your mind is wild and agitated, you can often re-establish
mindfulness with a few quick deep breaths. Pull the
air in strongly and let it out the same way. This increases
the sensation inside the nostrils and makes it easier
to focus. Make a strong act of will and apply some force
to your attention. Concentration can be forced into
growth, remember, so you will probably find your full
attention settling nicely back on the breath.
the breaths as they pass is a highly traditional procedure.
Some schools of practice teach this activity as their
primary tactic. Vipassana uses it as an auxiliary technique
for re-establishing mindfulness and for strengthening
concentration. As we discussed in Chapter 5, you can
count breaths in a number of different ways. Remember
to keep your attention on the breath. You will probably
notice a change after you have done your counting. The
breath slows down, or it becomes very light and refined.
This is a physiological signal that concentration has
become well-established. At this point, the breath is
usually so light or so fast and gentle that you can't
clearly distinguish the inhalation from the exhalation.
They seem to blend into each other. You can then count
both of them as a single cycle. Continue your counting
process, but only up to a count of five, covering the
same five-breath sequence, then start over. When counting
becomes a bother, go on to the next step. Drop the numbers
and forget about the concepts of inhalation and exhalation.
Just dive right in to the pure sensation of breathing.
Inhalation blends into exhalation. One breath blends
into the next in a never ending cycle of pure, smooth
The In-Out Method
is an alternative to counting, and it functions in much
the same manner. Just direct your attention to the breath
and mentally tag each cycle with the words "Inhalation...
exhalation" or 'In... out." Continue the process
until you no longer need these concepts, and then throw
Canceling One Thought With Another
thoughts just won't go away. We humans are obsessional
beings. It's one of our biggest problems. We tend to
lock onto things like sexual fantasies and worries and
ambitions. We feed those though complexes over the years
of time and give them plenty of exercise by playing
with them in every spare moment. Then when we sit down
to meditate, we order them to go away and leave us alone.
It is scarcely surprising that they don't obey. Persistent
thoughts like these require a direct approach, a full-scale
psychology has developed a distinct system of classification.
Rather than dividing thoughts into classes like 'good'
or 'bad', Buddhist thinkers prefer to regard them as
'skillful' versus 'unskillful'. An unskillful thought
is one connected with greed, hatred, or delusion. These
are the thoughts that the mind most easily builds into
obsessions. They are unskillful in the sense that they
lead you away from the goal of Liberation. Skillful
thoughts, on the other hand, are those connected with
generosity, compassion, and wisdom. They are skillful
in the sense that they may be used as specific remedies
for unskillful thoughts, and thus can assist you toward
cannot condition Liberation. It is not a state built
out of thoughts. Nor can you condition the personal
qualities which Liberation produces. Thoughts of benevolence
can produce a semblance of benevolence, but it's not
the real item. It will break down under pressure. Thoughts
of compassion produce only superficial compassion. Therefore,
these skillful thoughts will not, in themselves, free
you from the trap. They are skillful only if applied
as antidotes to the poison of unskillful thoughts. Thoughts
of generosity can temporarily cancel greed. They kick
it under the rug long enough for mindfulness to do its
work unhindered. Then, when mindfulness has penetrated
to the roots of the ego process, greed evaporates and
true generosity arises.
principle can be used on a day to day basis in your
own meditation. If a particular sort of obsession is
troubling you, you can cancel it out by generating its
opposite. Here is an example: If you absolutely hate
Charlie, and his scowling face keeps popping into your
mind, try directing a stream of love and friendliness
toward Charlie. You probably will get rid of the immediate
mental image. Then you can get on with the job of meditation.
this tactic alone doesn't work. The obsession is simply
too strong. In this case you've got to weaken its hold
on you somewhat before you can successfully balance
it out. Here is where guilt, one of man's most misbegotten
emotions, finally becomes of some use. Take a good strong
look at the emotional response you are trying to get
rid of. Actually ponder it. See how it makes you feel.
Look at what it is doing to your life, your happiness,
your health, and your relationships. Try to see how
it makes you appear to others. Look at the way it is
hindering your progress toward Liberation. The Pali
scriptures urge you to do this very thoroughly indeed.
They advise you to work up the same sense of disgust
and humiliation that you would feel if you were forced
to walk around with the carcass of a dead and decaying
animal tied around your neck. Real loathing is what
you are after. This step may end the problem all by
itself. If it doesn't, then balance out the lingering
remainder of the obsession by once again generating
its opposite emotion.
of greed cover everything connected with desire, from
outright avarice for material gain, all the way down
to a subtle need to be respected as a moral person.
Thoughts of hatred run the gamut from petty peevishness
to murderous rage. Delusion covers everything from daydreaming
through actual hallucinations. Generosity cancels greed.
Benevolence and compassion cancel hatred. You can find
a specific antidote for any troubling thought if you
just think about it a while.
Recalling Your Purpose
are times when things pop into your mind, apparently
at random. Words, phrases, or whole sentences jump up
out of the unconscious for no discernible reason. Objects
appear. Pictures flash on and off. This is an unsettling
experience. Your mind feels like a flag flapping in
a stiff wind. It washes back and forth like waves in
the ocean. At times like this it is often enough just
to remember why you are there. You can say to yourself,
"I'm not sitting here just to waste my time with these
thoughts. I'm here to focus my mind on the breath, which
is universal and common to all living beings". Sometimes
your mind will settle down, even before you complete
this recitation. Other times you may have to repeat
it several times before you refocus on the breath.
techniques can be used singly, or in combinations. Properly
employed, they constitute quite an effective arsenal
for your battle against the monkey mind.