full awareness of the body

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I am, once again, finding great satisfaction and pleasure in this practice of the full awareness of breathing. Below are two short excerpts from the Buddha’s discourse.

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“O bhikkhus, the full awareness of breathing, if developed and practiced continuously, will be rewarding and bring great advantages. It will lead to success in practicing the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. If the method of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness is developed and practiced continuously, it will lead to success in the practice of the Seven Factors of Awakening. The Seven Factors of Awakening, if developed and practiced continuously, will give rise to understanding and liberation of the mind.

“What is the way to develop and practice continuously the method of Full Awareness of Breathing so that the practice will be rewarding and offer great benefit?

“It is like this, bhikkhus: the practitioner goes into the forest or to the foot of a tree, or to any deserted place, sits stably in the lotus position, holding his or her body quite straight, and practices like this:

‘Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.’

1. ‘Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.

2. ‘Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.

3. ‘Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.

4. ‘Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.’ He or she practices like this.

“In what way does one develop and continuously practice the Full Awareness of Breathing, in order to succeed in the practice of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness?

“When the practitioner breathes in or out a long or a short breath, aware of his breath or his whole body, or aware that he is making his whole body calm and at peace, he abides peacefully in the observation of the body in the body, persevering, fully awake, clearly understanding his state, gone beyond all attachment and aversion to this life. These exercises of breathing with Full Awareness belong to the First Establishment of Mindfulness, the body.

from Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentary:

“I wish to say something about the expressions ‘observing the body in the body,’ observing the feelings in the feelings’, and ‘observing the objects of mind in the objects of mind.’ The key to ‘observation meditation’ is that the subject of the observation and the object of the observation not be regarded as two separate things. A scientist might try to separate him or herself from the object he or she is observing and measuring, but students of meditation have to remove the boundary between subject and object. When we observe something, we are that thing. Nonduality is the key word. ‘Observing the body in the body’ means that in the process of observing we do not stand outside of our own body like an independent observer, but we identify with the object being observed.

“This is the only path that can lead us to the penetration and direct experience of reality. In ‘observation meditation,’ the subject and object of meditation are one entity also.

“In order to succeed in the work of observation we must go beyond both attachment and aversion.”

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guided meditations – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

SoundCloud Playlist

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In these intense and sometimes turbulent times these meditations are giving me a source of calm and centeredness. Sometimes I listen to the first 30 minutes of Track 2, which is just the bell at intervals. Regularly I listen to Track 3, which is the basic Mindfulness of Breathing meditation, spoken by  Sister Jina van Hengel, Plum Village Monastery. Continue reading

on the Full Awareness of Breathing

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Plum Village Bell Meditation

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Dear Friends, These are my favorite meditations at present. They are lead by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, zen master, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. These meditations are based on the Buddha’s

Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing

Thich Nhat Hanh lived for many years in the Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in the South of France. These meditations were recorded there. (Below are Dropbox links to the MP3’s – HERE is the complete SoundCloud playlist.) Continue reading

shelter from the storm

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These are very simple practices that have been passed down through the centuries because they are so effective.

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Thich Nhat Hanh:

 

Suppose there is a storm raging – you don’t mind, because your house is solid. You close all the doors and windows, and although the wind is blowing fiercely outside, and there is rain and thunder, you still feel safe within your home. The island of self is like that. You have to practice, to learn, in order to allow that shelter, that island within yourself to appear for your use. During your daily life, learn to dwell in that safe island of mindfulness within you. Then you will be protected from provocations, you will be protected from anger, and from despair. There are many elements around you that are ready to invade you, to attack you and to deprive you of your peace and stability. So you have to organize in order to protect yourself, and to build up the practice of dwelling in that island of self is the practice recommended by the Buddha.

Continue reading

the island of self

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In his last days the Buddha spoke of atadipa (the island of self). This is the refuge that each of us has when the energy of mindfulness is active in us.

Thich Nhat Hanh:

The Buddha said that every one of us has an island within, an island of peace and
stability within, and we should practice so that we can profit from the existence of
that island within ourselves. When he was eighty, the Buddha knew that he was
going to pass away in a few months, and he knew that his disciples were going to
miss him. During the last six months, around the city of Vaisali, he used to talk to the
monks and the nuns about taking refuge within yourself. The expression is atadipa.
Ata means self, dipa means island. When you go back to that island, you experience
peace and stability. The Buddha is there, the Dharma is there, and the Sangha is
there.

Continue reading

perfect poise

Thich Nhat Hanh mudra

Thich Nhat Hanh mudra

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Anandamayi:

This world is itself but an embodiment of want; hence the heartache due to the absence of fulfilment must needs endure.

This is why it is said that there are two kinds of current in human life:

one pertaining to the world in which want follows upon want,

the other of one’s true being.

It is the very nature of the former that it can never end in fulfilment; on the contrary, the sense of want is perpetually re-stimulated.

On the other hand, the latter aims to bring to completion the activities of man’s true
being, to establish man in his divine nature.

Thus, if he endeavours to fulfil himself by entering the current of his true being, this current will eventually lead him to the perfect poise of his own true being.

source: Richard Lennoy, Anandamayi, Her Life and Wisdom CHAPTER 6

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thusness

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My Comment:

Some of you may enjoy what has been passed down to us by the ancients, in this case the discourse of the Buddha to a senior monk, Subhuti. Here is a passage from Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Zen Keys” in which he explains the meaning of a certain part of the ancient text Vairacchedika-prainaparamita, also known as The Diamond Sutra. Since our consciousness is the content of our consciousness, by allowing new content into our awareness we change our consciousness. Enjoy!

Thich Nhat Hanh in “Zen Keys”:

 

There is no discrimination in reality in itself. But “reality” in the world of concepts is full of discriminations: subject/object, I/Not-I, etc. This is not truly reality but an erroneous image of reality. The origin of this erroneous image is called discrimination or imagination(vikalpa) in the Vijanavada school.

This flower, for example, which is near the window, is a true flower in its non-discriminated reality. Because we discriminate it is no longer revealed. In its place stands an erroneous image of it. The word “empty” which at first signified the absence of permanent identity, now acquires another meaning: the image created by the concept does not represent any reality, it is imaginary.

The A Which Is Not A Is Truly A

In the Vajracchedika-prajnaparamita we find many expressions given in the form, “The A which is not A is truly A.” Let us take several examples: “Living beings, I say that they are not living beings, this is why they are truly living beings.” “The Buddhist doctrine, I say is not the doctrine of Buddhism, this is why it is truly the Buddhist doctrine.”

What does that signify? It is quite simple. Reality is only reality when it is not grasped conceptually. ‘What we construct through our concepts is not reality. It can also be said, “This flower, which is not a concept, is truly a flower.” Here again is found the rejection of the principle of permanent identity, and a tendency to see things by means of the go-between of conceptualization. The practitioner of the Way must enter into direct contact with reality, without allowing concepts to separate him from this reality. Reality cannot be conceived, nor can it be described in words. Reality is reality; it is thus. This is the significance of the word thusness (tathata).

source: Thich Nhat Hahn, Zen Keys, PDF file p.58

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earthrise

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Krista Tippet from “On Being” in conversation with Nikki Giovanni:

Ms. Tippett: I was thinking, as I was reading — your passion about space — you’re such a space freak, as you say. Have you ever heard of this language of “the overview effect”? It’s actually a documented effect of something that happens to astronauts, Continue reading

rites

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Climbing the Wall

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Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Suppose there is a towering wall from the top of which one can see vast distances – but there is no apparent means’ to climb it, only a thin piece of thread hanging over the top and coming down both sides. A clever person will tie a thicker string onto one end of the thread, walk over to the other side of the wall, then pull on the thread bringing the string to the other side. Then he will tie the end of the string to a strong rope and pull the rope over. When the rope has reached the bottom of one side and is secured on the other side, the wall can be easily scaled.

“Our breath is such a fragile piece of thread. But once we know how to use it, it can become a wondrous tool to help us surmount situations which would otherwise seem hopeless. Our breath is the bridge from our body to our mind, the element which reconciles our body and mind and which makes possible one-ness of body and mind.

“Breath is aligned to both body and mind and it alone is the tool which can bring them both together, illuminating both and bringing both peace and calm. Many persons and books discuss the immense benefits that result from correct breathing. They report that a person who knows how to breathe is a person who knows how to build up endless vitality: breath builds up the lungs, strengthens the blood, and revitalizes every organ in the body. They say that proper breathing is more important than food. And all of these statements are correct.

“Years ago, I was extremely ill. After several years of taking medicine and undergoing medical treatment, my condition was unimproved. So I turned to the method of breathing and, thanks to that, was able to heal myself. Breath is a tool. Breath itself is mindfulness. The use of breath as a tool may help one obtain immense benefits, but these cannot be considered as ends in themselves. These benefits are only the by products of the realization of mindfulness.

“In my small class in meditation for non-Vietnamese, there are many young people. I’ve told them that if each one can meditate an hour each day that’s good, but it’s nowhere near enough. You’ve got to practice meditation when you walk, stand, lie down, sit, and work, while washing your hands, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, drinking tea, talking to friends, or whatever you are doing.

“While washing the dishes, you might be thinking about the tea afterwards, and so try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible in order to sit and drink tea. But that means that you are incapable of living during the time you are washing the dishes. When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life. Just as when you’re drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life. When you’re using the toilet, let that be the most important thing in your life.

“And so on. Chopping wood is meditation. Carrying water is meditation. Be mindful 24 hours a day, not just during the one hour you may allot for formal meditation or reading scripture and reciting prayers. Each act must be carried out in mindfulness. Each act is a rite, a ceremony.

“Raising your cup of tea to your mouth is a rite. Does the word “rite” seem too solemn? I use that word in order to jolt you into the realization of the life-and-death matter of awareness.”

(source: Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness PDF p.41)

My Comment:

“The life and death matter of awareness”… These words are unusual for us. When do we consider awareness a “life and death matter”? When we realize that all violence that is done among the human population on this planet is because of lack of awareness, then it makes sense. I struggle right now to bring awareness to a situation with a person in our community to whom I have great resistance. This person seems so far away from my perspective that I do not see a bridge. It feels like I would have to force this person to open their reality bubble in order to find common ground. I know that that is not an option as it would only lead to more resistance on both sides. At present I am practicing mindfulness and performing every action as a rite, as a ceremony that I want to perform with great care and awareness. I am at a quandary as to what to do and so I am not taking any action – outwardly, that is – inwardly I am asking what to do so that I can be at peace with this person.

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