we mindfully watch our bodily sensations, we should
not confuse them with mental formations, for bodily
sensations can arise without anything to do with the
mind. For instance, we sit comfortably. After a while,
there can arise some uncomfortable feeling on our back
or in our legs. Our mind immediately experiences that
discomfort and forms numerous thoughts around the feeling.
At that point, without trying to confuse the feeling
with the mental formations, we should isolate the feeling
as feeling and watch it mindfully. Feeling is one of
the seven universal mental factors. The other six are
contact, perception, mental formations, concentration,
life force, and awareness.
another time, we may have a certain emotion such as,
resentment, fear, or lust. Then we should watch the
emotion exactly as it is without trying to confuse it
with anything else. When we bundle our form, feeling,
perceptions, mental formations and consciousness up
into one and try to watch all of them as feeling, we
get confused, as we will not be able to see the source
of feeling. If we simply dwell upon the feeling alone,
ignoring other mental factors, our realization of truth
becomes very difficult. We want to gain the insight
into the experience of impermanence to over come our
resentment; our deeper knowledge of unhappiness overcomes
our greed which causes our unhappiness; our realization
of selflessness overcomes ignorance arising from the
notion of self. We should see the mind and body separately
first. Having comprehended them separately, we should
see their essential interconnectedness. As our insight
becomes sharp, we become more and more aware of the
fact that all the aggregates are cooperating to work
together. None can exist without the other. We can see
the real meaning of the famous metaphor of the blind
man who has a healthy body to walk and the disabled
person who has very good eyes to see. Neither of them
alone can do much for himself. But when the disabled
person climbs on the shoulders of the blind man, together
they can travel and achieve their goals easily. Similarly,
the body alone can do nothing for itself. It is like
a log unable to move or do anything by itself except
to become a subject of impermanence, decay and death.
The mind itself can do nothing without the support of
the body. When we mindfully watch both body and mind,
we can see how many wonderful things they do together.
long as we are sitting in one place we may gain some
degree of mindfulness. Going to a retreat and spending
several days or several months watching our feelings,
perceptions, countless thoughts and various states of
consciousness may make us eventually calm and peaceful.
Normally we do not have that much time to spend in one
place meditating all the time. Therefore, we should
find a way to apply our mindfulness to our daily life
in order for us to be able to handle daily unforeseeable
eventualities. What we face every day is unpredictable.
Things happen due to multiple causes and conditions,
as we are living in a conditional and impermanent world.
Mindfulness is our emergency kit, readily available
at our service at any time. When we face a situation
where we feel indignation, if we mindfully investigate
our own mind, we will discover bitter truths in ourselves.
That is we are selfish; we are egocentric; we are attached
to our ego; we hold on to our opinions; we think we
are right and everybody else is wrong; we are prejudices;
we are biased; and at the bottom of all of this, we
do not really love ourselves. This discovery, though
bitter, is a most rewarding experience. And in the long
run, this discovery delivers us from deeply rooted psychological
and spiritual suffering.
practice is the practice of one hundred percent honesty
with ourselves. When we watch our own mind and body,
we notice certain things that are unpleasant to realize.
As we do not like them, we try to reject them. What
are the things we do not like? We do not like to detach
ourselves from loved ones or to live with unloved ones.
We include not only people, places and material things
into our likes and dislikes, but opinions, ideas, beliefs
and decisions as well. We do not like what naturally
happens to us. We do not like, for instance, growing
old, becoming sick, becoming weak or showing our age,
for we have a great desire to preserve our appearance.
We do not like someone pointing out our faults, for
we take great pride in ourselves. We do not like someone
to be wiser than we are, for we are deluded about ourselves.
These are but a few examples of our personal experience
of greed, hatred and ignorance.
greed, hatred and ignorance reveal themselves in our
daily lives, we use our mindfulness to track them down
and comprehend their roots. The root of each of these
mental states in within ourselves. If we do not, for
instance, have the root of hatred, nobody can make us
angry, for it is the root of our anger that reacts to
somebody's actions or words or behavior. If we are mindful,
we will diligently use our wisdom to look into our own
mind. If we do not have hatred in us we will not be
concerned when someone points out our shortcomings.
Rather, we will be thankful to the person who draws
our attention to our faults. We have to be extremely
wise and mindful to thank the person who explicates
our faults so we will be able to tread the upward path
toward improving ourselves. We all have blind spots.
The other person is our mirror for us to see our faults
with wisdom. We should consider the person who shows
our shortcomings as one who excavates a hidden treasure
in us that we were unaware of. It is by knowing the
existence of our deficiencies that we can improve ourselves.
Improving ourselves is the unswerving path to the perfection
which is our goal in life. Only by overcoming weaknesses
can we cultivate noble qualities hidden deep down in
our subconscious mind. Before we try to surmount our
defects, we should what they are.
we are sick, we must find out the cause of our sickness.
Only then can we get treatment. If we pretend that we
do not have sickness even though we are suffering, we
will never get treatment. Similarly, if we think that
we don't have these faults, we will never clear our
spiritual path. If we are blind to our own flaws, we
need someone to point them out to us. When they point
out our faults, we should be grateful to them like the
Venerable Sariputta, who said: "Even if a seven-year-old
novice monk points out my mistakes, I will accept them
with utmost respect for him." Ven. Sariputta was an
Arahant who was one hundred percent mindful and had
no fault in him. But since he did not have any pride,
he was able to maintain this position. Although we are
not Arahants, we should determine to emulate his example,
for our goal in life also is to attain what he attained.
course the person pointing out our mistakes himself
may not be totally free from defects, but he can see
our problems as we can see his faults, which he does
not notice until we point them out to him.
pointing out shortcomings and responding to them should
be done mindfully. If someone becomes unmindful in indicating
faults and uses unkind and harsh language, he might
do more harm than good to himself as well as to the
person whose shortcomings he points out. One who speaks
with resentment cannot be mindful and is unable to express
himself clearly. One who feels hurt while listening
to harsh language may lose his mindfulness and not hear
what the other person is really saying. We should speak
mindfully and listen mindfully to be benefitted by talking
and listening. When we listen and talk mindfully, our
minds are free from greed, selfishness, hatred and delusion.
meditators, we all must have a goal, for if we do not
have a goal, we will simply be groping in the dark blindly
following somebody's instructions on meditation. There
must certainly be a goal for whatever we do consciously
and willingly. It is not the Vipassana meditator's goal
to become enlightened before other people or to have
more power or to make more profit than others, for mindfulness
meditators are not in competition with each other.
goal is to reach the perfection of all the noble and
wholesome qualities latent in our subconscious mind.
This goal has five elements to it: Purification of mind,
overcoming sorrow and lamentation, overcoming pain and
grief, treading the right path leading to attainment
of eternal peace, and attaining happiness by following
that path. Keeping this fivefold goal in mind, we can
advance with hope and confidence to reach the goal.
you sit, do not change the position again until the
end of the time you determined at the beginning. Suppose
you change your original position because it is uncomfortable,
and assume another position. What happens after a while
is that the new position becomes uncomfortable. Then
you want another and after a while, it too becomes uncomfortable.
So you may go on shifting, moving, changing one position
to another the whole time you are on your mediation
cushion and you may not gain a deep and meaningful level
of concentration. Therefore, do not change your original
position, no matter how painful it is.
avoid changing your position, determine at the beginning
of meditation how long you are going to meditate. If
you have never meditated before, sit motionless not
longer than twenty minutes. As you repeat your practice,
you can increase your sitting time. The length of sitting
depends on how much time you have for sitting meditation
practice and how long you can sit without excruciating
should not have a time schedule to attain the goal,
for our attainment depends on how we progress in our
practice based on our understanding and development
of our spiritual faculties. We must work diligently
and mindfully towards the goal without setting any particular
time schedule to reach it. When we are ready, we get
there. All we have to do is to prepare ourselves for
sitting motionless, close your eyes. Our mind is analogous
to a cup of muddy water. The longer you keep a cup of
muddy water still, the more mud settles down and the
water will be seen clearly. Similarly, if you keep quiet
without moving you body, focusing your entire undivided
attention on the subject of your meditation, your mind
settles down and begins to experience the bliss of meditation.
prepare for this attainment, we should keep our mind
in the present moment. The present moment is changing
so fast that the casual observer does not seem to notice
its existence at all. Every moment is a moment of events
and no moment passes by without noticing events taking
place in that moment. Therefore, the moment we try to
pay bare attention to is the present moment. Our mind
goes through a series of events like a series of pictures
passing through a projector. Some of these pictures
are coming from our past experiences and others are
our imaginations of things that we plan to do in the
mind can never be focused without a mental object. Therefore
we must give our mind an object which is readily available
every present moment. What is present every moment is
our breath. The mind does not have to make a great effort
to find the breath, for every moment the breath is flowing
in and out through our nostrils. As our practice of
insight meditation is taking place every waking moment,
our mind finds it very easy to focus itself on the breath,
for it is more conspicuous and constant than any other
sitting in the manner explained earlier and having shared
your loving-kindness with everybody, take three deep
breaths. After taking three deep breaths, breathe normally,
letting your breath flow in and out freely, effortlessly
and begin focusing your attention on the rims of your
nostrils. Simply notice the feeling of breath going
in and out. When one inhalation is complete and before
exhaling begins, there is a brief pause. Notice it and
notice the beginning of exhaling. When the exhalation
is complete, there is another brief pause before inhaling
begins. Notice this brief pause, too. This means that
there are two brief pauses of breath--one at the end
of inhaling, and the other at the end of exhaling. The
two pauses occur in such a brief moment you may not
be aware of their occurrence. But when you are mindful,
you can notice them.
not verbalize or conceptualize anything. Simply notice
the in-coming and out-going breath without saying, "I
breathe in", or "I breathe out." When you focus your
attention on the breath ignore any thought, memory,
sound, smell, taste, etc., and focus your attention
exclusively on the breath, nothing else.
the beginning, both the inhalations and exhalations
are short because the body and mind are not calm and
relaxed. Notice the feeling of that short inhaling and
short exhaling as they occur without saying "short inhaling"
or "short exhaling". As you remain noticing the felling
of short inhaling and short exhaling, your body and
mind become relatively calm. Then your breath becomes
long. Notice the feeling of that long breath as it is
without saying "Long breath". Then notice the entire
breathing process from the beginning to the end. Subsequently
the breath becomes subtle, and the mind and body become
calmer than before. Notice this calm and peaceful feeling
of your breathing.
To Do When the Mind Wanders Away?
spite of your concerted effort to keep the mind on your
breathing, the mind may wander away. It may go to past
experiences and suddenly you may find yourself remembering
places you've visited, people you met, friends not seen
for a long time, a book you read long ago, the taste
of food you ate yesterday, and so on. As soon as you
notice that you mind is no longer on your breath, mindfully
bring it back to it and anchor it there. However, in
a few moments you may be caught up again thinking how
to pay your bills, to make a telephone call to you friend,
write a letter to someone, do your laundry, buy your
groceries, go to a party, plan your next vacation, and
so forth. As soon as you notice that your mind is not
on your subject, bring it back mindfully. Following
are some suggestions to help you gain the concentration
necessary for the practice of mindfulness.
a situation like this, counting may help. The purpose
of counting is simply to focus the mind on the breath.
Once you mind is focused on the breath, give up counting.
This is a device for gaining concentration. There are
numerous ways of counting. Any counting should be done
mentally. Do not make any sound when you count. Following
are some of the ways of counting.
While breathing in count "one, one, one, one..." until
the lungs are full of fresh air. While breathing out
count "two, two, two, two..." until the lungs are
empty of fresh air. Then while breathing in again
count "three, three, three, three..." until the lungs
are full again and while breathing out count again
"four, four, four, four..." until the lungs are empty
of fresh air. Count up to ten and repeat as many times
as necessary to keep the mind focused on the breath.
The second method of counting is counting rapidly
up to ten. While counting "one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten" breathe in
and again while counting "one, two, three, four, five,
six, seven, eight, nine and ten" breathe out. This
means in one inhaling you should count up to ten and
in one exhaling you should count up to ten. Repeat
this way of counting as many times as necessary to
focus the mind on the breath.
The third method of counting is to counting secession
up to ten. At this time count "one, two, three, four,
five" (only up to five) while inhaling and then count
"one, two, three, four, five, six" (up to six) while
exhaling. Again count "one, two, three, four fire,
six seven" (only up to seven) while inhaling. Then
count "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight"
while exhaling. Count up to nine while inhaling and
count up to ten while exhaling. Repeat this way of
counting as many times as necessary to focus the mind
on the breath.
The fourth method is to take a long breath. When the
lungs are full, mentally count "one" and breath out
completely until the lungs are empty of fresh air.
Then count mentally "two". Take a long breath again
and count "three" and breath completely out as before.
When the lungs are empty of fresh air, count mentally
"four". Count your breath in this manner up to ten.
Then count backward from ten to one. Count again from
one to ten and then ten to one.
The fifth method is to join inhaling and exhaling.
When the lungs are empty of fresh air, count mentally
"one". This time you should count both inhalation
and exhalation as one. Again inhale, exhale, and mentally
count "two". This way of counting should be done only
up to five and repeated from five to one. Repeat this
method until you breathing becomes refined and quiet.
that you are not supposed to continue your counting
all the time. As soon as your mind is locked at the
nostrils-tip where the inhaling breath and exhaling
breath touch and begin to feel that you breathing is
so refined and quiet that you cannot notice inhalation
and exhalation separately, you should give up counting.
Counting is used only to train the mind to concentrate
on one point.
inhaling do not wait to notice the brief pause before
exhaling but connect the inhaling and exhaling, so you
can notice both inhaling and exhaling as one continuous
joining inhaling and exhaling, fix your mind on the
point where you feel you inhaling and exhaling breath
touching. Inhale and exhale as on single breath moving
in and out touching or rubbing the rims of your nostrils.
Focus you mind like a carpenter
carpenter draws a straight line on a board and that
he wants to cut. Then he cuts the board with his handsaw
along the straight line he drew. He does not look at
the teeth of his saw as they move in and out of the
board. Rather he focuses his entire attention on the
line he drew so he can cut the board straight. Similarly
keep your mind straight on the point where you feel
the breath at the rims of your nostrils.
Make you mind like a gate-keeper
gate-keeper does not take into account any detail of
the people entering a house. All he does is notice people
entering the house and leaving the house through the
gate. Similarly, when you concentrate you should not
take into account any detail of your experiences. Simply
notice the feeling of your inhaling and exhaling breath
as it goes in and out right at the rims of your nostrils.
you continue your practice you mind and body becomes
so light that you may feel as if you are floating in
the air or on water. You may even feel that your body
is springing up into the sky. When the grossness of
your in-and-out breathing has ceased, subtle in-and-out
breathing arises. This very subtle breath is your objective
focus of the mind. This is the sign of concentration.
This first appearance of a sign-object will be replaced
by more and more subtle sign-object. This subtlety of
the sign can be compared to the sound of a bell. When
a bell is struck with a big iron rod, you hear a gross
sound at first. As the sound faces away, the sound becomes
very subtle. Similarly the in-and-out breath appears
at first as a gross sign. As you keep paying bare attention
to it, this sign becomes very subtle. But the consciousness
remains totally focused on the rims of the nostrils.
Other meditation objects become clearer and clearer,
as the sign develops. But the breath becomes subtler
and subtler as the sign develops. Because of this subtlety,
you may not notice the presence of your breath. Don't
get disappointed thinking that you lost your breath
or that nothing is happening to your meditation practice.
Don't worry. Be mindful and determined to bring your
feeling of breath back to the rims of your nostrils.
This is the time you should practice more vigorously,
balancing your energy, faith, mindfulness, concentration
there is a farmer who uses buffaloes for plowing his
rice field. As he is tired in the middle of the day,
he unfastens his buffaloes and takes a rest under the
cool shade of a tree. When he wakes up, he does not
find his animals. He does not worry, but simply walks
to the water place where all the animals gather for
drinking in the hot mid-day and he finds his buffaloes
there. Without any problem he brings them back and ties
them to the yoke again and starts plowing his field.
as you continue this exercise, your breath becomes so
subtle and refined that you might not be able to notice
the feeling of breath at all. When this happens, do
not worry. It has not disappeared. It is still where
it was before-right at the nostril-tips. Take a few
quick breaths and you will notice the feeling of breathing
again. Continue to pay bare attention to the feeling
of the touch of breath at the rims of your nostrils.
you keep your mind focused on the rims of your nostrils,
you will be able to notice the sign of the development
of meditation. You will feel the pleasant sensation
of sign. Different meditators feel this differently.
It will be like a star, or a peg made of heartwood,
or a long string, or a wreath of flowers, or a puff
of smoke, or a cob-web, or a film of cloud, or a lotus
flower, or the disc of the moon or the disc of the sun.
in your practice you had inhaling and exhaling as objects
of meditation. Now you have the sign as the third object
of meditation. When you focus your mind on this third
object, your mind reaches a stage of concentration sufficient
for your practice of insight meditation. This sign is
strongly present at the rims of the nostrils. Master
it and gain full control of it so that whenever you
want, it should be available. Unite the mind with this
sign which is available in the present moment and let
the mind flow with every succeeding moment. As you pay
bare attention to it, you will see the sign itself is
changing every moment. Keep your mind with the changing
moments. Also notice that your mind can be concentrated
only on the present moment. This unity of the mind with
the present moment is called momentary concentration.
As moments are incessantly passing away one after another,
the mind keeps pace with them. Changing with them, appearing
and disappearing with them without clinging to any of
them. If we try to stop the mind at one moment, we end
up in frustration because the mind cannot be held fast.
It must keep up with what is happening in the new moment.
As the present moment can be found any moment, every
waking moment can be made a concentrated moment.
unite the mind with the present moment, we must find
something happening in that moment. However, you cannot
focus your mind on every changing moment without a certain
degree of concentration to keep pace with the moment.
Once you gain this degree of concentration, you can
use it for focusing your attention on anything you experience--the
rising and falling of your abdomen, the rising and falling
of the chest area, the rising and falling of any feeling,
or the rising and falling of your breath or thoughts
and so on.
make any progress in insight meditation you need this
kind of momentary concentration. That is all you need
for the insight meditation practice because everything
in your experience lives only for one moment. When you
focus this concentrated state of mind on the changes
taking place in your mind and body, you will notice
that your breath is the physical part and the feeling
of breath, consciousness of the feeling and the consciousness
of the sign are the mental parts. As you notice them
you can notice that they are changing all the time.
You may have various types of sensations, other than
the feeling of breathing, taking place in your body.
Watch them all over your body. Don't try to create any
feeling which is not naturally present in any part of
your body. When thought arises notice it, too. All you
should notice in all these occurrences is the impermanent,
unsatisfactory and selfless nature of all your experiences
whether mental or physical.
your mindfulness develops, your resentment for the change,
your dislike for the unpleasant experiences, your greet
for the pleasant experiences and the notion of self
hood will be replaced by the deeper insight of impermanence,
unsatisfactoriness and selflessness. This knowledge
of reality in your experience helps you to foster a
more calm, peaceful and mature attitude towards your
life. You will see what you thought in the past to be
permanent is changing with such an inconceivable rapidity
that even your mind cannot keep up with these changes.
Somehow you will be able to notice many of the changes.
You will see the subtlety of impermanence and the subtlety
of selflessness. This insight will show you the way
to peace, happiness and give you the wisdom to handle
your daily problems in life.
the mind is united with the breath flowing all the time,
we will naturally be able to focus the mind on the present
moment. We can notice the feeling arising from contact
of breath with the rim of our nostrils. As the earth
element of the air that we breathe in and out touches
the earth element of our nostrils, the mind feels the
flow of air in and out. The warm feeling arises at the
nostrils or any other part of the body from the contact
of the heat element generated by the breathing process.
The feeling of impermanence of breath arises when the
earth element of flowing breath touches the nostrils.
Although the water element is present in the breath,
the mind cannot feel it.
we feel the expansion and contraction of our lungs,
abdomen and low abdomen, as the fresh air is pumped
in and out of the lungs. The expansion and contraction
of the abdomen, lower abdomen and chest are parts of
the universal rhythm. Everything in the universe has
the same rhythm of expansion and contraction just like
our breath and body. All of them are rising and falling.
However, our primary concern is the rising and falling
phenomena of the breath and minute parts of our minds
with the inhaling breath, we experience a small degree
of calmness. This little degree of tension-free calmness
turns into tension if we don't breathe out in a few
moments. As we breathe out this tension is released.
After breathing out, we experience discomfort if we
wait too long before having fresh brought in again.
This means that every time our lings are full we must
breathe out and every time our lungs are empty we must
breathe in. As we breathe in, we experience a small
degree of calmness, and as we breathe out, we experience
a small degree of calmness. We desire calmness and relief
of tension and do not like the tension and feeling resulting
from the lack of breath. We wish that the calmness would
stay longer and the tension disappear more quickly that
it normally does. But neither will the tension go away
as fast as we wish not the calmness stay as long as
we wish. And again we get agitated or irritated, for
we desire the calmness to return and stay longer and
the tension to go away quickly and not to return again.
Here we see how even a small degree of desire for permanency
in an impermanent situation causes pain or unhappiness.
Since there is no self-entity to control this situation,
we will become more disappointed.
if we watch our breathing without desiring calmness
and without resenting tension arising from the breathing
in and out, but experience only the impermanence, the
unsatisfactoriness and selflessness of our breath, our
mind becomes peaceful and calm.
the mind does not stay all the time with the feeling
of breath. It goes to sounds, memories, emotions, perceptions,
consciousness and mental formations as well. When we
experience these states, we should forget about the
feeling of breath and immediately focus our attention
on these states--one at a time, not all of them at one
time. As they fade away, we let our mind return to the
breath which is the home base the mind can return to
from quick or long journey to various states of mind
and body. We must remember that all these mental journeys
are made within the mind itself.
time the mind returns to the breath, it comes back with
a deeper insight into impermanence, unsatisfactoriness
and selflessness. The mind becomes more insightful from
the impartial and unbiased watching of these occurrences.
The mind gains insight into the fact that this body,
these feelings, various states of consciousness and
numerous mental formations are to be used only for the
purpose of gaining deeper insight into the reality of
this mind/body complex.