The Practice of Wakefulness

After significantly lessening the coarse afflictions caused by wrong speech, wrong action, and wrong livelihood, and greatly reducing disturbances in one's life by practicing guarding the sense doors, and practicing moderation in eating, one is ready for the next stage in the gradual training, the practice of wakefulness.

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And what is more to be done?

We will be devoted to wakefulness, during the day, walking back and forth and sitting, we will purify our minds of unwholesome states.

In the first watch of the night, walking back and forth and sitting, we will purify our minds of unwholesome states.

In the middle watch of the night, we will lie down on the right side in the lions pose, placing foot on foot, mindful and fully aware, setting our minds to waking up.

In the last watch of the night, upon rising, walking back and forth and sitting, we will purify our minds of obstructive states. Thus should you train yourselves.

MN39


What is the practice of wakefulness?

The practice of wakefulness involves freeing oneself from mental obstructions, intentions and thoughts that manifest because of deeply seated restlessness, from past, ingrained, unwholesome behaviours.

Everyone who is not liberated is afflicted by past Karma, which manifests as restlessness. Karma, in simple terms, is the volition or momentum created by past likes, dislikes, and intentions. When one judges or labels something as either "good" or "bad," an intention is created in the mind to obtain or avoid it in the future, which then propagates into desires, views, states of mind, and habits regarding how one should live, act, and get happiness from the world.

The more these likes, dislikes, and intentions are reinforced, the more power or momentum they generate behind them, and the more our desires, views, states of mind, and habits become ingrained in our behaviour.

This Karmic momentum, unfulfilled wants, intentions, and dreams causes restlessness in the mind. It also reinforces the wrong view that to obtain happiness, one must chase after sensual pleasures, states of being, and engage with the world based on ingrained views of how our life should, and should not be. This desire for how life should, or should not be, causes stress and suffering.

The underlying cause of restlessness is ignorance, not understanding that lasting satisfaction cannot be obtained by chasing sensual pleasures or states of being. Ignorance is not seeing that the chasing of sensual pleasures and states of being, instead of bringing happiness, are actually the cause of stress and suffering in one's life.

The mind doesn't realize that it is the release of built-up stress, the letting go of trying to fulfill desires, that results in happyness. It is not the fulfillment of the desires themselves, which in reality, will only result in additional stress sometime in the future.

In other words, any judgments we make, any intentions we create, and any wholesome or unwholesome desires, views, or habits we cling to, will result in future mental states and their corresponding behaviour. Karma is intentions that will ripen in the future, when conditions are right.

Because desires for sensual pleasure and wanting to be have already become deeply ingrained habitual patterns, this causes continual restlessness which manifests as grasping to desires in order to relieve this restlessness.

Restlessness is the inability to settle the mind, resulting in inner turmoil, distraction, and a scattered mind. The mind is scattered among the various karmic volitional processes that bear fruit in the present, depending on contact with the six senses. This obstructs progress toward liberation.

The practice of wakefulness is "taming" the mind's behavioral patterns that are constantly grasping at something to escape this inner restlessness.

Grasping and clinging manifest themselves in various forms, such as unwholesome thoughts and views, mindless actions, craving for sensual pleasures, dullness, lethargy, and incessant judging.

The practice of wakefulness involves becoming aware of this grasping and clinging, and the resulting mental states, so that the mind can be "tamed" or "weaned" from continually depending on grasping and clinging to things to escape underlying restlessness.

Wakefulness must be developed and practiced at all times and in all possible circumstances. The more we practice in daily life, the faster the mind becomes liberated.


Right Effort

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And what is right effort?

There is the case where one generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of ignorant, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen…

for the sake of the abandoning of ignorant, unskillful qualities that have arisen…

for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen…

for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen:

This is called right effort.

The practice of wakefulness is applying Right Effort, which is the abandoning of unwholesome states of mind that entangle one in stress and suffering and developing wholesome ones. The objective is a mind that is alert, diligent, and clear, devoid of distractions, and suitable for practicing and performing tasks effectively. For example, by abandoning making judgments or unskillfully reacting to circumstances and instead, inclining the mind to an awareness free from objectification.

The practice of wakefulness or Right Effort further reinforces Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood.

For example, the 'power' behind Right Intention is further strengthened every time effort is made to fulfill a wholesome intention. Additionally, increased mindfulness and alertness result in a mind that becomes more single-minded and can make better choices to fulfill those intentions, with attention less hampered or confused by constant thoughts, micromanaging, and excessive irrelevant judgments.

Increased mindfulness and alertness result in better, less delusional interactions with others.

In other words, we practice wakefulness by applying Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood and Right Effort in all our interactions.

What is "Right Effort," just like the other parts of the Eight-Fold Path, will depend on individual circumstances, and cannot be discerned based on preset principles.

Effortlessness

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How, sir, did you cross the flood (attain liberation)?

I crossed, friend, without pushing forward, without staying in place.

But how, sir, did you cross the flood without pushing forward, without staying in place?

When I stood, friend, then I sank; when I strove, then I got weary.

It is in this way, friend, that I crossed the flood without pushing forward, without staying in place.

SN1:1

Right Effort also involves understanding that Liberation or Nibbana, which depends on the cessation of new Karma, is not attained by "striving" or "standing still." Just as an athlete needs to train to cross the finish line and win a competition, Right Effort involves establishing the right causes and conditions, through practice, so that one is effortlessly propelled into final liberation, not based on an act of will, but by creating the right causes and conditions and by the volition from Right Intention, which results in the cessation of intentions and effort, or effortlessness.

It's important to understand that one cannot attain liberation by desiring and putting effort on a certain outcome, as this would be grasping and clinging. One has to let go of everything. Right Effort is putting all effort on building the right causes and conditions. Only when the right causes and conditions are in place and the volition or "power" from Right Intention is fully established, along with Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, is one effortlessly propelled to liberation.


Appropriate Attention and Wakefulness

Wakefulness and Right Effort depend on appropriate attention.

In the practice of Guarding the Sense Doors, appropriate attention involves being aware of how the mind makes contact with the objects of the world, and protecting oneself from any contact that might lead to greed, aversion, and delusion.

In the practice of Moderation in Eating, appropriate attention entails paying attention to how the mind indulges in food.

In the Practice of Wakefulness, appropriate attention involves keeping track of how the mind's attention moves from one object to another in awareness and the mind states that result, for example greed, aversion and delusion.

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Whatever one keeps pursuing with his thinking & pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.

Because ingrained restlessness causes constant grasping at things, when trying to purify the mind, there is a tendency for attention to get stuck, cling to, and interact with objects in awareness, leading to an increase in their frequency.

For example, when one has aversion to, and tries to get rid of a sensation or thought, this is inappropriate attention. One has to instead see that this aversion is caused by clinging and release the cause of clinging itself.

Appropriate attention involves using Right Effort, which is preventing the arising of unwholesome states, abandoning arisen unwholesome states, and developing and increasing the occurrence of wholesome ones.

In practice, this means keeping attention firmly established within the body and mind, paying attention in real-time and without lapse to the object of mindfulness, letting go of clinging to any sensations, thoughts, or mind states, any judgments about good or bad, and developing a mind and awareness free from obstructions.

One does this by "inclining" the mind, abiding fully in awareness, while at the same time continually letting go of any clinging to sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or intentions, letting them pass away on their own.

Appropriate attention is also letting go of greed and aversion in the act of paying attention itself. A liberated mind is naturally alert and peaceful; actively observing the body and mind all the time is stressful, and the mind quickly becomes tired. Part of the practice of wakefulness is letting go of the incessant habit of judging, objectifying and making things that we pay attention to personal.

Appropriate attention is learning to abide in the effortless, peaceful, "knowing" inherent in consciousness and not grasping and taking anything personally.


Wakefulness Practice in the Modern World

Unlike the Tathagata's disciples living simple lives in isolation 2600 years ago, it can be challenging for people in modern times to devote themselves fully to the gradual training.

The solution is, on one hand, to simplify one's life to the minimum and turn this minimum into a practice. On the other hand, it is to use the rest of the available free time to practice according to the gradual path.

In order to be able to practice as much as possible, it might be useful to divide one's time into different categories and practice accordingly. For example:

If you have work or other responsibilities that require full attention, then you can make these tasks part of your practice. You can do this by applying the Eight-Fold Path:

Applying the Eight-Fold Path to work or other tasks not only makes one more efficient and successful, but it also reduces the likelihood of being disturbed by circumstances or people, leading to greater happiness. This happiness positively reinforces and influences one's Wakefulness Practice.

For tasks or routines that require less attention but have a lot of movement, the practice of wakefulness involves putting full attention and real-time awareness into one's movements, without getting attached to any sensations, feelings, or thoughts. This is very similar to the practice of mindfullness in all poses.

Other tasks, like driving a car, walking, standing in line, etc., can easily be adapted to one of the practices of mindfulness.

To really make progress on the path, one will need to dedicate as much time as possible to the practice of Wakefulness.


Overview of the practice of wakefulness

Practicing wakefulness begins by keeping the single-minded intention to keep the mind stable, centered, unified, anchored in the body and mind, unobstructed, and mindful, while practicing or doing a task, and not getting lost in thoughts or engaging in any senseless actions that result in greed, aversion, and delusion.

In other words, keeping track of where the mind's attention moves from one moment to the next, and using Right Effort to let go and abandon any clinging or aversion to unwholesome mind states, while inclining the mind, and abiding in an awareness free of objectification.

As one progresses and infrequently gets lost in thought, one can further "tame" the mind by giving it a more subtle object to pay attention to. One can practice "mindfulness of the body" using one of the mindfulness practices below.

As one becomes more mindful and alert and is able to abide in the breath or body continually, one can utilize a number of skillful visualization techniques and perceptions, such as mindfulness of death, visualization of the four elements, and contemplation of body parts, to cleanse oneself of unwholesome perceptions, thoughts, and ingrained memories.

The practice of wakefulness involves using one of these different mindfulness practices depending on what the mind requires at that time.

For example, if the mind is overcome by lust for sensual desires, we can practice mindfulness of the unattractive. If the mind is overwhelmed with hatred or aversiveness, we can cultivate goodwill. If the mind is agitated, we can calm it through mindfulness of the breath. If the mind is full of conceit, we can cultivate mindfulness of impermanence. If it is dull, we can use mindfulness of death and other methods.



The parable of the cook. The cook prepares different kinds of dishes for the king and keeps track and observes which ones the king likes at different times and on different occasions. In the same way, a disciple observes what the mind needs at that time and gives it an appropriate practice:



Developing and cultivating the seven perceptions leads to the deathless:



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One remains aware of the body in & of itself—ardent, alert, and mindful—subduing greed and distress with reference to the world.

DN 22

The first part of wakefulness practice is just paying full attention to feelings, thoughts and actions, not making any judgements, letting go of any greed and aversion in reference to the "world" .







Paying Attention is Easier Than You Think

Author: Linmu

Many people have expressed that they don't know how to grasp the concept of "paying full attention". They often feel either confused, overly nervous, or deliberate, often unable to use the right amount of effort.

But actually, it's very simple. If you have ever attended elementary school, then mastering the key points of paying attention is a piece of cake. If you know how to walk, then paying attention is a piece of cake.

Why do people find it difficult? Perhaps it is because it is associated with the ultimate goal of liberation, so they believe it must be an extraordinary behavior. Or perhaps it is because in the process of paying attention, one discovers various phenomena and a multitude of details, which in turn contain profound truths.

To achieve liberation, it is essential to understand these phenomena, details, and principles. However, all of this is just wisdom that gradually accumulates on its own as passive information is acquired during the process of attention.

Many people mistakenly believe that the purpose of attention is to acquire wisdom. So, often in the process of paying attention, active effort to uncover wisdom is involved, leading to tension and unanswered doubts.

But actually, as mentioned earlier, when we were in elementary school, teachers and parents would constantly repeat the sentence: "pay attention and listen" in class. When you just learned to walk, parents would often repeat a sentence: "Pay attention to the road".

And in terms of mindfulness, for example, "fully focusing on one's own feet, filled with enthusiasm, wholeheartedly and attentively, reflecting and discerning." This sentence can be simply expressed as: "Pay attention to your feet". It's just that simple.

If we pay attention in class, then we will naturally know what the teacher is saying. If we pay attention to the road while walking, then it will be easy to spot puddles, stumbling stones, banknotes, and dog excrement on the road.

Similarly, if we pay attention to our feet, we can clearly understand when they are lifted, pushed, or placed, when they are moving or not moving, when they are moving forward or backward, and so on. It's just that simple.

However, if you overcomplicate things, then it becomes troublesome.

For example, when your parents say to pay attention to the road, where should you pay attention? Is it the left or right? The middle? The ground or the front? If it's the front, how far? One meter or two meters? Should you just look without thinking or think while looking? Should you stare or just glance? Should you stop at looking or analyze carefully what you see? And so on and so forth. As a result, you will soon be unable to walk.

For example, the teacher tells you that in order to learn, you need to pay attention in class, as a result you really try and put in a lot of effort and as soon as your teacher talks, instead of continuing to pay attention, you question those very first words.

In this case, the student doesn't understand that the way to acquire knowledge is to pay attention and listen, and the accumulated content of what they hear becomes knowledge over time.

In the same way, the practices of Wakefulness and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are actually much easier than going to school, you just need to pay attention.

For example the Four Foundations of Mindfulness has only four subjects: the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena. And you only need to study one subject at a time.

Even better, there is no homework and no exams. Seeing this, even if you have never been exposed to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness before, you have now grasped the most essential concepts within the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Apart from this, everything else is just minor details.


The Tathagata gives a detailed explanation of each of the five faculties:



Luangpor Teean's Sati Meditation

Today, we shall talk about how to end dukkha, stress and suffering, according to Buddhism. The Buddha taught that each of us could come to the very important point of the cessation of dukkha. So, I shall talk about a simple and direct method of practice according to my own experience. I can assure you that this method can really release you from dukkha.

When we talk about a method to end dukkha, the words are one thing and the practice is quite another. The method of practice is a method of developing sati or awareness in all positions: standing, walking, sitting, and lying. This practice has frequently been called satipatthana or the grounds of awareness, but whatever you call it, the point is to be aware of yourself. If you are aware of yourself, then delusion will disappear.

You should develop awareness of yourself by being aware of all your bodily movements, such as turning your hands, raising and lowering your forearms, walking forward and back, turning and nodding your head, blinking your eyes, opening your mouth, inhaling, exhaling, swallowing saliva, and so on. You must be aware of all of these movements, and this awareness is called sati. When you have awareness of yourself, the unawareness, which is called delusion, will disappear.

To be aware of the movements of the body is to develop sati. You should try to develop this awareness in every movement. When you are fully aware of yourself, there arises a certain kind of knowing in the mind that knows reality as it is. Next, we try to develop sati in all our movements in daily life. For example, when we make a fist or open it, we are aware of it. And when we are aware of all our movements, then not knowing, or moha, disappears by itself. When there is awareness of ourselves, there is no delusion. When we practice the developing of sati, doing awareness of ourselves, this awareness displaces delution. When there is sati, delusion cannot arise. Actually, there is no anger – delusion – greed. Why not? As you are listening to me talking, how is your mind? Your listening mind is natural and free from anger – delusion – greed.

In developing sati in all our movements, we develop total awareness in the whole body. When thought arises, we see it, know it, and understand it. But in the case of common people, they are part of that thought, so they cannot see the thought. We must come out of it in order to see it clearly. When we see it, thought stops.

If we develop sati, then when thought arises we become aware of it, and it stops. The thought does not continue, because we are aware of it. It disappears because we have sati, samadhi (setting up the mind; steadiness of mind) and knowing all together at that moment. When thought arises we do not have to be a part of it. It will arise and disappear by itself. When there is sati, there is no delusion. When there is no delusion there is no anger – delusion – greed.

Whether we are students, teachers, parents, sons, daughters, policemen, soldiers or government officials, all of us can fulfill our responsibilities while practicing developing sati. Everybody can do their duty practicing developing sati. How? Since we do not sit with eyes closed, we can go on with our duties and see our mind at the same time.

Magga (the noble path) is the way of practice leading to the cessation of dukkha. The way of practice is to be aware of thought. Our body works according to our duties and responsibilities, but our mind must see thought. Dukkha arises and, because we do not see it, it conquers and enslaves us, it sits on our head and slaps our face, but if we can see it, know it and understand it, then it cannot defeat us.

Those who don't know try to stop anger – delusion – greed, they try to fight and suppress it, but one that knows just has sati to watch the mind and see thought.

When we move our hands we feel, and the awareness of this feeling is sati and when we have sati we are separate from thought and can see thought. You should not pay so much attention to the movement, but use sati to watch conceptual thought. Just passively see the thought; do not "stare" at it. When thought arises, let it pass away. Actually there is no moha. delusion arises when we are not aware.

When thought, suffering, or confusion arise, do not try to stop it, but observe it, and we will understand its nature. As soon as thought arises, sweep it away immediately and come to be with the awareness: thoughts, suffering, confused mind, they will go by themselves.

Any time that thought arises we know it, even while sleeping. When we move our body while sleeping we also know it. This is because our awareness is complete. When we see thought all the time, no matter what it thinks, we conquer it every time. Those that can see thought are near the current to nibbana (extinction of dukkha).

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For one dwelling contemplating the body in the body, the body becomes fully understood.

Because of the body being fully understood, the deathless is realized.

SN47:38


The four kinds of mindfulness meditation lead to realizing the deathless:



Observe the Body with Curiosity

Author: Linmu

Some people misunderstand that "just paying attention" means "just be present." However, one who is "just present" will not learn very much. In class, a pupil has to be alert and curious in order to pick up every word spoken by the teacher.

Similarly, when practicing mindfulness of body positions, we also need to pay attention to body movements with alertness, curiosity, and attention to detail. Otherwise, we become complacent, and instead of seeing things as they are, we see an incomplete picture. This unawareness is where thoughts arise and propagate, leading to a lack of knowing.

For example, although everyone walks by alternately moving their left and right feet forward, the movements of different people during the process can vary greatly, and even the steps of the same person are not exactly the same. It is often said that there are no two identical leaves in the world, and the same can be said for walking.

When I start to walk from a standing position, I find that I first slightly move my hips back and lean my upper body slightly forward. Then, my upper body slightly turns to the right and back, bending my knees and lifting the heel of my left foot. I continue bending the knee until the toes leave the ground. After that, the upper body drives the left leg to rotate clockwise, then straightens the knee, and the foot has already moved forward a small distance. At this point, it lands steadily, and the left side of the upper body also moves forward. By then, the heel of the right foot has already been lifted...

The movements of each step are also not exactly the same; sometimes the upper body will swing back and forth a few times before moving forward, sometimes the heel will be lifted a few times before lifting the toes, sometimes the back will bend while walking, sometimes it will straighten while walking, sometimes looking up, sometimes looking down, etc.

Remember, the point of paying attention is not to analyze how you walk or in what order. The purpose of appropriate attention is to pay attention to see things as they are, without judgment or interacting and without missing any detail.

If you observe diligently like this for 1 minute, 2 minutes, or 5 minutes, then you have practiced mindfulness of the body for 1 minute, 2 minutes, or 5 minutes. Now, you just need to find a quiet place and walk back and forth in a straight line. Continue observing in this manner until your mind is fully paying attention, fully immersed in observing the various movements of the body.

During this time, you can pay attention to the movements of the whole body, or you can narrow it down to below the thighs, just paying attention to the movements of the legs and feet. But remember, just pay attention to the movements. If you are new to practice, this point is not easy to get wrong.

However, if you have practiced other methods before, you might habitually divert your attention to the tactile sensations of the body or other senses, or even analyze the principles of walking. At this time, you need to remind yourself: I don't need to worry about anything else, just pay attention to every detail of the movements of the body.







Don't get Entangled in Sensory Contact

Upāsikā Kee Nanayon

In making yourself quiet, you have to be quiet on all fronts—quiet in your deeds, quiet in your words, quiet in your mind. Only then will you be able to contemplate what’s going on inside yourself. If you aren’t quiet, you’ll become involved in external affairs and end up having too much to do and too much to say. This will keep your awareness or mindfulness from holding steady and firm. You have to stop doing, saying, or thinking anything that isn’t necessary. That way your mindfulness will be able to develop continuously. Don’t let yourself get involved in too many outside things.

In training your mindfulness to be continuous so that it will enable you to contemplate yourself, you have to be observant: When there’s sensory contact, can the mind stay continuously undisturbed and stable? Or does it still run out into liking and disliking? Being observant in this way will enable you to read yourself, to know yourself. If mindfulness is firmly established, the mind won’t waver. If it’s not yet firm, the mind will waver in the form of liking and disliking. You have to be wary of even the slightest wavering. Don’t let yourself think that the slight waverings are unimportant, or else they’ll become habitual.

Being uncomplacent means that you have to watch out for the details, the little things, the tiny flaws that arise in the mind. If you can do this, you’ll be able to keep your mind protected—better than giving all your attention to the worthless affairs of the outside world. So really try to be careful. Don’t get entangled in sensory contact. This is something you have to work at mastering. If you bring attention exclusively in the area of the mind like this, you’ll be able to contemplate feelings in all their details. You’ll be able to see them clearly, to let them go.


Mindfulness of Breathing

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This is the only way, for the purification of beings, for overcoming sorrow and lamentation, for the extinguishing of suffering and grief, for walking on the path of truth, for realizing Nibbāna, namely, the four establishments of mindfulness.

DN22

Mindfulness of breathing is the Tathagata's most comprehensive practice, encompassing each of the four establishments of mindfulness and culminating in full liberation.

It begins with mindfulness of the body, the Form Aggregate. We must first start by breaking attachment, clinging to the body, before more subtle aggregates like feelings and perceptions can be discerned accurately.

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And how, does a disciple dwell contemplating the body in the body?

Whether he is walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, the disciple sets his body straight, establishing mindfulness on the breath.

Mindful, he breathes in; mindful, he breathes out. Breathing in long, he 'knows'; breathing out long, he 'knows'.

Breathing in short, he 'knows'; breathing out short, he 'knows'.

He trains thus: I will breathe in experiencing the whole body; he trains thus: I will breathe out experiencing the whole body.

He trains thus: I will breathe in calming bodily formations; he trains thus: I will breathe out calming bodily formations.

DN22






At the outset of breath meditation practice, one simply directs their attention to the breath, similar to how a skilled turner or potter pays attention while shaping pots.

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Just as a skilled turner or his apprentice, when making a long turn, 'knows', or when making a short turn, 'knows';

in the same way, a disciple, breathing in long, 'knows'; breathing out long, he 'knows'; breathing in short, he 'knows'; breathing out short, he 'knows'.

DN22

The breath is a reflection of our internal state of agitation or stress, an indication of the level of greed and aversion. At the begining, the primary objective of mindfulness of breath practice is to attain a smooth, flowing breath, devoid of agitation, with no discernible break in attention to the in and out breath.

In other words, one keeps the mind firmly centered, established and unified on the breath, paying attention to the breath in real time without getting entangled in sensory contact.

One does this not by controlling or manipulating the breath, but through Right Effort, relaxing tension, letting go of greed and aversion, letting go of micromanaging and any judging, and using the lightest touch possible.

Also, while maintaining full awareness on the breath, we incline the mind to a state free from stress or objectification.

Understanding The Long and Short Breath

The breath rate in ancient times was much longer and slower than it is today. Nowadays, the average resting breath rate is about 20 breaths per minute, attributable to modern man's highly stressed and disturbed lifestyle.

Records from only 150 years ago show a much calmer average breath rate when resting of 5 breaths per minute. While there are no records from 2500 years ago, it's not hard to imagine that yogis living in a peaceful environment would have had an even slower breath rate of 3-5 breaths per minute.

This means that if you are having trouble obtaining a smooth, tranquil breath, some effort might be needed to reduce the breath rate to 3-7 breaths per minute, making sure to breathe through the nose and from the diaphragm and using methods like resonant breathing.

As one practices mindfulness of breathing, the breath becomes very calm, and paradoxically, it becomes shallower, shorter, and a little faster. This is why the short breath follows the long breath.

As we spread awareness to the whole body, the breath becomes even more calm, and after calming bodily formations, the breath appears to have stopped completely.

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He trains himself, I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body. He trains himself, I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body. He trains himself, I will breathe in calming bodily formations. He trains himself, I will breathe out calming bodily formations.

DN22

Mindfulness of the body is real-time awareness of the entire body—not merely a vague image or concept, but by being sensitive to every part, both internally and externally, encompassing 360 degrees, including the back of the head, the body, the soles of the feet, and every other part.

Bodily Formation

When the Tathagata says, "He trains thus: I will breathe in calming the bodily formation," what does he mean by "bodily formation"?

First, we must understand the Tathagata's radical teaching: that the mind is the forerunner of all experience. In other words, everything we experience is created by the mind. This is relatively easy to understand if we consider that all our sense organs have to reconstruct reality. For example, light waves hitting the eyes have to be reconstructed into the very complex 3D world we experience and take for granted.

When the Tathagata says "bodily formation," he means any perceptions, feelings, memories, and thoughts related to the fabrication of the physical body in our mind.

So, for example, when we breathe, walk, eat, feel pain, hunger, or anything related to the body, the experiences that we feel are all mental processes that are recreated in the mind. They are reconstructions and not absolute reality as most people assume them to be.

The creation or recreation of the perception of the body and its actions in the mind uses mental processing power and is stressful. Also, the physical body is a product of nature, the more we cling to the breath, trying to control the breath physically or mechanically, the more stress this causes.

Instead of trying to control the physical breath or lungs, we should calm the breath as experienced in the mind through sensations, feelings and perceptions. Doing this allows us to obtain a smooth and tranquil breath.

Calming bodily formations involves relaxing any tension or stress, and letting go of clinging to any feelings, perceptions, mental activities, and cognition related to the physical body and its functioning, including the breath.

By calming any of the bodily formations, we calm all bodily formations. So, for example, by calming the breath as experienced in the mind, we calm the physical body. By relaxing mental tension, we calm the breath. By letting go of clinging to the body, we calm the breath and release tension.

As you get more proficient working with the breath, you will experience the subtle breath, which, being a mental process, is extremely powerful as it can penetrate every part of the body and calm or transform all bodily, mental and volitional formations.

However at this stage of the practice, calming simply means letting go of any tension in the breath, tension in the body, tension in the mind, or clinging to the body or any sensations, all of which are interconnected bodily formations created by the mind.

Practicing Mindfulness of Breathing

At the beginning of practice, one simply establishes continuous, unbroken attention on the breath, similar to how a skilled turner or potter pays attention while shaping pots, with attention neither too tight nor too loose, aware of tension or tightness, which is clinging.

One is mindful of any unawareness, which is ignorance.

One is mindful of being lost in thoughts, which is delusion.

When being mindful of the breath, if we hold our attention too tightly on the breath, it doesn't stay; instead, it jumps around. On the other hand, if our mindfulness is too loose, we forget that we are being mindful of the breath, and our mind just wanders off and doesn't return.

Mindfulness at this stage of the practice is balancing between too tight and too loose of attention, so that there is no clinging or aversion. This requires spreading awareness throughout the body to counteract unawareness, which leads to objectification.

When our awareness is not present throughout the entire body, areas of unawareness become filled with fabricated sensations, which result in the generation of perceptions, thoughts, and emotions. This is why being mindful of the whole body is important.


Before his awakening the Tathagata generally practiced mindfulness of the breath, which kept him alert and peaceful and led to the ending of defilements. One who wishes for any of the higher fruits of the renunciate life should practice the same way:



Upāsikā Kee Nanayon

When you first start practicing, it’s like catching a monkey and tying it to a leash. When it’s first tied down, it’ll struggle with all its might to get away. In the same way, when the mind is first tied down to its object of mindfulness, it doesn’t like it. It’ll struggle more than it normally would, which makes us feel weak and discouraged. So in this first stage we simply have to use our endurance to resist the mind’s tendency to stray off in search of other objects. Over time it will gradually grow tame.

You want the mind to be quiet but it won’t be quiet. So what do you have to do, what do you have to pay attention to, what do you have to know so that you can see how the arising and passing away of fabrication occur? Try to look carefully and you’re sure to know for yourself, for it’s not anything hidden or mysterious. It’s something whose basic principles you can catch sight of yourself.

What can we do so that the mind doesn’t get distracted with its preoccupations or its nonsensical mental fabrications? We have to give the mind something to establish its awareness on, for if its awareness isn’t established on one thing, it wanders around to know other things, other matters, aside from itself. This is why there’s the practice of establishing our awareness on the body, or on the breath, making the breath the post to which we tie our monkey—the mind. In other words, we use mindfulness to keep the mind established on the breath. This is the first step in the practice.

Training the mind to stay established on the breath is something we have to do continuously, with each in-and-out breath, in every posture—sitting, standing, walking, lying down. No matter what you’re doing, stay established on the breath. If you want, you can simply stay established on nothing more than the sensation of the breath, without determining whether it’s long or short. Keep breathing normally. Don’t force the breath or hold the breath or sit with your body too tense. Sit straight and face comfortably straight ahead. If you’re going to turn to the left, make sure to be established on the breath as you turn. If you turn to the right, stay established on the breath as you turn.

Whatever posture you use is up to you, but stay established on the breath continuously. If your attention lapses, bring it back to knowing the breath again. Whatever you’re doing at any time, watch the breath with every in-and-out breath and you’ll be developing mindfulness and alertness—full-body self-awareness—at the same time you’re being aware of the breath.

When you walk, you don’t have to pay attention to the steps of the feet. Pay attention to the breath and let the feet do the stepping on their own. Let each part of the body perform its function on its own. All you have to do is stay established on the breath and you’ll have full-body awareness.

Whether the eye is looking at sights or the ear is listening to sounds, stay established on the breath. When you look at a sight, make sure that knowing the breath underlies the looking. When you listen to a sound, make sure that knowing the breath underlies the listening. The breath is a means for making the mind quiet, so you first have to train yourself with it. Don’t be in a hurry to get higher results. Train the mind to stay under the control of mindfulness continuously for days on end—to the point where the mind can’t let its attention lapse. It will come to stay more and more with the breath, established on knowing the breath continuously, and then other things will stop on their own: Thinking stops, speaking stops. Whatever tasks you have to do, you can still do them while at the same time keeping track of the breath each and every moment. If there are any lapses, you come back to knowing the breath again. There’s nothing else you have to think about. Be aware of the breath at the same time you’re aware of the stability of the mind.

When the mind can maintain its stability, you can observe the breath and see that it’s stable, too. When their stability is in balance, you know that the breath is simply a natural phenomenon—the wind property. The body as a whole is composed of the four properties: earth, water, fire, and wind. So here we’re established on the wind property. The wind property is a natural phenomenon, not us or ours. The mind is then stable, not thinking or fabricating anything to stir things up. It, too, is a natural phenomenon, pure and simple. If it’s not fabricated into anything else, if it’s not burned by defilements, it can stay still and in stability.

When you stay established on the breath in every posture, it’s a means of blocking the mind from getting entangled with its thoughts and labels. You have to be intent on training the mind to stay with the breath with every posture: That’s how you’ll come to know what the mind is like when it has mindfulness of breathing as its dwelling place.

Being established on the breath helps the mind grow quiet more than any other method—and it’s not at all tiring. Simply breathe comfortably. If you let the breath come in and out strongly, it helps the breath energy and blood flow throughout the body. If you breathe deeply so that the stomach muscles relax, it helps to prevent constipation.

When you train with the breath, it exercises both the body and the mind, and in this way everything calms down in a natural way more easily than if we try to calm things down with force or threats. No matter how much you threaten the mind, it won’t surrender. It’ll run all over the place. So instead we train it to fall in line with nature—for after all, the breath is an aspect of nature. Whether you’re aware of it or not, the breath breathes in line with its nature. Only when we pay attention to it are we aware of it. The body is also an aspect of nature. The mind is an aspect of nature. When they’re trained in an appropriate way, there aren’t a lot of problems that you have to solve. The flow of blood and breath energy in the body improves the state of your nerves. If you train your mindfulness and alertness to be aware of the whole body at the same time you’re aware of the breath, the breath will flow effortlessly.

If you sit for long periods of time, this practice will help keep the blood and breath energy flowing naturally. You don’t have to fight the breath or hold it in. When you place your feet and hands in the meditation posture, don’t tense them up. If you relax them so that the blood and breath energy flow easily, it will be very helpful.

Established on mindfulness of the breath is appropriate in every way—appropriate for the body, appropriate for the mind. Before his awakening, when he was still a bodhisattva, the Buddha used mindfulness of breathing more than any other practice as the dwelling place for his mind. So when you practice it, you too will have mindfulness of breathing as the dwelling place for your mind. That way the mind won’t wander around fabricating thoughts and getting embroiled. You have to get it to settle down and be still. As soon as anything springs up, pay attention to the breath. If you try to establish attention directly on the mind right from the start, it might be too difficult to manage if you’re not familiar with it.

If you want to establish awareness directly on the mind, that’s fine, too, but you have to be aware of it with every in-and-out breath. Make your awareness continuous for long periods of time.

Work at this in every posture and see what results arise. In the beginning you have to put together the causes—in other words, you have to make an effort to look and know correctly. As for the letting go, that comes afterwards.

The Buddha compared the training of the mind to holding a bird in your hand. The mind is like a tiny bird, and the question is how to hold the bird so that it doesn’t fly away. If you hold it too tightly, it will die in your hand. If you hold it too loosely, the tiny bird will slip out through your fingers. So how are you going to hold it so that it doesn’t die and doesn’t get away? The same holds true with our training of the mind in a way that’s not too tense and not too lax but always just right.

There are many things you have to know in training the mind, and you have to look after them correctly. On the physical side, you have to change postures in a way that’s balanced and just right so that the mind can stay stable, so that it can stay at a natural level of stillness or emptiness continuously.

Physical exercise is also necessary. Even yogis who practice high levels of concentration have to exercise the body by stretching and bending it in various postures. We don’t have to go to extremes like them, but we can exercise enough so that the mind can maintain its stillness naturally in a way that allows it to contemplate physical and mental phenomena to see them as inconstant, stressful, and not-self….

If you force the mind too much, it dies just like the bird held too tightly. In other words, it grows deadened, insensitive, and will simply stay frozen in stillness without contemplating to see what inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness are like.

Our practice is to make the mind still enough so that it can contemplate inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness. This is the point for which we train and contemplate, and that makes it easy to train. As for changing postures or working and getting exercise, we do these things with an empty mind.

When you’re practicing in total seclusion, you should get some physical exercise. If you simply sit and lie down, the flow of blood and breath energy in the body will get abnormal.

The fourth tetrad in the instructions for keeping the breath in mind begins with keeping track of inconstancy with every in-and-out breath. The main obstacle that makes us unable to maintain this kind of awareness for long or for continuous periods of time is the fact that we don’t maintain our awareness with every in-and-out breath. When things grow empty, we just let the mind grow quiet, without paying attention, without contemplating, so everything drifts or grows blurry. Or some sort of fabrication arises easily so that we can’t stay established on the empty mind.

So when any crude fabrication arises, you have to block it by paying attention to the breath. Use the breath to snuff it out. Whether the fabrication is a tiny or a strong sensation, catch hold of the breath as your first step in protecting yourself. The more often you do this, the more it turns into a normal habit—and the more useful it will be.

Simply staying with the breath can help prevent unskillful thinking—in other words, it can keep the mind from fabricating unskillful thoughts. That way, craving for sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations can’t take shape. Whatever you’re aware of, quickly return to the breath, and whatever it is, it will simply stop and disband.



This sutta covers many practices found throughout the canon, especially mindfulness of the body, and is one of the most comprehensive discourses on practicing the gradual path:








Contemplation of the Body as Unattractive

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No other phenomenon do I know, on account of which unarisen desire for sensual pleasure does not arise and arisen desire for sensual pleasure is abandoned as much as on account of this: an unattractive object. For one who attends properly to an unattractive object, unarisen desire for sensual pleasure does not arise and arisen desire for sensual pleasure is abandoned.

AN 1.2



Perceiving Unattractiveness

And what, Ānanda, is unattractiveness perception? Here, a disciple examines this very body from the soles of the feet up, and from the top of the head down, enclosed in skin and full of various kinds of impurity: In this body there are head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, undigested food, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, snot, synovial fluid, urine. Dwell contemplating the unattractiveness of the body. This is called perception of unattractiveness.

In the same way that the mind has a tendency to get stuck or cling to unwholesome states, the tendency to focus on the aesthetically pleasing or displeasing aspects of the body leads us to cling to the "beautiful" or "ugly" attributes, which causes us to ignore the underlying reality. This is greed, aversion and delusion.

The key to contemplating the body as unattractive is recognizing that the "beautiful" or "attractiveness" attribute is a feeling and perception that we create in our minds and project onto the appearance of the body. The practice entails seeing "through" the illusion by seeing the unattractive parts within the attractiveness at the same time. When the body or another object no longer holds any attraction, we then let go of both the attractive and the unattractive.

Bulb

There are these five strands of sensual pleasure:

Forms cognizable by the eye that are desirable, lovely, agreeable, pleasing, connected with sensual desire, and provocative;

Sounds cognizable by the ear...

Odors cognizable by the nose...

Flavors cognizable by the tongue...

Tangibles cognizable by the body that are desirable, lovely, agreeable, pleasing, connected with sensual desire, and provocative.

But these are not sensual pleasures; they are called strands of sensual pleasure in the discipline of the noble ones.

The passion and desire for them is the sensual pleasure,

Not the beautiful things in the world;

The passion and desire for them is the sensual pleasure,

The beautiful things remain just as they are in the world;

But the wise remove the desire for them
.

AN6.63


Five perceptions that train a desciple to shift their perception at will:





Contemplating the 32 Parts of the Body


Desciples, when a disciple reflects on this very body from the soles of the feet upwards and from the top of the head downwards, surrounded by skin, filled with all sorts of unclean things: In this body there are head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, contents of the stomach, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, saliva, snot, synovial fluid, urine, just as if there were a bag with openings at both ends full of various kinds of grains, such as hill rice, red rice, beans, peas, millet, and white rice.

A person with good eyesight would open it and examine: This is hill rice, this is red rice, these are beans, these are peas, this is millet, this is white rice.

In the same way, a disciple reflects on this very body from the soles of the feet upwards and from the top of the head downwards, surrounded by skin, filled with all sorts of unclean things: In this body there are head-hairs, body-hairs...urine, just as if there were a bag with openings at both ends full of various kinds of grains.

A person with good eyesight would open it and examine: This is hill rice, this is red rice...white rice. Thus he dwells contemplating the body in the body internally.

The body, the Form Aggregate, is the aggregate or collection of various body parts, including organs, bones, muscles, hair, and nails. Each of these body parts is composed of different types of cells, which, in turn, are made up of collections of various elements.

Contemplation of the 32 parts of the body helps to lessen our attachment, clinging to the physical body as me, myself, or mine. It helps us see the body as a product of nature, subject to natural processes, including birth, growth, pain, sickness, decay, and death.

Contemplation of the 32 body parts can also be used to break our attraction, clinging to the body as an object of desire. It helps to break down the mental images in our mind regarding the attractiveness of the body.

Contemplation of the 32 body parts also helps to break down unhealthy obsessions, fears, and expectations regarding the body, including health, pain, sickness, and fear of death.


Practicing 32 Body Parts Contemplation


Contemplation on the 32 body parts can be practiced in various ways:




Contemplating the Elements of the Body


Whatever, Rāhula, is internal, pertaining to oneself, solid, clung to: such as hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, stomach, feces, or whatever else is internal, pertaining to oneself, solid, clung to: this is called, Rāhula, the internal earth element.

Both the internal earth element and the external earth element are simply the earth element. And that should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus:

This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self. Seeing it thus as it really is with correct wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the earth element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the earth element.

What, Rāhula, is the water element? The water element may be either internal or external. What, Rāhula, is the internal water element? Whatever internally, belonging to oneself, is water, watery, and clung to: such as bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, grease, spit, snot, oil of the joints, urine, or whatever else internally, belonging to oneself, is water, watery, and clung to: this is called, Rāhula, the internal water element.

Both the internal water element and the external water element are simply the water element. And that should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus:

This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self. Seeing it thus as it really is with correct wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the water element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the water element.

What, Rāhula, is the fire element? The fire element may be either internal or external. What, Rāhula, is the internal fire element? Whatever internally, belonging to oneself, is fire, fiery, and clung to: such as that by which one is warmed, ages, and is consumed, and that by which what is eaten, drunk, chewed, and tasted gets fully digested, or whatever else internally, belonging to oneself, is fire, fiery, and clung to: this is called, Rāhula, the internal fire element.

Both the internal fire element and the external fire element are simply the fire element. And that should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus:

This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self. Seeing it thus as it really is with correct wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the fire element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the fire element.

What, Rāhula, is the air element? The air element may be either internal or external. What, Rāhula, is the internal air element? Whatever internally, belonging to oneself, is air, airy, and clung to: such as up-going winds, down-going winds, winds in the belly, winds in the bowels, winds that course through the limbs, in-breathing and out-breathing, or whatever else internally, belonging to oneself, is air, airy, and clung to: this is called, Rāhula, the internal air element.

Both the internal air element and the external air element are simply the air element. And that should be seen as it really is with correct wisdom thus:

This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self. Seeing it thus as it really is with correct wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the air element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the air element.

The external air element is just the air element. It should be seen as it truly is with proper wisdom thus:

This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self. Seeing it thus as it truly is with proper wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the air element, and the mind becomes dispassionate towards the air element.

And what, Rahula, is the space element? The space element may be internal or external. And what, Rahula, is the internal space element? Whatever internal, belonging to oneself, space, spatial and included, that is, the cavity of the ear, the nostrils, the door of the mouth, and whereby one swallows what is eaten, drunk, consumed, and tasted, and where it stays, and whereby it is excreted from below, or whatever else internal, belonging to oneself, space, spatial and included, not contacted by flesh and blood: this is called the internal space element.

Both the internal space element and the external space element are simply the space element. It should be seen as it truly is with proper wisdom thus:

This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self. Seeing it thus as it truly is with proper wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the space element, and the mind becomes dispassionate towards the space element.

Develop meditation that is like the earth, Rahula. For, Rahula, for one who is developing meditation that is like the earth, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.

Just as, Rahula, the earth is not repelled, humiliated, or disgusted by anything clean or unclean placed on it; similarly, Rahula, develop meditation that is like the earth.

For, Rahula, for one who is developing the meditation that is like the earth, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.

Develop meditation that is like water, Rahula. For, Rahula, for one who is developing meditation that is like water, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.

Just as, Rahula, water washes clean and unclean things without being repelled, humiliated, or disgusted; similarly, Rahula, develop the meditation that is like water. For, Rahula, for one who is developing meditation that is like water, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.

Develop meditation that is like fire, Rahula. For, Rahula, for one who is developing the meditation that is like fire, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.

Just as, Rahula, fire burns clean and unclean things without being repelled, humiliated, or disgusted; similarly, Rahula, develop meditation that is like fire. For, Rahula, for one who is developing meditation that is like fire, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.

Develop meditation that is like wind, Rahula. For, Rahula, for one who is developing meditation that is like wind, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.

Just as, Rahula, the wind blows clean and unclean things without being repelled, humiliated, or disgusted; similarly, Rahula, develop meditation that is like wind. For, Rahula, for one who is developing meditation that is like wind, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.

Develop meditation that is like space, Rahula. For, Rahula, for one who is developing meditation that is like space, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.

Just as, Rahula, space is not established anywhere; similarly, Rahula, develop meditation that is like space. For, Rahula, for one who is developing meditation that is like space, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not overpower his mind.


The Tathagata tells Rāhula to contemplate on not-self, which he immediately puts into practice. Seeing him, Venerable Sāriputta advises him to develop mindfulness of breath, but the Tathagata suggests a wide range of different practices first:



Sāriputta gives an elaborate demonstration of how, just as any footprint can fit inside an elephant’s, all the Tathagata’s teaching can fit inside the four noble truths. This offers an overall template for organizing the Tathagata’s teachings:



A Difference in the Knowing

Upāsikā Kee Nanayon

What can we do to see the aggregates—this mass of suffering and stress—clearly in a way that we can cut attachment for them out of the mind? Why is it that people studying to be doctors can know everything in the body—intestines, liver, kidneys, and all—down to the details, and yet don’t develop any dispassion or disenchantment for it—why? Why is it that undertakers can spend their time with countless corpses and yet not gain any insight at all? This shows that this sort of insight is hard to attain. If there’s no mindfulness and discernment to see things clearly for what they are, knowledge is simply a passing fancy. It doesn’t sink in. The mind keeps latching onto its attachments.

But if the mind can gain true insight to the point where it can relinquish its attachments, it can gain the paths and fruitions leading to nibbāna. This shows that there’s a difference in the knowing. It’s not that we have to know all the details like modern-day surgeons. All we have to know is that the body is composed of the four physical elements plus the elements of space and consciousness. If we really know just this much, we’ve reached the paths and their fruitions, while those who know all the details to the point where they can perform surgery don’t reach any transcendent attainments at all.…

So let’s analyze the body into its elements so as to know them thoroughly. If we do, then when there are changes in the body and mind, there won’t be too much clinging. If we don’t, our attachments will be fixed and strong and will lead to further states of being and birth in the future.

Now that we have the opportunity, we should contemplate the body and take it apart for a good look so as to get down to the details. Take the five basic meditation objects—hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin—and look at them carefully one at a time. You don’t have to take on all five, you know. Focus on the hair of the head to see that it belongs to the earth element, to see that its roots are soaked in blood and lymph under the skin. It’s unattractive in terms of its color, its smell, and where it dwells. If you analyze and contemplate these things, you won’t be deluded into regarding them as your hair, your nails, your teeth, your skin.

All of these parts are composed of the earth element mixed in with water, wind, and fire. If they were purely earth they wouldn’t last, because every part of the body has to be composed of all four elements for it to be a body. And then there’s a mental phenomenon, the mind, in charge. These are things that follow in line with nature in every way—the arising, changing, and disbanding of physical and mental phenomena—but we latch onto them, seeing the body as ours, the mental phenomena as us: It’s all us and ours. If we don’t contemplate to see these things for what they are, we’ll do nothing but cling to them.

This is what meditation is: Seeing things clearly for what they are. It’s not a matter of switching from topic to topic, for that would simply ensure that you wouldn’t know a thing. But our inner character, under the sway of ignorance and delusion, doesn’t like examining itself repeatedly. It keeps finding other issues to get in the way, so that we think constantly about other things. This is why we stay so ignorant and foolish.

Then why is it that we can know other things? Because they fall in line with what craving wants. To see things clearly for what they are would be to abandon craving, so it finds ways of keeping things hidden. It keeps changing, bringing in new things all the time, keeping us fooled all the time, so that we study and think about nothing but matters that add to the mind’s suffering and stress. That’s all that craving wants. As for the kind of study that would end the stress and suffering in the mind, it’s always getting in the way.

This is why the mind is always wanting to shift to new things to know, new things to fall for. And this is why it’s always becoming attached. So when it doesn’t really know itself, you have to make a real effort to see the truth that the things within it aren’t you or yours. Don’t let the mind stop short of this knowledge: Make this a law within yourself. If the mind doesn’t know the truths of inconstancy, stress, and not-self within itself, it won’t gain release from suffering. Its knowledge will simply be worldly knowledge, it will follow a worldly path. It won’t reach the paths and fruition leading to nibbāna.

So this is where the worldly and the transcendent part ways. If you comprehend inconstancy, stress, and not-self to the ultimate degree, that’s the transcendent. If you don’t get down to their details, you’re still on the worldly level.…

The Buddha has many teachings, but this is what they all come down to. The important principles of the practice—the four establishings of mindfulness, the four Noble Truths—all come down to these characteristics of inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness. If you try to learn too many principles, you’ll end up not getting any clear knowledge of the truth as it is. If you focus on knowing just a little, you’ll end up with more true insight than if you try knowing a lot of things. It’s through wanting to know a lot of things that we end up deluded. We wander around in our deluded knowledge, thinking and labeling things, but knowledge that is focused and specific, when it really knows, is absolute. It keeps hammering away at one point. There’s no need to know a lot of things, for when you really know one thing, everything converges right there.…









Contemplating Death


Just as if one were to see a corpse thrown aside in a charnel ground, one, two, or three days dead, bloated, livid, and festering, in the same way, a disciple considers this very body, however it is placed or disposed, as: This too is the nature of the body, thus it will become, and it is not exempt from this fate. Thus, a disciple dwells contemplating the body in the body internally.

Disciples, suppose a disciple sees a body discarded in a charnel ground, one, two, or three days dead, bloated, discolored, festering. He applies this perception to his own body: This body too is of the same nature, it will be like that, it is not exempt from that fate. In this way, he dwells contemplating the body in the body.

Furthermore, suppose a disciple sees a body thrown in a charnel ground, being eaten by crows, hawks, vultures, dogs, jackals, or various kinds of worms. He applies this perception to his own body: This body too is of the same nature, it will be like that, it is not exempt from that fate. In this way, he dwells contemplating the body in the body.

He discerns the tooth, he discerns the head, he discerns the body. Thus he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body externally, or he abides contemplating the body as a body internally and externally.


A method for recollecting one’s own death that leads to urgency, diligence, and joy:


As covered before, death is actively hidden in modern society. It's entirely possible for someone to live their entire life without ever seeing a dead body in person.

Contemplating death brings urgency to our practice, lets us live free from the fear of death and makes us more alive, not wasting time on senseless delusional activities.

Study the following Suttas to better understand mindfulness of death:


Many of those who practice mindfulness of death don’t do so urgently enough. Death might come to us at any moment:



A method for recollecting one’s own death that leads to urgency, diligence, and joy:



The Four Right Efforts

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Furthermore, Udāyī, I have taught my disciples the practice of the four right efforts.

Here, the disciple generates desire, makes an effort, arouses energy, applies his mind, and strives to prevent the arising of unwholesome states that have not yet arisen;

he generates desire, makes an effort, arouses energy, applies his mind, and strives to abandon unwholesome states that have arisen;

he generates desire, makes an effort, arouses energy, applies his mind, and strives to cultivate wholesome states that have not yet arisen;

he generates desire, makes an effort, arouses energy, applies his mind, and strives to maintain and increase wholesome states that have arisen.

And there, Udāyī, my disciples have attained many kinds of supernormal powers.

MN77


The endeavors to restrain, to give up, to develop, and to preserve:



The six recollections are a way to escape from greed:


Bulb

I will teach, the origin and passing away of the four foundations of mindfulness. Listen to this.

And what, disciples, is the origin of the body?
The origin of the body is from food; with the cessation of food, there is the passing away of the body.

From the origin of contact is the origin of feelings; with the cessation of contact, there is the passing away of feelings.

From the origin of name-and-form is the origin of mind; with the cessation of name-and-form, there is the passing away of mind.

From the origin of attention is the origin of mental phenomena; with the cessation of attention, there is the passing away of mental phenomena.

SN47.42




How to overcome sleepiness

The Blessed One said to Venerable Mahā Moggallāna, Are you nodding, Moggallāna? Are you nodding?
Yes, lord.

Well then, Moggallāna, whatever perception you have in mind when drowsiness descends on you, don't attend to that perception, don't pursue it. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then recall to your awareness the Dhamma as you have heard & memorized it, re-examine it, & ponder it over in your mind. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then repeat aloud in detail the Dhamma as you have heard & memorized it. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then pull both your earlobes and rub your limbs with your hands. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then get up from your seat and, after washing your eyes out with water, look around in all directions and upward to the major stars & constellations. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then attend to the perception of light, resolve on the perception of daytime, (dwelling) by night as by day, and by day as by night. By means of an awareness thus open & unhampered, develop a brightened mind. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then—percipient of what lies in front & behind—set a distance to meditate walking back & forth, your senses inwardly immersed, your mind not straying outwards. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then—reclining on your right side—take up the lion s posture, one foot placed on top of the other, mindful, alert, with your mind set on getting up. As soon as you wake up, get up quickly, with the thought, I won't stay indulging in the pleasure of lying down, the pleasure of reclining, the pleasure of drowsiness. That is how you should train yourself.


This world and other Worlds

The practice of wakefulness should be understood from the perspective prevalent during the Tathagata's time.

Throughout history, humans have accepted the existence of and interacted with spirits, ghosts, angels, gods, and beings in other realms as a normal part of their reality. It is only recently in the western world that science has dismissed these beliefs because they lack scientific evidence.

Unlike modern science, in which all of existence is based on the interaction of matter and energy, the Tathagata teaches that the mind is the forerunner to all existence. It is not physical processes that shape evolution and existence, but rather the mind itself, through intentions, volition, and karma, that determines how a being takes existence not only in this world but in other realms as well. In other words, existence and evolution are not based on survival of the fittest, but on the intentions and choices made by the mind. This is most evident in humans and higher beings who live their lives based mostly on choices instead of instinct.

The fundamental principle is that whatever the mind attaches itself to, it grows there. Beings are born into different realms because their thoughts and intentions have led them there. Worlds and the whole of existence is created by the mind.

The rebirth of a being in these different realms happens not only in different lifetimes but also from moment to moment, day to day, and over longer periods of time, and is experienced by all of us to some extent in the different mind states that we experience, which then, depending on the propensity of these mind states, leads to rebirth in corresponding realms.

For instance, most humans have experienced the Hell Realm at some point in their lives, characterized by intense suffering and torment due to hatred, violence, and despair.

Similarly, the Hungry Ghost Realm is experiencing intense desire for something, yet being unable to satisfy those cravings.

Humans often dwell in the Animal Realm, driven by instinct and survival, performing mindless routines, trying to earn a living, seeking food and shelter, and trying to reproduce, as well as experiencing fear, being aggresive and possessive.

Some humans are constantly in the Asura Realm, fiercely competitive, constantly striving for power and superiority.

Or in one of the Deva Realms, which offers pleasure and happiness due to indulgence in refined sensual pleasures.

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with the breakup of the body, after death, has reappeared in a good destination, a heavenly world

Besides these and other realms, practitioners can access the Form and Formless Realms, where pure consciousness exists devoid of sensory perceptions and bodily sensations, transcending the limitations of physical existence. These realms include infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, and neither perception nor non-perception.

The important point is that not only do beings exist in each of these realms, but that humans experience these mind state from one moment to the next throughout their life. The more frequently we dwell and feed in these mental states, the more we get established there and they become reality.

The path to liberation and the practice of wakefulness involves being aware of these mind states and letting go of attachment to dwelling in the mind states that correspond to the lower realms of existence and instead inclining the mind and learning learning to abide and dwell more and more frequently in the higher realms and mind states, such as the form and formless realms, where one can let go of clinging to the Five Aggregates and eventually release oneself from rebirth in any realm of existence.

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How many types of existence are there, friend?

There are three types of existence, friend:

sensual existence, form existence, and formless existence.

How, friend, does rebirth occur in the future?

For beings obstructed by ignorance and fettered by craving, delighting here and there: thus rebirth occurs in the future.

How, friend, does rebirth not occur in the future?

With the fading away of ignorance and the arising of true knowing, with the cessation of craving: thus rebirth does not occur in the future.

MN43

In the practice of mindfulness of the body, the goal is to let go of gross attachment to the body and, instead of dwelling and abiding in the sensual body, to dwell at a more subtle level in the mental body, and eventually in the formless body. And then finally:

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Or his mindfulness that ‘There is a body’ is maintained to the extent of knowledge & remembrance. And he remains independent, not clinging to anything in the world.

MN 10

Dwelling at more subtle levels causes corresponding afflictions to disappear. For example, while we are dwelling in the mental body, we are not afflicted by sense-based craving and aversion.

The mental body will be covered in more detail in the section on "Right Mindfulness"