Meditating with the breath

One of the oldest forms of Buddhist meditation is breath meditation, which was called anapanasati, or “mindfulness of breathing” in the early texts. The Buddha’s description makes it clear that this one form of meditation leads to advanced practice that culminates in liberation itself.

At its most basic, mindfulness of breathing is simply “keeping the breath in mind,” or being continuously aware of the sensations of the in- and out-breath. With practice, the mind can develop the ability to stay absorbed in the breath in a way that leads to blissful states of clarity and focus. Following the Buddha’s instructions, practitioners can then use meditation on the breath to cultivate liberating insight into the nature of mind and reality.

Some traditions begin with focusing on the breath and then expanding that focus to an awareness of the energy throughout the whole body, and others focus just on the breath in one spot—for example, at the nostrils or the abdomen. Some traditions relax on the in-breath and focus only on the out-breath. These differences show how varied working with the breath can be: it is a profound and creative practice.

Here is a link to a simple breath meditation you can try right now. (Click on the 12-minute “breath” meditation.)


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