The word ānāpānasati is a compound of three technical terms: ānā means in-breathing, āpāna means out-breathing, sati means awareness or mindfulness. Awareness of inhalation and exhalation is regarded as the main and initial practice for the development
of concentration or the jhānic absorptions. It is claimed that the technique greatly helped not only the present Buddha Gotama, but
all Buddhas preceding him, in winning supreme enlightenment. Mindfulness of breathing may, therefore, be regarded as the original subject of meditation in the Theravāda tradition. Unlike other meditation subjects, it is suitable for the development of both absorption (jhāna), and insight (vipassanā). Furthermore, it is beneficial in two ways. In the first place, it is used in combination with other practices as an indispensable means of obtaining calmness of body and mind; and it can also be used as an independent subject specially recommended for those whose minds are imaginative or continually disturbed by sensory emotions. Again, it is most
effective in ensuring a pure and healthy body and the clarity of mind which is the indispensable foundation for developing concentration and insight.
The Method of Meditation
When one is practising for the development of concentration, it is best to choose a quiet, deserted place and sit down crossed legged, keeping the body upright but not stiff. Breathe normally, concentrating on where the breath passes in and out at the tip of the nose or strikes the area just beneath the nostrils. When the breath is a long one, be aware of the long breath in; breathing out long, be aware of the long breath out; breathing in short, be aware of the short breath in, and so on. One notes unwaveringly simply what is there at the moment. The meditator concentrates, noting precisely the whole breath as it comes and goes through the tip of the nostrils. As the breath grows calmer, note that too. Just as a skillful carpenter's attention is kept at the cutting edge of his saw, so the meditator should develop his own skills of observation on a particular area.
If the meditator has a problem keeping his or her mind on the breathing, then there are several methods which can help to develop concentration. Counting the breaths is a good method for beginners not accustomed to concentrate the mind on one point. Be aware of in-breath and out-breath as one whole breath, counting only at the end of the process, then count one
to five; start again, counting one to six, then one to seven, one to eight, one to nine, one to ten. If you lose count somewhere in the middle, then you must start again from the beginning until you have achieved an unbroken series. If you count less than five whole breaths, then the mind grows restless, whereas if you count more than ten, you will begin to dwell on the numbers rather than on the breath. After one or two repetitions of this, the concentration should be stronger and you can go back
to simply noting the breaths.
Another recommended method is to follow the breath process.
In this practice one should be aware of the three stages of breathing: the start, the middle and the end. The meditator
has to give full attention to the nostrils, aware of the variations in sensation at each stage. Alternatively, the awareness is fixed on the nostril at the beginning stage of breathing in, on the chest area at the middle stage and the navel area at the end; when breathing out, reverse the process with awareness on the navel at the start, the chest in the middle and the nostril at the end.
The meditator may eventually see some kind of sign, shape or form connected with the breath, or some colour or luminosity. If one is concentrating on the primary object of respiration or the sign of the preparatory object, this is called the application of the mind to the object of mindfulness. One can see the breath as vividly in the mind as if one were seeing it with one's open eyes. This visualized object or acquired sign is the learning sign already discussed. When you are concentrating on the acquired sign, keep on meditating with uninterrupted attention. When the meditator reaches the level of access concentration, the acquired sign becomes clear and steady…
If the aim of meditation is to achieve insight, then one must concentrate on the touch feelings of the breath as a means of realizing
the nature of impermanence.
Dr.Rewata Dhamma Sayado: from the book Emptying the Rose-Apple Seat
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