These are my notes from studying the end of Chapter 7 in Joseph Goldstein’s book “Mindfulness.” They are the second half of Mindfulness of Breathing.
In the Satipatthana sutta, there is a series of progressive instructions regarding the breath, which is the first of the contemplations on the body.
Why mindfulness of breathing is so good and universal:
- It is always present
- It is suitable for any personality type
- It leads to both deep concentration and penetrative insight
- It is the antidote to distraction and discursive thoughts
- It is a stabilizing factor at the time of death.
Balancing our practice between trying and relaxing, noticing the skillful means
- If the mind is wandering a lot or sleepy then having the mind rush toward the object (the breath), capturing the object forcefully, and penetrating it deeply
- If the mind is over-efforting and tight then, a more receptive mode with an attitude of listening or receiving the breath
- We can adjust our attitude according to our circumstance in the moment and the goal of staying on the path, attentive and concentrated.
Breathing in, I experience the Whole Body
One trains thus: “I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body,” one trains thus, “I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body.” One trains thus: “I shall breathe in calming the bodily formations,” one trains thus: “I shall breathe out calming the bodily formations.”
These two interpretations can again be used skillfully
- If you are too controlling of the breath, zeroing in on it may not be helpful, maybe better to emphasize the larger context of the body.
- If you are spaced out, or lost in a wandering mind, narrowing the focus to just the stream of sensations of the breath could be more helpful.
Calming the formations with each breath
- Calming the body and stopping our inclinations to move
- Calming the breath and allowing it to become more tranquil
Bhikkhus, if wanderers of other sects ask you: “In what dwelling, friends, did the Blessed One generally dwell during the rains residence?” – being asked thus, you should answer those wanderers thus: “During the rains residence, friends, the Blessed One generally dwelt in the concentration by mindfulness of breathing.”…
“If anyone, Bhikkhus, speaking rightly could say of anything: “It is a noble dwelling, a divine dwelling, the Tathagata’s dwelling, it is of concentration by mindfulness of breathing that one could rightly say this.