“Meditation allows us to be free from these bonds of unease and fear.”
We practice stopping and observing in order to arrive at liberation, freedom from being bound. Bound to what? First of all, to falling into forgetfulness, to losing our mindfulness. We live as if we are in a dream. We are dragged into the past and pulled into the future. We are bound by our:
“Liberation” here means transforming and transcending these conditions in order to be fully awake, at ease and in peace, joyfully and freshly.
When we live in this way, our life is worth living, and we become a source of joy to our family and to everyone around us. Buddhism often refers to “emancipation,” i.e., going beyond and leaving birth and death behind. We feel threatened by death. How much unease and fear have been brought about by the fear of death! Meditation allows us to be free from these bonds of unease and fear.
Following are seven methods for putting the Anapanasati Sutta into practice. They are offered in a simple way, in accord with the spirit of the sutra. Please use whatever methods suit you in your present situation, and practice them first. Although the sixteen exercises of practicing Full Awareness of the Breath are intimately connected to one another, the order in which they are given in the sutra is not necessarily a progression from easy to difficult.
Every exercise is as wonderful as every other, as easy and as difficult as every other one. We can, however, say that the preliminary instructions place greater importance on “stopping,” and the later ones place more importance on “looking deeply,” although, of course, stopping and looking deeply cannot exist separately from one another. If there is stopping, looking deeply is already present, more or less; and if there is looking deeply, there is a natural stopping. The subjects for full awareness suggested below can be divided into seven categories:
1. Following the breath in daily life—eliminating for-getfulness and unnecessary thinking (EXERCISES 1-2)
2. Awareness of the body (EXERCISES 3)
3. Realizing the unity of body and mind (EXERCISES 4)
4. Nourishing ourselves with the joy and happiness of meditation (EXERCISES 5-6)
5. Observing our feelings (EXERCISES 7-8)
6. Caring for and liberating the mind (EXERCISES 9-12)
7. Looking deeply in order to shed light on the true na¬ture of all dharmas (EXERCISES 13-16).
Laypersons as well as monks and nuns must know how to practice both the first subject (following the breath in daily life) and the fourth (nourishing ourselves with the joy of meditation).
Every time we practice sitting meditation, we should always begin with these two subjects. Only after that should we go into the other subjects. Every time we notice our state of mind becoming agitated, dispersed, or ill-at¬ease, we should practice the fifth subject (observing in order to shine light on our feelings). The seventh subject is the door that opens onto liberation from birth and death, and all those of great understanding have to pass through this door.
FULL MEDIATION PRACTICE
1. “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” (In, Out)
2. “Breathing in, my breath goes deep. Breathing out, my breath goes slow.” (Deep, Slow)
3. “Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.” (Aware of my body, Calming my body)
4. “Breathing in, I know I am alive. Breathing out, I feel the joy of being alive.” (Alive, Joy of being alive)
5. “Breathing in, I know I have the opportunity to medi tate. Breathing out, I feel happy to have that opportunity.” (Opportunity to meditate, Happy)
6. “Breathing in, I am embracing my unpleasant feeling. Breathing out, I am calming my feeling.” (Embracing my feeling, Calming my feeling)
7. “Breathing in, I am aware of right mindfulness in me. Breathing out, it makes me happy.” (Wholesome mental for mation, I am happy)
8. “Breathing in, I concentrate on a mental formation which is present. Breathing out, I look deeply at that mental formation.” (Concentrate on mental formation, Look deeply at it)
9. “Breathing in, I open up my mind to look deeply at my fear. Breathing out, there is liberation from fear.” (Opening up my mind, Liberation)
10. io. “Breathing in, I observe a flower. Breathing out, I con template the impermanence of the flower.” (Observing a flow er, Contemplating its impermanence)
11. “Breathing in, I look deeply at the object of my desire. Breathing out, I see the disappearance of desire with regard to that object.” (Object of desire, Disappearance of desire)
12. “Breathing in, I observe the coming and going of the wave. Breathing out, I contemplate the no-coming, no-going of the water.” (Coming and going of the wave, No-coming, no-go ing of the water)
13. “Breathing in, I let go of the idea that this body is me. Breathing out, I am not caught in this body.” (This body not me, I am not caught in this body)
14. “Breathing in, I let go of the idea that I did not exist before I was born. Breathing out, I let go of the idea that I will not exist after I die.” (I am not born, I do not die)
2,3- In the second exercise, do not force your breathing to be come deeper or slower. This is an exercise of mere recognition. Your breath has actually become deeper and slower as the result of practicing the first exercise. In the third exercise, because of your awareness of your body, you will know how calm it is and you will know what bodily factors need calming.
4,5- In the fourth and fifth exercises, you do not want to repeat the words “joy” and “happy” without giving them a content. Here we have chosen the fact that you are alive and the fact that you have the chance to meditate as being occa sions for your happiness, but you can find other reasons for joy and happiness and substitute them in this exercise. The first five breathing exercises are intended to calm, stop, focus, concentrate, and nourish us. Without these elements in your sitting meditation practice, you will tire of sitting. Only when you feel happy can you have concentration. You can not achieve concentration by forcing yourself to concentrate.
6,7- Methods seven and eight in the Anapanasati Sutta become one breathing exercise here, number six. You are aware of an unpleasant feeling or a pleasant feeling that has the capacity to poison or excite you, and you calm these feelings. In the seventh exercise, your mind feels happy because you know that in your consciousness is the capacity to realize whole some mental formations. The capacity to be mindful, caring, and loving is within everyone. The first seven exercises here cover the first ten methods of the Anapanasati Sutta, and they are to nourish and to calm.
8,9 – In exercise eight, you concentrate your mind on a mental formation. It could be wholesome, unwholesome, or neutral. When you concentrate, you have to concentrate on something; and when you are liberated, you have to be liberated from something. It is not fruitful to repeat the words “concentration” and “liberation” without there being an object for your concentration. When you concentrate and look deeply at a mental formation, you can see why it is there, and that understanding will help you be liberated from it. To open up your mind and liberate your mind in exercise nine, you need to have developed concentration in exercise eight. Exercises eight and nine are an opportunity for us to look at the mental formations that make us suffer.
10- In exercise ten, you can observe any phenomenon: your self, another person, or an object in order to contemplate impermanence. Here we have chosen to observe a flower. Buddhist monks and nuns meditate every day on the impermanence of their own person.
11- In exercise eleven, you should meditate on a specific object of desire. It can be a person or a thing. If a person has become the object of your desire, it can be unpleasant for them if they feel they are losing their freedom. This exercise can help you not be caught in wanting to possess or dominate others. Desire disappears when you see that the true nature of the object you desire is impermanent, has no separate self, and cannot be grasped. If you are not satisfied with what is available in the present moment, you will never be satisfied by attaining what you think will bring you happiness in the future.
12- In exercise twelve, you contemplate the cessation of ideas concerning birth and death, coming and going, high and low, using the images of water and wave to help you.
13- In exercise thirteen, you contemplate that this body is not you, and that these feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness are not you either. The vegetation, the air, and the water are constantly contributing to this body. Feelings and perceptions are dependent on your education, your ancestry, your friends, your teacher and your upbringing. Consciousness is a vast field containing all the seeds with constant output and constant input.
14- In exercise fourteen, you have to see very clearly the reason for not being born and for not dying. Your so-called birthday was not the day you began to exist. You were in your parents before that, and prior to that in a line of ancestors. After death, you will continue in the clouds and in the dust that is part of the Earth, and in the descendants of your blood family and in your spiritual heirs.
source- Breathe! You are Alive. by Thich Nhat Hanh