In this section of the wonderful booklet “The Miracle of Mindfulness” the meditation teacher and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh leads us into the value and practice of breathing as a way to re-connect our thoughts to our body again. Much, if not all of our modern-day discomfort has to do with our thoughts being somewhere else than our body. Since we are a body-mind complex, when that happens we lose contact with our Essence. I find that re-connecting with my breath in a very direct way – with no thoughts in the space of breathing – shifts my consciousness immediately. Enjoy this teaching!
Thich Nhat Hanh:
Mindfulness is the miracle by which we master and restore ourselves. … Mindfulness is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness
so that we can live each minute of life.
Taking hold of one’s breath
Thus mindfulness is at the same time a means and an end, the seed and the fruit. When we practice mindfulness in order to build up concentration, mindfulness is a seed. But mindfulness itself is the life of awareness: the presence of mindfulness means the presence of life, and therefore mindfulness is also the fruit. Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life. Mindfulness enables us to live.
You should know how to breathe to maintain mindfulness, as breathing is a natural and
extremely effective tool which can prevent dispersion. Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.
Breathe in lightly a fairly long breath, conscious of the fact that you are inhaling a deep breath. Now breathe out all the breath in your lungs, remaining conscious the whole time of the exhalation.
The Sutra of Mindfulness teaches the method to take hold of one’s breath in the
“Be ever mindful you breathe in and mindful you breathe out. Breathing in a long breath, you know, ‘I am breathing in a long
breath.’ Breathing out a long breath, you know, ‘I am breathing out a long breath.’
Breathing in a short breath, you know, ‘I am breathing in a short breath.’ Breathing out a short breath, you know, ‘I am breathing out a short breath.'”
“Experiencing a whole breath-body, I shall breathe in,” thus you train yourself. “Experiencing the whole breath-body, I shall breathe out,” thus you train yourself. “Calming the activity of the breath-body, I shall breathe in,” thus you train yourself. “Calming the activity of the breath-body, I shall breathe out,” thus you train yourself.
In a Buddhist monastery, everyone learns to use breath as a tool to stop mental dispersion and to build up concentration power. Concentration power is the strength which comes from practicing mindfulness. It is the concentration which can help one obtain the Great Awakening. When a worker takes hold of his own breath, he has already become awakened. In order to maintain mindfulness throughout a long period, we must continue to watch our breath.
source: The Miracle of Mindfulness, PDF file pp. 31 – 33