes) requires too much effort, and prevents me from being aware of the sensations themseves.

Therefore, I only use a ‘mild’ effort when holding my attention at the rims of the nostrils, and concentrate more on the sensations themselves.

Because I use only ‘mild’ effort when holding my attention at the rims of the nostrils, sometimes my focus is a bit vague: I might hold my attention on a bit larger area or a bit elsewhere that the rims of the nostrils

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

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 31, 2012, 4:07 pm

Sure, I think that’s pretty much what I said above…

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Comment from kayos
Time: September 11, 2012, 1:11 pm

Greetings bodhipaksa
After a long time away from meditation I’ve taken it up again on a regular basis. It seems that I need that freedom that only meditation can provide me, I guess its time for a life change. I have a couple of question please kindly clarify them for me.

What is the purpose of mind fullness of breath meditation and repeating a mantra meditation? What kind of affect will these meditation have on the mind?

In your opinion what is the difference between transcendental meditation and traditonal mantra meditation?

Finally Is there any problem in meditating too much? I’ve been meditating 15 minutes 3-4 times a day?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 22, 2012, 1:14 pm

Hi, Kayos.

These are rather large questions, and I’m just going to give brief replies.

I think of mantra meditation as being good for calming the mind, and also for developing a devotional connection with the ideal of enlightenment. Mindfulness of breathing can, I believe, take you much further.

I’ve never done TM, so I can’t really compare the experience of TM versus traditional mantra meditation. TM strikes me as being mainly a business built around mantras, however. The mantras they use are also from a Hindu tradition, which may not be important, but I prefer to use Buddhist mantras.

And lastly, 15 minutes, three to four times a day, is not really a lot of meditation to be doing :)

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Comment from Sammy
Time: November 2, 2012, 1:09 am

Hi

As most people seem to write, I a new to meditation but have found this site insightly and extremely helpful. I do, however, sometimes find your comments at odds with site and at times, quite rude and blunt. I would have thought someone who was as exerienced as yourself would have been much gentler in your remonstrations such as your reaction to a person accidentially calling you Kim, or someone writing in text.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 2, 2012, 8:03 am

Hi, Sammy.

I’m glad to hear that you find this site useful. I certainly have “off days” and I’m sure that my communication could be more skillful at times. I try not to be rude, though. When you talk about me being “blunt” and “rude” to someone writing in text, do you mean this?

May I share a pet peeve of having people writing in “txt” when it’s not a text message? Is it really that much extra work to type “you” instead of “u”?

I find it hard to see how this can be read as either rude or blunt, but those things are subjective, I guess.

Anyway, all the best with your practice. I hope you can forgive my poor communication skills.

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Comment from Adrian
Time: November 2, 2012, 8:19 am

Dear Bodhipaksa,

I can 4give u for ur rudeness 2 .if u cn 4give my txt spk ( It a joke ha ha.)

I don’t think you are rude , just direct . dealing with a difficult subject to communicate with the written word. Which can sometimes be taken the wrong way.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 2, 2012, 8:38 am

Oh, I’m sure sometimes I’m rude :)

I found the “Kim” affair, here. I was a bit concerned that I might have said something awful, but again this comment strikes me as direct rather than “rude.” But again, we all read these things differently, and perhaps have a different sense of what’s considered acceptable in communication. Sometimes these differences are cultural.

But electronic communication seems particularly prone to misunderstanding. A study found that “Not only do e-mail senders overestimate their ability to communicate feelings, but e-mail recipients also overestimate their ability to correctly decode those feelings.”

What’s true for email is, I’m sure, true for web comments. So one the one hand I’m sure that I overestimate my ability to be friendly in writing, but on the other it’s likely that at least some people’s decoding of my writing introduces a tone of aggression that wasn’t originally there (at least sometimes!). I’ve noticed that we assume a tone of voice when reading, and depending on what tone of voice we impose on what we’re reading the piece may seem jocular, neutral, or even hostile.

Still, sometimes I’m sure I’m rude :)

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Comment from Max
Time: December 9, 2012, 2:59 pm

Dear Bodhipaksa,

I have a question who is very silly but I am not sure I am doing it correctly. When doing breathing exercise, you say: breath in, breath out, count 1 etc. Should the counting be ‘quick’ and at the very end of the breathing out? I find that I am actually starting counting from the beginning of the exhalation thus producing a long oooooone, twoooooooo, threeeeeeeeeee that goes on during all the exhalation. I am afraid this is not correct and try to say it just at the end but am not sure whether either way is correct or not. Also the number is pronounced only mentally? I find I move slightly my tongue as to pronounce the number.

Many thanks and thank you for your very in-depth website. It is refreshing to find so much information without getting asked for money for once.

Max

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 9, 2012, 9:45 pm

Hi, Max.

You’re welcome for the instructional materials. I just wish I had the resources to do more…

Anyway, what you’re describing is quite common, and it’s not exactly “wrong.” The number technically should be “quick” and in the gap between the out and in breaths, but I see the purpose of the counting as being to focus your attention more on the out-breathing, and counting during the out-breathing does the same thing. The one benefit you’re not getting is giving yourself something to focus on when the breathing isn’t really doing much, and when there’s very little sensation to pay attention to. That’s when the mind is going to start wandering, so placing the number at that point helps stop us from getting distracted as often.

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Pingback from Hit the ground sitting! Day 2 of our 100 Day Meditation Challenge | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation
Time: January 2, 2013, 12:02 am

[...] we have a ton of meditation instruction on this site. Here’s a link to our guide to the mindfulness of breathing practice. This is the most basic form of meditation, where we simply pay attention to the physical [...]

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Comment from Spes
Time: January 20, 2013, 9:24 am

Hello

I have been looking into using meditation to help alliviate my constant depression and self loathing, this is tehy first site I have come accross that explains it in clear easy to understand terms. I have been practicing stage one for about 5 days but can only do more than a minute if a delibrately control the breath is this ok?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 20, 2013, 1:35 pm

Id really recommend not trying to control your breathing. You can trust that your body knows how to breathe (it does it while you’re asleep, right?) and just let it happen. The desire to control the breathing isn’t terribly helpful, especially if it’s coming from a place of anxiety, which is what I suspect. if you find that you’re involuntarily controlling your breathing, then that’s another issue, and you can learn to work with that. But please don’t try to initiate this habit.

One thing about depression and self-loathing is that these are states in which we do not appreciate all the positive things that are going on (such as the fact that we have miraculous bodies and brains that know how to breathe without any conscious intervention). Developing the quality of appreciation and gratitude is a powerful way of training the mind to become more positive. I’d suggest reading this article about gratitude, and perhaps others that you’ll find here, and putting what you read into practice.

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Comment from Spes
Time: January 20, 2013, 1:59 pm

Thank you for your reply and suggestions

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Comment from nasdor
Time: January 30, 2013, 5:53 am

Hi

I would like to ask something concerning mindfulness of the breath exercise.

During stage 4, I observe the sensations at my nose-trills caused by the breath. As far as I know, I should just simply ‘notice’ them without thinking about them or analyzing them. For instance, when I feel something during in-breath, I shouldn’t start to think: “Where was it (the sensation) exactly?” “Was it longer than the last one?,… ((( I believe, even if you don’t begin to think about the experience, you could still ‘be aware of’ / ‘comprehend’ the qualities of the sensations (their position , their length,…))))))

As I know it, during the exercise, one should refrain from thinking the above questions, and just simply/silently notice whatever occurs at the nose-trills.

Am I right?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 30, 2013, 10:37 pm

Hi, Nasdor.

As you observe, there’s a difference between “thinking about” and “analyzing” the sensations. To me “thinking about” them implies that there’s an internal conversation going on with regard to the sensations. You’re basically talking to yourself about what you’re experiencing. And while that can sometimes, and to an extent, be helpful, it’s often going to take us further away from our actual experience. If a thought comes up, then just let it go. If it’s a useful thought — one that takes you deeper into your experience — then by all means act on it.

Analyzing, though, isn’t necessarily a verbal activity. The anapanasati sutta, for examples suggests that we know whether a breath is long or short. Similarly, we can notice whether the breath on the nostrils is long, short, warm, cool, more to the left or right, etc. There’s a kind of enquiry going on, but it’s not necessarily a verbal one. Even animals — presumably non-verbal creatures — have this kind of analysis going on. They’re curious about their surroundings, for example. So yes, as you say, “even if you don’t begin to think about the experience, you could still ‘be aware of’ / ‘comprehend’ the qualities of the sensations.”

If the analysis presents itself as words then, as I suggested in the first paragraph, use the curiosity that lies behind the words but let go of the words themselves, and be wary of them leading into more extended discursive thinking.

By the way, if you’re in a position to help support the kind of support we offer meditators, feel free to make a donation here.

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Comment from sri
Time: February 7, 2013, 9:23 pm

Hi Bodhi,

Thanks a lot for this amazing resource online. I was wondering what you felt about using words along with mindfulness of breath, like what Thich Nhat Hanh suggests. one very beautiful set i came across was radiant (inbreath) peace (outbreath) for me this was what i was working towards a luminacent still quality of mind. Is this helpful in meditation or does it side track the practice. If its helpful are there any particular words you have found to be very useful. Thanks for you kind attention.

peace,
sri.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 8, 2013, 10:34 am

Hi, Sri.

I think using words (as opposed to numbers, although they’re words too!) is fine. I love TNH’s

In, out.
Deep, slow.
Calm, ease.
Smile, release.
Perfect moment, wonderful moment.

I sometimes do this myself and encourage my students to do it — not as a regular practice but as a tool to be called on when needed. It’s very evocative of calm, alertness, and joy.

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Comment from sri
Time: February 8, 2013, 11:41 am

thanks a lot for that bodhi :)
so for the regular practice do you feel that these words might kind of become a distraction & get in the way?

sri

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: February 8, 2013, 11:46 am

Well, silence is good, isn’t it? We need to take a break from thinking, even from the kind of helpful, poetic, evocative thinking represented in that gatha. In the four-stage mindfulness of breathing we abandon the counting after stage two so that we can allow a deeper state of stillness to arise. So I’d say that even the most helpful words and phrases can become a distraction at some point.

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Comment from sri
Time: February 9, 2013, 3:48 am

Hi bodhi,

thanks a lot for that..that was very helpful..
sri

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Comment from Meredith
Time: May 13, 2013, 4:58 pm

There seems to be something a miss with the mp3 on this page. I have tried it on several computers and found issue with it on each. The player is missing entirely most of the time and the one time I was able to see it, it was not functional.

Thank you so much,
Meredith

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 14, 2013, 8:36 am

Yes, we’re having problems with getting media plugins to work.

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Comment from Elizabeth
Time: March 24, 2014, 9:26 pm

Everytime I meditate I yawn a lot,my hands move, and I feel tingly all over. Is this normal? I am a beginner.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 24, 2014, 10:06 pm

None of that is terribly unusual. It’s hard to say why you’re yawning — it could just be that you’re tired, or perhaps there’s something about your posture that’s cramping the free movement of your breathing. With the hands I’d suggest you just let them be still, as best you can. Sometimes movements are involuntary, in which case just notice them moving, and don’t worry about it. A feeling of tingling is a good sign, though, so I’m guessing that on the whole your meditation practice is moving in the right direction.

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Comment from Lorelei
Time: April 21, 2014, 12:20 pm

Hi,

I’ve been meditating for some time now, but at the moment I’m in a difficult place in my life and meditation makes me angry. It’s not like I’m becoming more aware of my emotions, meditation is actually making me more frustrated/restless than I already am. I’ve been trying to “let it go”, to observe my emotions, to send metta to angry and sad parts of me. I know that striving is the problem, but not striving in itself becomes striving for me now. Could you please recommend me something?

Thanks,
Lorelei

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 25, 2014, 6:59 pm

Hi, Lorelei.

Are you just doing mindfulness of breathing, or are you also doing lovingkindness meditation? Lovingkindness can help a lot with frustration, once you’ve found your way into regarding painful feelings with compassion.

Sometimes being more mindful of feelings that arise in the body does lead to increased surges of anger and frustration. It’s as if the attention we’re taking to our feelings magnifies them, and so we’re prone to over-react. In the last few years I’ve given lovingkindness meditation (and the practice of lovingkindness in daily life) a higher profile in my own life in order to counteract that effect. I’d found that a couple of times, to my shame, I’d lost my temper quite badly, and I needed lovingkindess to be a more constant force in my life.

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Comment from Lorelei
Time: April 25, 2014, 9:07 pm

Hi,

Thank you for your answer. Yes, I’ve been doing both LK and MB (one in the morning, one in the evening). After I wrote my comment, I decided to try to do the self-hatred meditation for a little bit before mindful breathing. Trying to be more compassionate of the pain I’m experiencing. It has helped me a lot, actually, like the effort of resisting this pain could now be channeled into mindfulness.

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Comment from Shishir
Time: May 7, 2014, 12:44 pm

Hi,

For a while now i have been meditating just watching my breathing, going in and coming out.
During this, mostly, i find myself unable to feel my breathe even. Its very heavy and i have a difficulty focusing. Here are few doubts i had in my mind, it will be great if you could put some light on it.
1) So if im watching my breathe going in, do i follow it going through my nose, abdomen, stomach, basically till i can(its mostly till my stomach)OR there is a certain path of the breathe i need to follow??
2) Do i forcefully breathe if i loose track of my breathe? Most of the times i do since i am really struggling to even find my breath. If not then how do i go about this because i feel i dont breathe enough:-)
3) if i try to focus on my breath then my mind wanders and wanders. It feels like the breath is running from left to right, never calm. Thats normal distraction to happen right? how do i deal with this?

Thank you for your time
Best
Shishir

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 11, 2014, 10:18 am

Hi, Shishir.

i find myself unable to feel my breath even.

Try noticing the breathing, not the breath. Half of your body (at least) is directly involved in the breathing process, so there’s plenty to notice.

Have you tried listening to any of my guided meditations, like this one? You might find that helpful.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Sam
Time: June 1, 2014, 10:38 pm

I investigated about Buddhism and meditation when I started having these uncontrollable experiences at bedtime on a regular basis right before falling asleep, where I could feel my body go into sleep while my mind was fully awake. As a result, I would enter this state where I felt fully paralyzed and not feeling any senses as if my body was not even there. Then, I would notice a strong sense of vibration throughout the body. Sometimes it would follow by a sensation of floating in the air which was a quite interesting experience. It sure was very frightening at the beginning due to not being able to move or snap out of it at will and hearing whispers which freaked me out the most. Over time, I got used to the sensation and how to deal with it by not paying attention to it.

Is this what you are supposed to experience meditating? If so, I can’t even come close to that sensation while sitting. . At least not yet, after 10 months of daily meditation. I can often induce that experience laying down concentrating for a long time. Problem is, once I enter that state, it usually does not last very long, as I eventually fall asleep. I have not experienced it at night for a while now. Not sure why it stopped all of the sudden. Also, I keep reading how you will feel an enormous sense of joy during mediation. I can’t recall feeling joy during all those experiences.
Is anyone able to comment a bit on all this.
Thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 2, 2014, 10:09 am

Hi Sam.

All kinds of experiences can arise in meditation, including things rather similar to what you’re describing. But they’re not the point of meditation. Meditating isn’t about “getting” experiences, but about changing the way that the mind works. Gradually we’re training the mind to be more present and less reactive to our experience.

Even when the kinds of experience you describe arise in meditation, we just acknowledge them and carry on with the practice.

Joy can certainly arise in meditation, and it’s very welcome when it does. Paradoxically, it’s more likely to arise in the relaxed state of mind in which we’re not focused on experiencing joy than it is in the slightly anxious and grasping state in which we want to be happy.

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Comment from Sam
Time: June 2, 2014, 12:05 pm

Thank you for the response. So let me see if I understood this correctly . When meditating, one should just establish one pointed concentration at all times and let the concentration deepen as far as it can. Am I supposed to do anything once in deep meditation? Should I just observe the sensation without labeling it? Or should I contemplate with certain thoughts/ideas since the relaxed mind is capable of understanding the truth better?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 2, 2014, 12:22 pm

I don’t know enough about what’s going on in your meditation to be able to say anything very specific. There is a process of deepening, but that process can be rather different depending on which states are arising, and that’s where I don’t know enough about what you’re experiencing. In general, though, I’d suggest just “hanging out” with whatever state arises, and letting it naturally progress to deeper levels. Trying to push on willfully can be very unhelpful.

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Comment from Rodolfo
Time: June 21, 2014, 2:15 pm

Its a problema just trying to notice the fisic sensations of breath in the nose, without the counting thing?

PS – Sorry for my english.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 23, 2014, 10:45 pm

It’s not a problem at all. The counting is just a tool. You can use it or not, depending on whether you find it helpful.

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