by Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
1. Mindfulness of breathing, bhikkhus, developed and repeatedly practised, is of great fruit, of great benefit; mindfulness of breathing, bhikkhus, developed and repeatedly practised, perfects the four foundations of mindfulness; the four foundations of mindfulness, developed and repeatedly practised, perfect the seven enlightenment factors; the seven enlightenment factors, developed and repeatedly practised, perfect knowledge and freedom…
2. Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu, gone to the forest, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty place, sits down; having folded his legs crosswise, set his body erect, established mindfulness in front of him, ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out.
3. Breathing in long, he knows, ‘I breathe in long’; or breathing out long, he knows, ‘I breathe out long.’
4. Breathing in short, he knows, ‘I breathe in short’; or breathing out short, he knows, ‘I breathe out short.’
5. ‘Experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe in,’ he trains himself thus; ‘experiencing the whole body, I shall breathe out,’ he trains himself thus.
6. ‘Calming the bodily determination, I shall breathe in,’ he trains himself thus; ‘calming the bodily determination, I shall breathe out,’ he trains himself thus…
Ānāpānasati Sutta, MN 118.
1. The practice of ānāpānasati or mindfulness of breathing represents a phenomenological exercise in developing the principle of simultaneity (akālikā dhamma). This is accomplished by the sufficient establishing of mindfulness and knowledge of what one is supposed to do and discern. It is an exercise because it requires one actively engaging in and being aware of the act of breathing, and it develops the principle of simultaneity because while one is actively breathing, one is aware of one’s actions (body, feelings, and thoughts). These are two different, simultaneously present things: the physical or bodily act of breathing, and the mental reflexive thoughts of one doing that very act. One is not supposed to be favoured on account of the other; a person should not be overdoing the breathing (i.e. turning it into a forceful breathing exercise) nor should he be underdoing it (i.e. forgetting about the act of breathing that is being performed, and letting it happen unawares). In the same sense one should not overthink one’s thinking (i.e. get lost in thought). The point is to mindfully breathe while remain fully aware of oneself-mindfully-breathing, or – to put it simply – to remain aware of the present phenomenon of “I am breathing.” (more…)