THERE ARE SEVEN BASIC
1. Start out
with three or seven long in-and-out breaths, thinking bud- with the
in-breath, and dho with the out. Keep the meditation syllable as
long as the breath.
2. Be clearly
aware of each in-and-out breath.
3. Observe the
breath as it goes in and out, noticing whether it's comfortable or
uncomfortable, broad or narrow, obstructed or free-flowing, fast or
slow, short or long, warm or cool. If the breath doesn't feel
comfortable, adjust it until it does. For instance, if breathing in
long and out long is uncomfortable, try breathing in short and out
As soon as you
find that your breathing feels comfortable, let this comfortable
breath sensation spread to the different parts of the body. To begin
with, inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull and let
it flow all the way down the spine. Then, if you are male, let if
spread down your right leg to the sole of your foot, to the ends of
your toes, and out into the air. Inhale the breath sensation at the
base of the skull again and let it spread down your spine, down your
left leg to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. (If you are
female, begin with the left side first, because the male and female
nervous systems are different.)
Then let the
breath from the base of the skull spread down over both shoulders,
past your elbows and wrists, to the tips of your fingers, and out
into the air.
Let the breath
at the base of the throat spread down the central nerve at the front
of the body, past the lungs and liver, all the way down to the
bladder and colon.
breath right at the middle of the chest and let it go all the way
down to your intestines.
Let all these
breath sensations spread so that they connect and flow together, and
you'll feel a greatly improved sense of well-being.
4. Learn four
ways of adjusting the breath:
a. in long and out
b. in long and out short,
c. in short and out long,
d. in short and out short.
whichever way is most comfortable for you. Or, better yet, learn to
breathe comfortably all four ways, because your physical condition
and your breath are always changing.
acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind—the resting
spots of the breath—and center your awareness on whichever one seems
most comfortable. A few of these bases are:
a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f.the navel (or a point just above it).
If you suffer
from frequent headaches or nervous problems, don't focus on any spot
above the base of the throat. And don't try to force the breath or
put yourself into a trance. Breathe freely and naturally. Let the
mind be at ease with the breath—but not to the point where it slips
6. Spread your
awareness—your sense of conscious feeling—throughout the entire
7. Unite the
breath sensations throughout the body, letting them flow together
comfortably, keeping your awareness as broad as possible. Once
you're fully aware of the aspects of the breath you already know in
your body, you'll come to know all sorts of other aspects as well.
The breath, by its nature, has many facets: breath sensations
flowing in the nerves, those flowing around and about the nerves,
those spreading from the nerves to every pore. Beneficial breath
sensations and harmful ones are mixed together by their very nature.
(a) for the sake of improving the energy already existing in every
part of your body, so that you can contend with such things as
disease and pain; and (b) for the sake of clarifying the knowledge
already within you, so that it can become a basis for the skills
leading to release and purity of heart—you should always bear these
seven steps in mind, because they are absolutely basic to every
aspect of breath meditation. When you've mastered them, you will
have cut a main road. As for the side roads—the incidentals of
breath meditation—there are plenty of them, but they aren't really
important. You'll be perfectly safe if you stick to these seven
steps and practice them as much as possible.
Here is another view of this
same meditation presented by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey
Sit comfortably erect, without leaning forward or back, left
or right. Close your eyes and think thoughts of good will. Thoughts
of good will go first to yourself, because if you cant think good
will for yourself—if you can't feel a sincere desire for your own
happiness— there's no way you can truly wish for the happiness of
others. So just tell yourself, "May I find true happiness." Remind
yourself that true happiness is something that comes from within, so
this is not a selfish desire. In fact, if you find and develop the
resources for happiness within you, you're able to radiate it out to
other people. It's a happiness that doesn't depend on taking away
anything from anyone else.
So now spread good will to
other people. First, people who are close to your heart—your family,
your parents, your very close friends: May they find true happiness,
as well. Then spread those thoughts out in ever widening circles:
people you know well, people you don't know so well, people you
like, people you know and are neutral about, and even people you
don't like. Don't let there be any limitations on your good will,
for if there are, there will be limitations on your mind. Now spread
thoughts of good will to people you don't even know—and not just
people; all living beings of all kinds in all directions: east,
west, north, south, above, and below, out to infinity. May they find
true happiness, too.
Then bring your thoughts back
to the present. If you want true happiness, you have to find it in
the present, for the past is gone and the future is an uncertainty.
So you have to dig down into the present. What do you have right
here? You've got the body, sitting here and breathing. And you've
got the mind, thinking and aware. So bring all these things
together. Think about the breath and then be aware of the breath as
it comes in and goes out. Keeping your thoughts directed to the
breath: that's mindfulness. Being aware of the breath as it comes in
and out: that's alertness. Keep those two aspects of the mind
together. If you want, you can use a meditation word to strengthen
Try "Buddho," which means
"awake." Think "bud-" with the in-breath, "dho" with the out. Try to
breathe as comfortably as possible. A very concrete way of learning
how to provide for your own happiness in the immediate present—and
at the same time, strengthening your alertness—is to let yourself
breathe in a way that's comfortable. Experiment to see what kind of
breathing feels best for the body right now. It might be long
breathing, short breathing; in long, out short; or in short, out
long. Heavy or light, fast or slow, shallow or deep. Once you find a
rhythm that feels comfortable, stay with it for a while. Learn to
savor the sensation of the breathing. Generally speaking, the
smoother the texture of the breath, the better. Think of the breath,
not simply as the air coming in and out of the lungs, but as the
entire energy flow that courses through the body with each
in-and-out breath. Be sensitive to the texture of that energy flow.
You may find that the body changes after a while. One rhythm or
texture may feel right for a while, and then something else will
feel more comfortable. Learn how to listen and respond to what the
body is telling you right now. What kind of breath energy does it
need? How can you best provide for that need? If you feel tired, try
to breathe in a way that energizes the body. If you feel tense, try
to breathe in a way that's relaxing.
If your mind wanders off,
gently bring it right back. If it wanders off ten times, a hundred
times, bring it back ten times, a hundred times. Don't give in. This
quality is called ardency. In other words, as soon as you realize
that the mind has slipped away, you bring it right back. You don't
spend time aimlessly sniffing at the flowers, looking at the sky, or
listeriing to the birds. You've got work to do: work in learning how
to breathe comfortably, how to let the mind settle down in a good
space here in the present moment.
When the breath starts feeling
comfortable, you can start exploring it in other areas of the body.
If you simply stay with the comfortable breath in a narrow range,
you'll tend to doze off. So consciously expand your awareness. A
good place to focus first is right around the navel. Locate that
part of the body in your awareness: where is it right now? Then
notice: how does it feel there as you breathe in? How does it feel
when you breathe out? Watch it for a couple of breaths, and notice
if there's any sense of tension or tightness in that part of the
body, either with the in-breath or with the out-breath. Is it
tensing up as you breathe in? Are you holding onto the tension as
you breathe out? Are you putting too much force on the out-breath?
If you catch yourself doing any of these things, just relax. Think
of that tension dissolving away in the sensation of the in-breath,
the sensation of the out-breath. If you want, you can think of the
breath energy coming into the body right there at the navel, working
through any tension or tightness that you might feel there....
Then move your awareness to
the right—to the lower right-hand corner of your abdomen—and follow
the same three steps there; 1) locate that general part of the body
in your awareness; 2) notice how it feels as you breathe in, how it
feels as you breathe out; and 3) if you sense any tension or
tightness in the breath, just let it relax ... Now move your
awareness to the''left, to the lower left-hand corner of your
abdomen, and follow the same three steps there.
Now move your awareness up to
the solar plexus .... and then to the right, to the right Hank ....
to the left flank .... to the middle of the chest .... After a while
move up to the base of the throat ... and then to the middle of the
head. Be very careful with the breath energy in the head. Think of
it very gently coming in, not only through the nose but also through
the eyes, the ears, down from the top of the head, in from the back
of the neck, very gently working through and loosening up any
tension you may feel, say, around your jaws, the back of your neck,
around your eyes, or around your face ....
From there you can move your
attention gradually down the back, out the legs, to the tips of the
toes, the spaces between the toes. As before, focus on a particular
part of the body, notice how it feels with the in-breath and
out-breath, relax any sensation of tension or tightness you might
feel there, so that the breath energy can How more freely, and then
move on until youve reached the tips of the toes. Then repeat the
process, beginning at the back of the neck and going down the
shoulders, through the arms, past your wrists, and out through your
You can repeat this survey of
the body as many times as you like until the mind feels ready to
Then let your attention return
to any spot in the body where it feels most naturally settled and
centered. Simply let your attention rest there, at one with the
breath. At the same time let the range of your awareness spread out
so that it fills the entire body, like the light of a candle in the
middle of a room: the candle flame is in one spot, but its light
fills the entire room. Or like a spider on a web: the spiders in one
spot, but it knows the whole web. Be keen on maintaining that
broadened sense of awareness. You'll find that it tends to shrink,
like a balloon with a small hole in it, so keep broadening its
range, thinking "whole body, whole body, breath in the whole body,
from the top of the head down into the tips of the toes." Think of
the breath energy coming in and out of the body through every pore.
Make a point of staying with this centered, broadened awareness as
long as you can. There's nothing else you have to think about right
now, nowhere else to go, nothing else to do. Just stay with this
centered, broadened awareness of the present ....
When the time comes to leave
meditation, remind yourself that there's a skill to leaving. In
other words, you dont just jump right out. My teacher, Ajaan Fuang,
once said that when most people meditate, it's as if they're
climbing a ladder up to the second story of a building;
step-by-step-by-step, rung-by-rung, slowly up the ladder. But as
soon as they get to the second story, they jump out the window.
Don't let yourself be that way. Think of how much effort went into
getting the mind centered. Don't throw it away.
The first step in leaving is
to spread thoughts of good will once more to all the people around
you. Then, before you open your eyes, remind yourself that even
though you're going to have your eyes open, you want your atten-
tion to stay centered in the body, at the 'breath. Try to maintain
that center as long as you can, as you get up, walk around, talk,
listen, whatever. In other words, the skill of leaving meditation
lies in learning how not to leave it, regardless of whatever else
you may be doing. Act from that sense of being centered. If you can
keep the mind centered in this way, you'll have a standard against
which you can measure its movements, its reactions to the events
around it and within it. Only when you have a solid center like this
can you gain insight into the movements of the mind.