|HOW TO BREATHE, Continued:
2 | 3
IF YOU EVER SAWED WOOD you already know the trick. As a carpenter, you don’t stand there watching the saw blade going up and down. You will get dizzy. You fix your attention on the spot where the teeth of the blade dig into the wood. It is the only way you can saw a straight line. As a meditator, you focus your attention on that single spot of sensation inside the nose. From this vantage point, you watch the entire movement of breath with clear and collected attention.
Make no attempt to control the breath. This is not a breathing exercise
of the sort done in Yoga. Focus on the natural and spontaneous movement of
the breath. Don’t try to regulate it or emphasize it in any way. Most
beginners have some trouble in this area. In order to help themselves
focus on the sensation, they unconsciously accentuate their breathing. The
result is a forced and unnatural effort that actually inhibits
concentration rather than helping it. Don’t increase the depth of your
breath or its sound. This latter point is especially important in group
meditation. Loud breathing can be a real annoyance to those around you.
Just let the breath move naturally, as if you were asleep. Let go and
allow the process to go along at its own rhythm.
WHEN YOU FIRST BEGIN this
procedure, expect to face some difficulties. Your mind will wander off
constantly, darting around like a drunken bumblebee and zooming off on
wild tangents. Try not to worry. The monkey-mind phenomenon is well known.
It is something that every advanced meditator has had to deal with. They
have pushed through it one way or another, and so can you. When it
happens, just note the fact that you have been thinking, daydreaming,
worrying, or whatever. Gently, but firmly, without getting upset or
judging yourself for straying, simply return to the simple physical
sensation of the breath. Then do it again the next time, and again, and
again, and again.
You are also no crazier than everybody else around you. The only real
difference is that you have confronted the situation; they have not. So
they still feel relatively comfortable. That does not mean that they are
better off. Ignorance may be bliss, but it does not lead to liberation. So
don’t let this realization unsettle you. It is a milestone actually, a
sign of real progress. The very fact that you have looked at the problem
straight in the eye means that you are on your way up and out of
This excerpt from “Mindfulness in Plain English,” Wisdom Publications, 1992. Order the 191-page book from the Bhavana Society, Rt. 1, Box 218-3, High View, W.Va. 26808. Call (304) 856-3241 or e-mai:l firstname.lastname@example.org. Or get it from from Wisdom at (617) 536-3358 or write 361 Newbury Street, Boston, Mass., 02115.