Methawee Bhikkhu, Guest Columnist, Daily Press, Virginia: The Buddha said, “There is no meditation without wisdom, no wisdom without meditation. One who has both wisdom and meditation is close to peace and emancipation.”
Meditation requires concentration. There are 40 techniques, or exercises, in concentration training. One technique is the mindfulness of breathing.
This technique is a very convenient practice because everyone has to breathe in and out. It can be used anytime and anywhere, as long as one is constantly aware of the process.
Here’s a brief explanation of the mindfulness of breathing exercise:
Find a quiet place to sit that is conducive to peace. It is helpful to have the right atmosphere. But even if this is not possible, it can still be performed.
Find any posture that enables the body to relax and that is the most comfortable for a long period of sitting. One must be able to breathe easily.
The best posture is cross-legged or sitting upright with the right leg on top of the left one. Hands should be on the lap, with the right hand on top of the left, thumbs touching, or the right forefinger touching the left thumb.
If this is not possible, one can sit upright in a chair or take any other comfortable posture. However, if the sitting brings any tension, it will not be the right practice and it should be corrected before continuation.
Eyes can be opened or closed as long as you are not distracted. One should look downcast with the opened eyes or fix the gaze on the tip of the nose.
After sitting comfortably, one should take deep, long breaths to fill the lungs, breathing out slowly each time. At the same time, try to develop the feeling that the body is not solid and the head is light until the mind is reasonably peaceful. Then, breathe normally but with an awareness of the in-and-out breathing.
When breathing in and out deeply, be aware of one breath in and one breath out deeply. When breathing in and out shallowly, be aware of the one breath in and out shallowly. Do not control the breaths, but be mindful of them.
For a beginner, counting the breaths will help to control the mind and stop wandering thoughts. If the mind is very restless, start to count the breathing in pairs — In-Out 1, In-Out 2 — up to 10 breaths. Or try to fix one’s attention at the tip on the nose, where the breath touches, or on the upper lip without following the movement of the breath through the body.
There are many benefits to meditation.
Meditation gives us a clear mind and clear comprehension to carry out our duties in daily life in a peaceful way, without conflict in the family, at school or in the work place. Meditation helps us to maintain physical health and mental clarity with equanimity.
Meditation enables us to face all kinds of problems and difficulties in our daily life with confidence. It teaches us to adjust ourselves to bear with the numerous obstacles encountered in life and in the changing modern world.
Meditation helps to conquer mental defilements that pollute the mind. If you practice meditation, you will learn to behave like a true human being even when you are upset or disturbed by others.
Meditation helps us cultivate loving kindness, compassion, inner peace, sympathetic joy and equanimity. It prevents us from attaching ourselves to hatred, greed, craving, selfishness, jealousy and all unwholesome or negative thoughts as well as moderating excessive and extreme positive mental states.
Methawee Bhikkhu is a missionary monk from Thailand who is part of Wat Pasantidhamma Buddhist temple in Carrollton.