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Attention and Objectivity

Now we are going to investigate who and what we really are. As has already been explained, the word vipassanā means ‘insight’

in the sense of seeing things as they really are. In order to gain proficiency in the practice of Insight meditation it is essential for you to strengthen your powers of awareness and concentration. To this end you need to exercise precise and objective awareness of the sensation of the breath. When trying to do this exercise you need not be aware of the incoming and outgoing breath itself but only the actual sensation. Just as the carpenter that we mentioned the other day pays no attention to the to-and-fro of the saw, but is careful to keep his eyes fixed on the place where the teeth of the saw cuts the wood, so in this way must you keep your mind's eye focused on the precise place where the breath touches. It is of no importance where that takes place because your present task is simply to keep watching the sensation itself. Do not be concerned if you do not feel one part of the breath cycle, continue to watch the feelings you are experiencing attentively and objectively.

After twenty or twenty-five minutes of practice, provided your concentration and awareness is sufficiently strong, you will become aware of other feelings around the nostrils and elsewhere in the body. Whether they are gross or subtle, painful or pleasant, just be aware of whatever is occurring. Initially you may not be able to manage this, because most of the time there is such a profusion of feelings and sense objects arising and passing away that they are difficult to distinguish. It may happen that some thought arises connected with a feeling, or you may think that certain feelings are good or bad. If this is the case, then what you will need to do is

to concentrate exclusively on the main object of meditation. Whenever any other feeling arises in the body or in the mind, just be aware

of that feeling or that object. Do not dwell on any of them and do not name them, but return you attention immediately to the touch-feeling of the breath. Also, if you hear a sound, just be aware of hearing, do not think about the sound. Likewise, with the other senses and with thoughts, just be aware of them at the precise moment they arise.

Should you experience emotional feelings such as fear, sadness, anger, joy or happiness, just allow them with objective awareness

for a moment. It is important that meditators cultivate bare awareness of what they experience but neither react to it negatively or positively, nor reject it. At this stage the main aim of the practice is to be mindful and accept whatever feelings arise and refrain

from judging them. Objective and precise awareness is very important in this practice and is the key to its mastery.

The Three Phases of the Breath

You will have realized by now that meditation is not an easy task to perfect after just two days of practice. Even though you are only trying

to keep your attention fixed on the breath as it flows in and out of the nostrils, your mind keeps wandering. This happens because you have

yet to perfect the ability to concentrate from moment to moment.

Despite your effort to watch the breath constantly, there is a lapse in

your attention and you quickly lose track of the breath as it comes in

and goes out. This happens because there is a gap in the process of breathing. When you breathe in you are aware of the in-breath very quickly, very promptly, but as you wait for the out-breath to come there

is a gap between the two phases of the breath and you are aware of that gap. This is the point at which the mind is inclined to stray. What you need to do in this case is to keep watching each in-breath and out-breath in three phases, the beginning, the middle and the end. As you do this, breathe normally and naturally, do not alter the rate at which you breathe. When you breathe in, be mindful of the three phases of the in-breath, its beginning, middle and end, and maintain full awareness until the out-breath starts. As you breathe out, be aware of the three phases of the out-breath and maintain your awareness until the next in-breath starts. If you do not let your attention lapse during the interval between, then your mind will not stray.

Should the mind begin to wander, or if any thoughts arise, be sure to give your bare attention to the three phases of both the in-and-out breaths. If you experience any sensations of pain, pressure or pleasure, heat or tingling anywhere in the body, or anything else, do not pay any attention to them but continue giving your full attention to the breathing process. If you suffer great discomfort whilst sitting then you may change your position, but do so slowly and mindfully and be careful not to disturb others. Do not change your position frequently. Try to maintain awareness of the entire process of breathing and always focus your attention on the nostrils. If you are disturbed by stray thoughts or anything else, do not worry or feel disappointed for that will distract you. You should think, ‘It is the nature of the mind to wander but my task is to keep the mind on the entire breath process at the nostrils and to bring the attention back gently whenever it strays.’ If you practise with great effort and resolve then you will find your ability to concentrate will improve and your understanding of the mind will deepen.

Dr.Rewata Dhamma Sayado: from the book Emptying the Rose-Apple Seat

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