The breath is simply something for the mind to hold to so that you can reach the real thing, just as when you follow the tracks of an ox: You're not after the tracks of the ox. You follow its tracks because you want to reach the ox. Here you're keeping track of the breath so as to reach the real thing: awareness. If you were to start out just by holding on to awareness, you wouldn't get any results, just as you wouldn't be sure of finding the ox if you simply went around looking for it. But if you follow its tracks, you're going to find it for sure. Your meditation word has to keep moving in. This is called following the tracks of the ox step by step until you reach the ox, or what knows: namely the mind.
Beautiful Breath wrote:Hi everyone,
My practice seems to have developed a direction of its own and I was hoping for a little input?
Anapanasati being my main practice. Having found it extremely difficult to maintain focus I have found my mind settling in a state often described in the practice of Silent Illumination in the Chan tradition. Re-establishing focus on the breath feels cumbersome, like an intrusion. Its a very spacious awareness that comes and goes, but when its there its palpable. It has a certain amount of a feel good factor as its so calm and spacious. Effectively it fits in with the Silent Illumination genre.
Am I shifting towards Zen practices or am I making too much of this experience.
... ...its so calm and spacious
We are slowing everything down by absorbing into the natural breath, calming the kammic formations, and this is what we mean by samatha or tranquillity: coming to a point of calm. The mind becomes malleable, supple and flexible, and the breathing can become very fine. But we only carry the samatha practice to the point of upacara samadhi [approaching concentration], we don’t try to completely absorb into the object and enter jhana. At this point we are still aware of both the object and its periphery. The extreme kinds of mental agitation have diminished considerably, but we can still operate using wisdom.
Aloka wrote:... ...its so calm and spacious
There's a section on Anapanasati in 'Now is the Knowing' by Ajahn Sumedho which might be helpful:
Wisdom does not come from studying great theories and philosophies, but from observing the ordinary.
Rather than thinking about our mind, we watch it. Rather than just getting caught in thoughts, we keep recognizing them. Thought is movement, it is energy, it comes and goes, it is not a permanent condition of the mind. Without evaluating or analysing, when we simply recognize thought as thought, it begins to slow down and stop. This isn’t annihilation, this is allowing things to cease. It is compassion. As the habitual obsessive thinking begins to fade, great spaces we never knew were there begin to appear.
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