Development of mindfulness through the breath contemplation
At first sight this practice is devoid of attractiveness: it doesn't involve inspiring or impressive visualizations, mantras and mudras, there is no need to enact rituals or chants. Nevertheless, it is very effective in purifying mind from three poisons or defilements: greed, hatred and delusion. Being simple on the surface this practice develops the main qualities that lead to Liberation: mindfulness, peacefulness of mind, clarity and insight. If you are skilled at this practice, other Dharma practices become understandable for you.
Before getting down to this one you should remember some rules:
- Keep your back unstrained but straight. A centroidal axis should go along the straight line from the crown to perineum. A main weight must go just to perineum but not buttocks, otherwise you will stoop, your back will get tired and legs will become numb.
- You can sit not only in a posture of lotus, but also in Burmese posture, on a stool-seydza or on the ordinary chair.
- If you are too excited and your thoughts rush like a stream, contemplate with your eyes closed until your mind becomes stable. Then you should meditate with your eyes half-opened. Your look is relaxed and inward; your eyes are looking down as if you were looking on the floor 1-2 meters from you.
- Make 30-60 minutes contemplation sessions and small warm-up for your spine, neck and legs after each session.
- If you have an opportunity to do only one or two half an hour or hour sessions per day, make all the contemplation cycle at once, spending about 5 minutes for each stage. If you have an opportunity to have 10 days enclosure that is called retreat, do four sessions from 30 to 60 minutes each one per day choosing only one stage in consecutive order.
- Do three or more deep long inhales and exhales at the end of each contemplation in order to bring back your mind and body to the outer world.
You should contemplate in the next order:
- Feel your body. Start from gradual relaxation of the muscles of your face; try to sensify their softness and enervation. Spread this attention more and more, relaxing your neck, shoulders, back, belly and so on. Then feel the peace and immobility of your posture, its strength and firmness.
- Sensify light and peaceful "smile of Buddha" in the centre of your chest. It will unwind your tense mind and remove the blocks in your body allowing your energy flow freely and your meditation unfold without obstructions.
- Direct your attention at the air touch sensation to your nostrils when you are inhaling and exhaling. Just observe these sensations without imagining or regulating your breath some way. Gradually, try to feel the smallest shades of this sensation, but you should do it gently, softly and without tension. Keep in mind that subtlety but not power is important at contemplation.
- Start to follow the movement of air inside your body deeper and deeper. First, it can be only nasopharynx, then your throat and chest and then you will be able to feel the sense of movement spreading up to your underbelly. Don't be in a hurry. It is better to feel distinctly the breath in your throat then to dream it up in your belly.
- And now get deeper into your sensations. Watch the smallest changes in all your body when you are inhaling and exhaling. It can be the sense of widening and squeezing, or barely noticeable vibration, or something else. Don't think it up and don't visualize it, just watch these sensations.
- If you work previous stages well enough, your mind become quite calm. That is why you can start to contemplate how you breathe in the peace and fill your belly, chest, throat and head with it with every inhale, and exhaling fill all your body with this peace, spreading it about every corner, percolate through each muscle, organ and joint of your body with it.
- Now direct your attention to your mind itself. Inhale the peace and when you are exhaling, fill your mind with this peace. Observe as your mind is becoming filled with it, composed of it, dissolved in it. If thoughts arise, don't pronounce or think of them; just fill them with the peace too, dissolve them in peace. In this way you will develop Serenity of mind that is called Samatha.
- Look inside the peace you are resting in. How is it changing when you inhale and exhale? Observe these changes.
- Direct your attention to your attention itself, get deeper and deeper, asking meaningless question from time to time: "Who is looking now?" Get plunged into the depth of your own attention, just like stone plunges into the abysmal ocean. Deeper and deeper. In this way you will gain spiritual Insight that is called Vipassana.
- Your thoughts and body has disappeared. There is no-one who perceives and there is no-one that is perceived. There is only clean perception - mirror without images in it. Just stay in this state, joining Serenity and Insight in it.