The Mindfulness of Breathing is traditionally viewed as the main practice which helps to promote integration. As we sit and watch the breath, we can gradually become aware of how scattered (and un-integrated!) we are. By bringing kindly and patient attention back to the breath again and again, and responding kindly to ourselves each time we’ve yet again wandered off, we can gradually bring together and integrate the scattered aspects of our selves. Without integration there can be no spiritual life – we simply wouldn’t have a long enough attention span truly to reflect on the nature of reality and grow wise!
In the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation we learn the simple yet profound art of watching the breath. Even a short period of this practice can have a noticeably positive effect on our mind and body, helping us to grow calmer and more grounded. For this reason, the practice is described as a ‘samatha’ or calming practice and can also help us to become more integrated and less scattered.
The mindfulness of breathing is a practice that can help us radically to transform our lives. Really to sit with awareness of our breath arising and passing is to sit with an awareness of the fundamental Buddhist teaching of impermanence. Practised in this way, the Mindfulness of Breathing can be said to be an insight or vipassana practice.
The Mindfulness of Breathing is the classic Buddhist meditation practice. It is said that the Buddha was practising this meditation on the night he gained enlightenment. In the earliest teachings of the Buddha, recorded in the Pali canon, the Anapanasati sutta gives the Buddha’s advice on ‘mindfulness of the in-breath and outbreath’.
At the Bristol Buddhist Centre, and in Triratna generally, we teach a traditional form of the Mindfulness of Breathing in four stages. Come to one of our drop-in classes or see the Wild Mind website for an outline of the practice and free audio introduction. We also run regular introduction to Buddhist meditation courses.
Mindfulness for calm and well-being is also taught in Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses at Bristol Buddhist Centre.
All our drop-in classes alternate the teaching/practice of the mindfulness of breathing with the metta bhavana or loving-kindness meditation. They are complementary practices which can be seen as being like two ‘wings’, enabling us to develop our Buddhist meditation in a balanced way.