18 Sep 2012

Teaching: Alan elaborates on some points from his translation of Asanga’s explanations for mindfulness of breathing, as advice for people with heavy rumination. Asanga mentions 4 stages in mindfulness of breathing: 1) inhalation, 2) pause at the end of inhalation, 3) exhalation, 4) pause at the end of exhalation. He notes 1) overly lax or 2) overly forceful engagement. Asanga also presents training in counting as support: 1) counting individually (at end of inhalation/exhalation), 2) counting pairs (at end of exhalation of 1 breath cycle), 3) counting forwards (either practice in ascending order), and 4) counting backwards (either practice in descending order). The point of this training is to cultivate an ongoing flow of knowing, covering all 4 stages of one breath cycle.
Meditation: mindfulness of breathing per Asanga. Settle respiration, by releasing deeply without preference nor control. Set the mind at ease, without concerns of the 3 times. Let your awareness be still, illuminating the space of the body. Be aware of the space of vital energy (prana), in particular as it flows between the nostril and navel. Mind should be especially still at the end of each out breath. Experiment with counting if you wish. Monitor posture and mindfulness with introspection.
Q1. You mentioned that we should view the space of the body from the perspective of the substrate. Since we do not have direct access yet to the substrate, do you mean from the coarse mind?

Q2. This mindfulness of breathing practice per Asanga is required more attention than usual, in particular catching the pauses. What the difference between awareness and attention? Is it true to say that only attention moves and that awareness does not? My idea of oscillation in awareness of awareness means that something is moving. 

Q3. In observing the space of the mind with eyes open, forms are present. Is this clarity of mind? 

Q4. In settling the mind, you gave the analogies of a scientist and a movie critic. 

Q5. I find it hard to be focused on the space of the mind between sessions. Either I am disengaged from the environment or I’m not focused on the mind at all.

Q6. In this mindfulness of breathing practice per Asanga, please explain the interim breath. Are vital energies equivalent to the tactile sensation of the breath moving throughout the body? If Asanga does not mention the acquired sign nor the counterpart sign, how is shamatha achieved? 

Q7. In awareness of awareness, we should be focused entirely on awareness, yet appearances of the other senses still arise.

Meditation starts at: 29:06

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Transcript

Fall Retreat 2012 - Viphasyana: The Four Applications of Mindfulness

42 Mindfulness of breathing 3

Summary of podcast 42:

Teaching: Alan elaborates on some points from his translation of Asanga’s explanations for mindfulness of breathing, as advice for people with heavy rumination. Asanga mentions 4 stages in mindfulness of breathing: 1) inhalation, 2) pause at the end of inhalation, 3) exhalation, 4) pause at the end of exhalation. He notes 1) overly lax or 2) overly forceful engagement. Asanga also presents training in counting as support: 1) counting individually (at end of inhalation/exhalation), 2) counting pairs (at end of exhalation of 1 breath cycle), 3) counting forwards (either practice in ascending order), and 4) counting backwards (either practice in descending order). The point of this training is to cultivate an ongoing flow of knowing, covering all 4 stages of one breath cycle.

Meditation: mindfulness of breathing per Asanga. Settle respiration, by releasing deeply without preference or control. Set the mind at ease, without concerns of the 3 times. Let your awareness be still, illuminating the space of the body. Be aware of the space of vital energy (prana), in particular as it flows between the nostril and navel. Mind should be especially still at the end of each out breath. Experiment with counting if you wish. Monitor posture and mindfulness with introspection.

Q1. You mentioned that we should view the space of the body from the perspective of the substrate. Since we do not have direct access yet to the substrate, do you mean from the coarse mind?

Q2. This mindfulness of breathing practice per Asanga is required more attention than usual, in particular catching the pauses. What the difference between awareness and attention? Is it true to say that only attention moves and that awareness do not? My idea of oscillation in awareness of awareness means that something is moving.

Q3. In observing the space of the mind with eyes open, forms are present. Is this clarity of mind?

Q4. In settling the mind, you gave the analogies of a scientist and a movie critic.

Q5. I find it hard to be focused on the space of the mind between sessions. Either I am disengaged from the environment or I’m not focused on the mind at all.

Q6. In this mindfulness of breathing practice per Asanga, please explain the interim breath. Are vital energies equivalent to the tactile sensation of the breath moving throughout the body? If Asanga does not mention the acquired sign or the counterpart sign, how is shamatha achieved?

Q7. In awareness of awareness, we should be focused entirely on awareness, yet appearances of the other senses still arise.

Meditation starts at: 29:06

Teachings:

This afternoon I’d like to spend I think no more than one half hour reading through the initial part of this explanation of mindfulness of breathing according to Asanga in one of the greatest classics of Mahayana Indian Buddhism [regarding] mindfulness of breathing. This is certainly not intended that we now take an academic turn and all become scholars. But rather this text is entirely for the sake of practice and so I’d like to share it with you in the hopes that it can enrich your practice and also just come in from this complementary perspective (from the Mahayana perspective) which is really so wonderfully complementary to that presented by Buddhaghosa that we’ve covered thus far. And so this is from the Shravaka Bhumi. It would have been written about the fourth century so I think that it’s quite remarkable that anything written that long ago [could] still be of interest perhaps [and have] real practical applicability today. And it’s good to recall also that according to the Buddhist tradition, when we’re going that far back, (to the fourth century) this was a time in India where it was really quite common for (within the Buddhist tradition) for yogis to be achieving first dhyana, forth dhyana into the absorptions and so forth, it was really a “heyday,” a very powerful time in which many, many people achieved profound realization. So it’s coming from a very juicy phase of Buddhist history in India. And so I’ll jump right into the text and hopefully you’ll find it helpful. That’s certainly my motivation.

So he begins this presentation — this is within a broader context, of course, it’s the stages of the path for shravakas, going all the way to liberation and within that, he highlights five different types of personalities (I think it’s five). Tsongkhapa reiterates this in many Tibetan texts that go right back to this source, of people who are strong in hatred, people who are strong in this kind of temperament and that kind of temperament and among them are those who are very strong in rumination. Not strong in the sense that we’re really good at it, but rather heavily encumbered by it! Right? Predominant in rumination. And so that’s the only portion of the whole text that I’ve translated. And by the way Tsongkhapa cites the Shravaka Bhumi time and time again in his classic presentations on shamatha and other topics. So clearly he among all the great pundits of India and Tibet look upon him as really one of the greatest masters of all of Indian Buddhist history. So among the various temperaments I’ve translated just this fourteen pages, not that long, double spaced on his presentation on mindfulness of breathing. So he begins with the question:

(3:56) What is mindfulness of the respiration? And mindfulness of the object of inhalation and exhalation is called mindfulness of respiration. So you really are attending to the flow of the breath. In that regard what are the two inhalations? They are inhalation and interim inhalation. So I gave you a little sneak preview of that this morning. What are the two exhalations? They are exhalation and interim exhalation.

But now inhalation is the vital energy that is drawn inward to the level of the navel during exhalation. Breathing in from here, the tip of the nose down to the navel. Interim inhalation occurs during the time when the inhalation has ceased. So as far as you’re concerned the breath has come in and the exhalation has not yet begun. So there maybe some times when you breathe in, and I’ve had this happen, when you breathe in and without trying to hold the breath in any way it just, almost like a balloon, it just stays up for a little while, could be actually a couple of seconds but you’d have to push it out for that little pause to not to take place and you don’t push it out so it comes in and you just hold it for a little while and then it flows out. Ok? So it’s just that interval. Vital energy similar to that is drawn in for a short time during the period of relaxation, and that is called the interim inhalation. So what he’s saying here is when you feel that, the course breath, the breath you experience, when you feel it’s already being inhaled then there’s a time of just repose, of just kind of hovering there. But he says some vital energy (and I would surmise a subtler vital energy) is still flowing in, when you feel a kind of “the balloon is full?” On a subtle level, it’s still flowing in. That’s called the interim inhalation, exhalation, and interim exhalation are to be understood in a similar fashion. Here is this distinction: the outwardly directed vital energy moves from the region of the navel up to the upper lip or the tip of the nose and then outward from there. Ok? So especially for us now in the twenty first century (how many centuries is that seventeen centuries later?), in this very, very busy I mean dramatically different from rural India of the fourth century, my sense is that we are carrying around with us an excess of pent-up energy, so you are may very well find — this is not a recommendation but simply observation — that you may find not infrequently that when you breathe out and as far as you can tell you just released everything that for a matter of five seconds and maybe considerably longer you just don’t need to breathe in, the breath isn’t flowing in, you’re just resting there. And you don’t feel at all short of breath. If you do then that means you’re probably inhibiting the breath and you should let flow in, right? But if it flows out and you’re just resting there, just relax at ease and so forth.

(6:45) And that would be interim exhalation. And that means that energy is still flowing off like excess energy is still kind of seeping out and enabling you to come to more of a state of equilibrium.

(6:58) So what are the causes of inhalation and exhalation? They are two:

So one is quite interesting and I won’t elaborate on it, but one of these is propulsive karma. So this is the karma that propels us in a lifetime and that would bring us deeply into Buddhist world view, but just, there’s that. The propulsive karma is that which propels you into one type of an incarnation or whatever you like, an embodiment, as opposed to another. So that’s one cause.

The other one is the space in the region of the navel. The Tibetan terms is “bu.” It just means it’s kind of like an openness or space down here and then the more extensive space or spaces of the body. So specifically here along this channel and down to the navel. But then also just the space on the body. Bear in mind I am quite sure that what he is referring to is not oxygen, because after all that just goes to the lungs. But this vital energy which is much subtler and deeply related (as is well known I think long before the Buddha) in the Hindu tradition. So they speak of pranayana. So there’s something subtler going on here that I think thus far is not measured by the technology of modern science that is prana — they haven’t measured it yet – that it exists I think is obvious for many people in Taichi, the martial arts, Vajrayana, Hindu Tantra and Buddhist Tantra and so forth. So it’s that subtle level that is closely conjoined with the course breathing, that actual air that goes in and out. And he’s referring to this subtler type of vital energy.

(8:19) What are the basis of inhalation and exhalation? They are two: the body and mind. How so? Inhalation and exhalation occur in dependence upon the body and mind and that is in accord with circumstances. So there’s a little bit of technical stuff here. I’ll just read through it. You may find it interesting. If not, settle your mind in its natural state.

So he poses a query, so a qualm ok, but what about this, a question:

What is being writing below between the marks […] are additional comments that Alan introduced as explanations for better understanding of the Query/Asanga’s response which are not included in the original Query/Asanga’s response and you will see this in some of the transcripts where Alan is reading a text during the sessions.

Query: Might they [that is the in and out breath] occur solely in dependence upon the body?

And Asanga’s response is: In that case [that is if that were the case] they would occur for one engaging in the state of equipoise devoid of discernment [so way up there in the formless realm], in the equipoise of cessation nirodha-samapatti [so incredibly subtle Samadhi], and in those who are born among the gods who are sentient beings devoid of discernment.

[That is they have minds and they don’t have bodies. Might they occur solely in dependence upon the body? No, no, no these people, they’re still embodied, they’re still embodied. But the course mind is completely shut down. Might they occur solely in dependence upon the body? Well in these cases the body is there but the mind is not. That’s interesting and I need to reflect upon this right now because I just retranslated and polished this recently. Devoid of discernment . . . So what he’s saying is for these such beings they do have a body but the breath doesn’t occur, Ok? So these are states of equipoise where the breathing completely shuts down.]

Query: Might they occur solely in dependence upon the mind?

Response: In that case they would occur for one engaging in formless equipoise [so these early ones were not formless equipoise but simply states of Samadhi] if they occurred solely in dependence upon the mind, they would occur for those engaging in formless equipoise or for those born in the formless realm, they have minds but not bodies but they don’t have breath.

Query: Then might they occur in dependence upon both the body and mind?

Response: That is not always the case. If that were so, they would also occur in those engaged in the equipoise of the fourth dhyana and in those born in the fourth dhyana [where there is no breathing but there is body and mind], and in sentient beings in the oval, oblong, and round stages of embryonic development. [So I actually did some research on this to make sure I got it right and I think I actually have gotten it right. He is referring to week two to four after conception. Very, very early stages, so obviously during the first month, there is no breathing but he’s saying there is a seminal mind. Seminal not with the male aspect of it, just a core mind. There’s body and mind but there’s no breathing. So as a technical point, I think we can move right on.]

Query: What are the movements of inhalation and exhalation?

Response: They are two: The movement of the inhalation downward and of exhalation, upwards.

Query: What are the locations of inhalation and exhalation?

Response: They are two: coarse space and subtle spaces. The coarse space extends [now this gets more practical. That is, what are you actually attending to? You’re attending to the space in which the sensations of the breath are occurring.] So the coarse space extends from the region of the navel up to the mouth and nose, or from the mouth and nose to the space in the region of the navel. And what are the subtle spaces? They are pores over the entire body. [I found that interesting. There are pores. So I just recently read a scientific report. Remember “Goldfinger”? Remember the, James Bond, “Goldfinger?” The bad guy painted the woman with gold and killed her that way because her body suffocated to death because she couldn’t breathe through the pores. Well about a month or to ago I read a report saying, “well that’s really good, she was beautiful and covered in gold so it’s kind of cool. But, it’s not true.” That you actually do not breathe through the pores according to modern science. You don’t breathe through the pores. Fair enough and I accept that. They should know what they’re talking about. But of course they don’t refer to prana. And so what he is suggesting here is that the prana even during the respiration there is some type of a pranic flow obviously in a very subtle level that’s taking place through the pores. Now whether gold paint would cover that or not, I’ll leave that to a James Bond specialist. I don’t know.]

Query: What is the fourfold enumeration of the names of the inhalation and exhalation? Response: This consists of [1] the vital energies, [2] the in- and out-breaths, [3] inhalations and exhalations, and [4] formations of the body [the breathing itself is a formation, a sanskara of the body]. “Vital energy” is one word that is synonymous with other vital energies or pertains to them, and it is common with the other [three enumerations]; so that is it covers all the other three whereas the other three are unique.

(13:30) Now we get practical:

Query: What are the faults of exertions in inhalation and exhalation [that is, how much is too much, how much is too little]?

Response: [And the faults in terms of the degree of effort you give] they are overly lax engagement and overly forcefully engagement. [So you’ve heard this before. But it’s interesting to hear 17 centuries ago.]

For purpose of study of the transcript the response was divided in two parts including Alan’s comments as below:

Overly lax engagement

Response: Due to the overly lax engagement the lazy mind is shrouded with dullness or drowsiness or it is distracted outward.

Alan’s comments:

I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. I like the word “engagement.” Remember some of you asked me: “How long should I have the sessions?” “Shall I extend them and if so how long?” And my answer has always been the same (at least for a long time). And that is, note your level of engagement. That’s the best word I can find. Not “how well is your practice is going” because that’s just going to vary. And your practice now compared to stage six or seven is terrible. So should you just quit? No, but it’s where you are right now into your capacity. It’s very relative. It’s relative to where you are now, what’s the level of your engagement? Are you casual, are you sloppy, are you bored, are you interested? So you bring that level of engagement where you’re giving it your full attention, at the beginning (hopefully that will take place within the first minute or two): “Ok I’m in gear, I am [here] now, this is as good as I can offer. I’m really attending. And then when you see about extending or judging, or evaluating how long should the session be? Here’s my answer: And that is the level of engagement — not the quality of the meditation because that’s going to vary, you can’t control that but you can control the level of engagement. Right? That’s eudaimonic, that’s coming from your side and not “oh, I was barraged with thoughts or images or emotions or memories.” That happens. And so the answer is “let your level of engagement be fairly homogenous.” That is to say, “ok, this is good, this is as well as I can do for the time being.” Good. Ten minutes later, it should be right there. If ten minutes later you’re still interested, you’re still engaged and you’d still like to practice more, then why not? Extend it a bit. But if you see the level of engagement is tapering off, you’re getting a bit sloppy, a bit casual or exhausted, whatever, then before that happens or right when it is happening, or preferably a little bit before you start losing it, that’s the time to terminate the session. So whether that’s twenty minutes, whether it’s one hour or two hours, that is for you to decide. But you always want to go for quality over quantity. So don’t pride yourself [thinking] “oh, I did a one hour session. The last forty minutes I was just sleepy, not really interested and bored but at least I put in the time.” You’re not getting paid. So you might as well get off the cushion. It’s all about the level of engagement.

So due to overly lax engagement the lazy mind, the sloppy mind, the casual, the complacent mind then is shrouded with dullness or drowsiness or is distracted outward. Either way, it’s going to fall to one of the attentional imbalances, attention deficit or hyper activity.

Overly forceful engagement

Response: Excessively forceful engagement inflicts bodily harm or mental harm.

Alan’s comments:

The earlier one you just feel drowsy or dull. Well, you do that every night anyway so that can’t be doing too much damage, except for creating a bad habit. But he said if you’re pushing too hard (yodeling up to us in the twenty-first century) then this can really harm you.

Query: How is the body harmed?

Response: Inhalation and exhalation are forcefully drawn in and released with difficulty [so again there’s just this constriction, you’re almost like gasping, pulling in and when it’s time to just release — it maybe a staccato release or a constrained or an inhibited release. In other words this is really not a healthy respiration], and imbalanced vital energies enter in the body. Right at the start they suffuse the major and minor limbs, and they are called “pervasive.” So once again, we’re talking about energy here that can really pervade the whole body. Moreover, when the pervasive vital energy becomes excessive (so really, I think you just get too pumped up, just like an over inflated tire, I’ve used that metaphor before, when you’re just too wired, just too pumped up, you know this is not going to be any good), this is said to create illness, and they produce physical imbalances in the major and minor limbs. That is bodily harm.

Alan’s comments:

When pervasive vital energy becomes excessive this is said to create illness and they produce physical imbalances in the major and minor limbs, that is bodily harm. So that you should avoid. It shouldn’t happen. If you really need to error, error on the side of sloppiness. But it would be better not to error. At least you won’t harm yourself, you’ll just develop bad habits.

Query: How is the mind harmed [with this excessive force]?

Response: With too much force the mind is overwhelmed by becoming distracted, depressed, or agitated. In those ways harm is done to the mind. So it sounds like “lum” disorder, pranic disorder, stress. Getting just, tapped out, fatigued.

Asanga also presents training in counting as support:

(19:21) Asanga’s text: In terms of mindfulness of respiration one should know these five kinds of trainings.

This covers the big picture.

The five trainings of counting are:

Thorough training by counting.

Thorough training by engaging with the aggregates,

So now this is where he’s going to start delving into using mindfulness of breathing as your basis not only for shamatha, but actually as we’ll see using mindfulness of breathing as your basis for vipassana. So hence, very appropriate for this week.

3) Thorough training by engaging with dependent origination [now we are definitely in vipassana territory].

4) Thorough training by engaging with reality [and he is referring here to the four noble truths— vipassana territory].

5) And finally, thorough training by way of sixteen aspects.

And this where he unpacks mindfulness of breathing as a complete path, one practice, sixteen aspects culminates and becoming an arhat. Very cool. Same thing occurs in the Theravada tradition. Buddhaghosa gives a whole commentary on this.

So let’s see this session based on the text and Alan’s comments in addition:

Asanga’s text: What is thorough training by counting? The training by counting entails four methods: (A) counting individually, (B) counting by pairs, (C) counting forwards, and (D) counting backwards.

A. What is counting individually? When the inhalation has come in, one counts

“one” with mindfulness applied to inhalation and exhalation. When the inhalation has ceased and the exhalation has finished, one counts, “two,” counting thus up to ten, so that the number of counts is not be too little or too much. This is called counting individually.

B. What is counting by pairs? When the inhalation has finished coming in, and the exhalation has finished going out, then one counts “one.” One counts up to ten with that method of counting. This is called counting by pairs. Combining the inhalation and exhalation as one, one counts “one,” so this is called counting by pairs.

C. What is counting forwards? By counting individually or by pairs, one

counts forwards up to ten. This is called counting forwards.

D. What is counting backwards? One counts in reverse order starting from ten, nine,

eight, seven, six, five...down to one. This is called counting backwards.

Alan’s comments: So he’s given four methods there, just to keep you engaged. I mean, let’s call it speed bumps, call it little mnemonic devices to trigger your memory. But the fundamental point is that you just don’t wander off so long. This is for rumination people. The mind tends to wander off a lot and get caught up in rumination. This is designed to just bring you back in a gentle, methodical fashion.

When one has done the practice of counting forwards and counting backwards by

counting individually or by pairs, and one’s mind does not wander in between [counts], and one counts without the mind becoming distracted, then distinctive advanced counting should be explained.

What is distinctive counting? One counts two as one, either by counting individually or

by pairs. Now with counting by pairs, four inhalations and exhalations become one. With counting individually, moreover, an inhalation and exhalation become one.

(23:28) Alan’s comments: [These methods] are a kind of rudimentary level of working memory where you’re breathing in and out, in and out and you know [that] now is the time to say “one” and then [continue breathing] in and out, in and out [and you count] “two.” Not that difficult. But you have to maintain that continuity of mindfulness. Otherwise by the time two breaths have gone by, you will have forgotten where you are. But it gets even better.

In this way one counts up to ten. Thus, one counts higher and higher, increasing up to counting even a hundred breaths as one. Then by counting a hundred as one, one counts forwards up to ten. Thus one counts ten of that practice of counting as “one” and goes up to “ten.” And with counting ten as one, if one’s mind does not wander in between counts, one is thoroughly trained by way of counting.

When applying oneself to counting, if the mind wanders in between counts then return to the beginning and start counting either forwards or backwards.

When the mind naturally does not stray away but is continually engaged with the object of inhalation and exhalation without interruption, such that when the inhalation begins one apprehends that it is beginning, when the inhalation ends, one apprehends that it ends and that there is no exhalation [Alan’s comments: it must entail an ongoing flow of knowing], when the exhalation begins one apprehends that it begins, and when it stops one apprehends that it has stopped and that there is no inhalation [Alan’s comments: Sot it’s really quite micro-managing, micro-attending to these rather subtle intervals], when one engages with the breath with delight, free of wavering, movement, and distraction—with that, one advances beyond the stage of counting.

Then one should not count any more, but direct the mind solely to the object of inhalation and exhalation. During the breaks between inhalation and exhalation, one should simply comprehend and know the beginning and end of each exhalation and inhalation. That is called thorough training by counting.

Moreover, the practice of counting is taught to those of dull faculties, for it stabilizes

their minds, brings delight to their minds, and prevents them from becoming distracted.

Otherwise, without counting, their minds would be enveloped with dullness and drowsiness, or their minds would be distracted outward. But by applying themselves to counting, that does not happen to them.

People with sharp faculties and clear minds take no pleasure in the practice of counting.

Simply by receiving the instructions on counting, they very quickly comprehend it, and therefore take no delight in it. By closely applying mindfulness to the object of inhalation and exhalation, they closely attend to the place, duration, manner, and time of occurrence of the in- and out breaths. That is how they train.

Alan’s comments:

In other words, they just immediately see, “I see the whole point of the counting, I understand it all. And since I understand it, I can do exactly that, but without peppering it without all that counting. Which is kind of like, irritating. So, thank you and now I know exactly what I need to do. But that explanation was very helpful. Thank you.”

Noting when does the in breath cease and do you know that exhalation hasn’t begun yet and then likewise, that was the cessation of exhalation, inhalation hasn’t begun yet, that’s the interim inhalation, that’s the interim exhalation, and then I’m attending to the flow primarily here in this kind of channel but especially coming down to the culmination in the region of the navel but also having this peripheral awareness that there is a subtle level of vital energy of the respiration taking place through the pores themselves. So it’s a very embodied practice, probably the most embodied practice of shamatha that there is. And hence, the very therapeutic effect of it or nature of it in terms of the prana system.

Meditation:

Although you’ve heard this many times I will say again, let your entrance into the practice be one of release, of soothing and welcoming you into the practice by letting your awareness descend into the body right down to the ground. Settle your body in its natural state, relaxed, still and vigilant.

(32:21) Take on this subtle challenge settling your respiration in its natural rhythm knowing that it’s an ongoing challenge. It’s not simply a matter of getting it right but rather releasing more and more deeply, more and more subtly, all the way through the end of the out breath and more and more subtly allowing without intervention the breath to flow in just letting it be whether it’s shallow or deep, faster or slow, regular or irregular, just like in settling the mind in its natural state that you allow thoughts, images and memories to arise without control, without preference likewise, with the breath.

(34:12) And again with an act of will allow yourself the freedom for this short session to release all concerns about the future and past, all cogitations about the present, let your awareness come to rest in stillness, holding its on ground, resting in its own place, but illuminating the space of the body without distraction, without grasping. Be aware of this field of prana (how else to describe this energetic field), a space permeated by what we may call energy. And since it’s energy within a living organism, we’ll call it vital energy.

(35:58) Now recall the object of mindfulness: it is the respiration, the respiration is the flow of prana from the apertures of nostrils down to the region of the navel. But I would suggest that you do not move your attention like a train moving back and forth on a track, for shamatha is very much about stillness. Rather, let your awareness be still [and] so analogous to the practice of settling the mind where your awareness is still while attending to but not caught up by the movements of the mind. Likewise let your awareness be still and closely attend to the movements of the prana, the flow of energy from the nostrils down to the navel, the navel up to the nostrils. No need to visualize anything. You can immediately by way of tactile perception and coupling mental perception with that, attend to it without visualizing anything.

(38:21) And then in terms of the basic methods of counting, counting one, one count at the end of inhalation, the second at the end of exhalation, counting individually or by pairs in forward order or reverse order, experiment if you will and if you choose not to that’s fine. But know the meaning as described previously.

(41:18) From now and again monitor the body especially the face, especially the area around the eyes and the forehead to see that your body is relaxed and that the posture of vigilance is maintained with stillness. See that your mind is especially still as you come to the end of exhalation as you approach the interim exhalation allowing the breath to flow effortlessly in and likewise when you come to the end of the inhalation and note even if for only a second or so the interim inhalation and then the beginning of exhalation. So with or without counting remain continually closely engaged with each cycle of the respiration.

(47:00) And as always monitor the flow of mindfulness with introspection knowing that this does interrupt the flow of mindfulness. But insofar as it is still helpful that you do not become distracted for long periods or fall into laxity for long periods, apply it [introspection] with the frequency that is optimal. Not too interruptive, but not so slack that you fall into and stay in attentional imbalance. Let’s continue practicing now in silence.

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Aaron Morrison

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

“Goldfinger” is the third spy film in the James Bond series released in 1964 staring Sean Connery as Bond.

The Buddha classified the constituents of our worldly embodiment into five skandhas (aggregates) of clinging consisting of form, feelings, recognition, compositional factors and consciousness. (See p. 261 of Minding Closely)

Discussion

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