These are notes from Joseph Goldstein's book "mindfulness". This is the first part of Chapter 7 -mindfulness of breathing.
This sutra has many avenues to take that will lead to
awareness. Buddha had a great
range of skillful means, tailoring his teaching to the particular audience or
person he was addressing. It is
helpful for us, as practitioners, to find the particular approach that
resonates with our own experience and interest.
The four establishments of awareness
Using the body as the
object of contemplation
Body mindfulness is one of the most direct and easy way to
return to awareness. It can become
a source of great joy. It is a
direct way to overcome the onslaughts of Mara, the forces of ignorance and
delusion in the mind. When Mara
appears, return to the sensations of the body.
Buddha makes a great claim. His claim is that mindfulness of the body is the basis for
every kind of accomplishment leading to awakening. We can always return in the midst of emotional storms, ups
and downs, endless circling thoughts to just this breath or just this step. We can return to the simplest aspect of
what’s already here.
Buddha further clarifies this practice by saying:
“And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu abide contemplating the body as the
body? Here a bhikkhu, gone to the
forest or to the root of a tree or to an empty hut, sits down; having folded
his legs crosswise, set his body erect, and established mindfulness in front of
him, ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out….”
He establishes where
to practice, suggesting that we have an appropriate degree of
seclusion. It could
mean in the course of our daily life, establishing a place that is dedicated to
practice right in our home such as a room, or a corner of a room where we
create an environment of stillness and beauty. A place of inner seclusion right in the midst of all the
activity of life.
Buddha establishes the
posture of sitting. Though
Buddha establishes posture as sitting crosslegged because we in the west don’t
sit on the floor very much, some of us are not able to sit that way. In the west we have accommodated
ourselves by using chairs and benches. Sit in a way that works for you and your
body. We need to have a balance
between giving a lot of attention to posture and being to careless with our
body. It is good to try and keep
the spine straight. It is helpful
to keep the back straight, without being stiff or tense. This is the way to practice being ardent, clearly knowing, and mindful,
free of desires and discontent in regard to the world. We strike a balance between effort
and effortlessness. Not being too
tight, and not being too loose.
Overtime, we learn how to both use and adjust the form, seeing what is
needed at any particular time.
From the sutta: She
establishes mindfulness in front of herself.
The Theravadins call in
front to mean
At the nose
Chest or solar plexus
The rising and falling of the abdomen
Zen talks about feeling the movement of the breath,
following the breath or feeling the breath at the hara – the rising and falling
of the abdomen.
Strictly speaking, this is not so much mindfulness of the
breath as it is the contemplation of the air element, which is another of the
Another instruction is to observe the breath wherever it is
easiest, wherever you feel it most clearly.
The phrase ‘setting
mindfulness in front” also means establishing a meditative composure and
attentiveness. A Chinese version
of the Satipatthana Sutta says, “with thoughts well controlled, not going
astray.” We need to set the
conscious intention to be mindful.
The manner in which we begin our meditation often conditions the entire
direction of the sitting.
In the Middle Length Discourses, one discourse relates how
the Brahmin youth Brahmayu shadowed the Buddha around and describes how the
Buddha took his meditation seat:
“He seats himself cross-legged, sets his body erect, and establishes
mindfulness in front of him. He
does not occupy his mind with self-affliction, or the affliction of others, or
the affliction of both; he sits with his mind set on his own welfare, on the
welfare of others, and on the welfare of both, even on the welfare of the whole
Labels: how to start meditation, Joseph Goldstein"s Mindfulness, mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of the body