Anapanasati Breathing Meditation

Anapanasati is the heart of satipatthana, the heart of all four foundations of mindfulness. Anapanasati means to feel the sensations caused by the movements of the breath in the body, as is practiced in the context of mindfulness. Anapanasati is a core meditation practice in Buddhism, as well as in many ancient Indian meditation teachings.  In order to gain the most benefit from this meditation you need to stay focused on the breath for very long time. Anapanasati is most commonly practiced with attention centered on the breath, without any effort to change the breathing. Meditation can be thought of as mental training, similar to learning to ride a bike or play a piano. As little as 15 minutes of anapanasati meditation practice per day can bring wonderful benefits in long run.

The Anapanasati Sutta specifically concerns mindfulness of inhalation and exhalation. Anapanasati breathing meditation as a means of cultivating the seven factors of awakening: sati (mindfulness), dhamma vicaya (analysis), viriya (persistence), which leads to piti (rapture), then to passaddhi (serenity), which in turn leads to samadhi ( focused) and then to upekkha (equanimity).

Cultivation and practice of non-attachment is basic for meditation. It is a middle way practice. It is neither an intense practice, nor can it be done without effort. It has to be done with balance. It must be a practice of non-attachment, neither detached pushing away nor egoistic clinging. The typical steps are as follows:

Step 1: Sit comfortable and relaxed, with your hands on your knees or thighs, palms up resting one on the other, in your lap.

Step 2: Turn your eyes slightly downward and close them gently. This removes visual distractions and reduces your brain-wave activity by about seventy-five percent, thus helping to calm the mind. Relax your shoulders, breathe deeply, and let your belly expand slightly as you inhale.

Step 3:  Close your mouth gently. Breathe through the nose. Keep jaw muscles relaxed.

Step 4Anapanasati meditation stages:

There are eight stages of Anapanasati meditation through which a meditator usually progresses, more or less in order, though it is quite possible to sometimes fall back to an earlier stage. Always start at the beginning. Each session starts with establishing mindfulness (sati) on the breath. 

Stage 1:  Breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’

Stage 2:  Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’

Stage 3:  He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in experiencing all bodies.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out experiencing all bodies.’

Stage 4: He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming the tension in the body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming the tension in the body.’

Stage 5: He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in experiencing rapture.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out experiencing rapture.’

Stage 6: He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in experiencing pleasure.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out experiencing pleasure.’

Stage 7:  He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in experiencing the tension in the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out experiencing the tension in the mind.’

Stage 8: He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming the mind.

Step 5:  Do the above stages for few minutes and then take rest for about a minute to end the session.

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