In my last post I spoke of Buddhist psychology’s progressive steps for direct inquiry into the nature of mind. In order to create the conditions for insight, it is important to steady the mind through mental training. The principal beginning meditative practice for cultivating calm, steady mind states is mindfulness of breath meditation or anapanasati (Pali trans.) Bringing the attention to the actual physical experience of breath, either in the belly or at the nostrils, trains the mind to stay concentrated upon an object of awareness or “anchor”.
One of the translations of sati, (the Pali word for mindfulness) is remembering. True mental training happens during concentration practices when we remember to return the attention to the anchor. This process of remembering and returning happens over and over again during the practice when we realize the attention has strayed from the breath to thoughts, emotions, body sensations or other distracted mind states like boredom, sleepiness, racing mind, etc. The nature of an untrained mind is to wander; so we train the mind in a way that allows it to naturally attenuate to calm, collected, focused attention for longer periods of time.
Though generally considered a beginning meditation practice, anapanasati (anapana=breath, sati=mindfulness) is actually a complex set of 16 progressive meditation instructions for full realization of the ground of being.
I have recorded a Mindfulness of Breath Meditation for Beginners that is available on my web site for free download. Click on the “Free Mindfulness Meditations” link on this blog page to get to my site.