Another short Dharma talk on how to stay focused with breath meditation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Trying to stay focused on one thing for the rest of the hour. You don’t even have to focus on, but our talk. If there’s anything relevant on what you’re doing, it’ll come right in and you’ll notice it and you’ll hear it. If it’s not relevant, what you’re doing is a distraction. Just let it go. It may be useful for somebody out, sort of maybe useful for the person giving the talk, but you don’t have to focus your attention outside. Just keep it on the sensation of the breath. When you breathe in, or you’re breathing in, or you breathe out, or you’re breathing out, notice where in the body you have a sensation to tell you. Now, you’re breathing in. Now, you’re breathing out. And notice how the sensations feel. Do they stay comfortable all the way through the in breath, all the way through the out? If there’s some stress or strain at the end of the in breath or the end of the out, the ___ is too long. So it has to be a little bit shorter. Or the in-breath doesn’t feel satisfied. You might want to try it to be a little bit longer. See how the rhythm of the breath affects your sense of the body. And see also how your conception of the breath affects your sensation of the body. If you feel that you have to pull a breath in, you really have to fight to pull it in. That’s really unnecessary, because the breath’s going to come in and go out on its own without you having to fight, but it’s much better for the body if you don’t fight. What this means is that you’re trying to force it in a way that it doesn’t naturally go. So just try it yourself. Whichever direction of the breath is going to come in and out of the body. Wherever it’s going to come in and out of the body. Let it do its own thing. The only thing you’re going to do is to keep track of the sensations, and allow those sensations to be comfortable, because the more comfortable they are, the easier it is to stay with the breath, which is what you’re trying to do here—to get the mind to settle down in the present moment with the sense of ease, with a sense of belonging.
For several reasons one that is simply good for the mind to have is a sense of belonging right here, because if you don’t belong in the present moment, you’re always going to be running around in the past, running around in the future, and the mind can’t settle down as the mind is going to work itself out. So, it’s healing for the mind to simply be able to stay here with this comfortable sensation of the breathing. Whatever thoughts come to the mind, you don’t have to pay them any attention. What you’re only doing is to stay right here and allow this process of being with the sensation of comfortable breathing to heal both the body and the mind.
The other reason why we do this is because, only when the mind is in the present moment can it see what it’s doing. We spend most of our day looking at our thoughts, forgetting into our thoughts. We rarely really look at the process of how our thought forms, because that’s the only way you can get around. And skillful thinking, any kind of thinking that creates suffering is to look at the process. And you see how ___ the whole thing is, how arbitrary it is. All the make-believe that the mind does messages it sends back and forth. Say, we’ll make believe this and that’s that. And all of a sudden, you’ve got a thought of some other place. It’s like a press in the control button on a computer keyboard. All of a sudden, the letters of the alphabet means something else. And __ anymore, it’s just save. To say ___, it’s a copy, because you got that key pressed, which is same as the mind. What would be ordinarily is a sensation of the body and a sensation of the breath, some suddenly becomes a thought of some other place, some other time, some other people. Then those kind of thoughts can—we call kinds of havoc in the mind. Much you move into them. It’s like moving into another world and then finding out whether it’s a good world or not.
A lot of times, it’s too late. Once you’re there, then you’re in there. And then you’re stuck, and then it can get very entangling. So this is how you unentangle yourself from the worlds of the mind. Just by watching the process by which those words are created. And when you see the process, you get the ___ begin to be able to use and simply wonder if it’s useful, to drop them, or not. When after all, if something is going to be useless or actually harmful, why create it? The reason we create it is, because we don’t realize we’re creating it. It seems to just be there. Pops up in the mind on its own accord. Because the process of creation is an underground process. It’s out of sight and therefore, it’s out of our awareness. What we’re doing is to meditate to bring the mind into the present moment is to put it into the position where it can see the process of thought creation.
Bring them up into the light of day. So even though it may seem simple, this process of just staying with the breath, staying with the breath, coming back to the breath when the mind wanders off, trying to be as sensitive as possible to the whole breath in and the whole breath out without there being any gaps. It’s a simple process, but it’s an important one. It’s a really basic skill for the survival of the man.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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