The art of breathing meditation
Anapanasati, the art of breathing meditation with the cultivation of deep awareness, is a central Buddhist practice that is described in the basic texts of Buddhism such as the “Discourse on Conscious Breathing In and Breathing Out” (Pali Canon, Collection of Medieval Discourses, No. 118, Anapanasati Sutta) and the Satipatthana Discourse. This practice uses the breath as an anchor to clear the consciousness and to find a subtle understanding of being thanks to the mindfulness that arises.
Breath awareness is developed in 4 stages with a total of 16 steps. In the beginning, we simply observe the breath as it flows in and out. Then we expand our awareness to encompass the whole body and feel the breath in every part of our being. Through this breath observation, we can calm the mind and stay present.
An important aspect of this practice is accepting the breath as it is in each moment. We allow awareness to ride on the breath without controlling or changing it. At the same time, we learn to accept our thoughts and emotions without judgment and develop clarity and serenity.
Anapanasati is a fundamental Buddhist practice that helps us to get to know ourselves better and train the mind. Our experience of the present moment deepens through increased awareness of the breath and increased mindfulness of all mental processes occurring simultaneously. We free ourselves from being entangled with the past and the future and find a state of inner peace and clarity.
The Buddha sees breathing meditation as an excellent method for developing an awareness of the true nature of all experiences and thereby realizing awakening. Breathing is a wonderful support for awareness because it is a self-perpetuating process that mirrors our sensations and in which body and mind are connected. So we take something completely familiar as a basis for practice.
The Buddha was not concerned with concentrating on the breath, but the breath simply accompanies the entire process of awareness and serves as an anchor for undistracted being.
The instructions for the breathing meditation of the Anapanasati Sutta are available as a text download in the media library. Guided breathing meditations based on the Buddha’s meditation instructions for awareness of the breath are available as videos.
Anapanasati Sutta - guided breathing meditations
The complete discourse and the following meditation in 4 videos or as MP3 are available for download in the media below.
In the central passage of the Anapanasati Sutta, the Buddha says the following:
“How do we unfold and practice awareness with the breath? Now we go into the forest, to the foot of a tree or into an empty hut, sit down and cross our legs. Keeping the upper body upright, we anchor mindfulness in front of us. We breathe in mindfully and breathe out mindfully.
I. Physical formations
1. breathing in for a long time, I know: I am breathing in for a long time. – Breathing out long, I know: I am breathing out long.
2. breathing in short I know: I am breathing in short. – Breathing out briefly, I know: I am breathing out briefly.
3. breathing in, I experience the whole body. – Breathing out, I experience the whole body.
4. breathing in, I calm the physical formations. – Breathing out, I calm the bodily formations.
II. Mental formations
5. breathing in, I experience joy. – Breathing out, I experience joy.
6. breathing in, I experience happiness. – Breathing out I experience happiness.
7. inhaling I experience the mental formations. – Breathing out I experience the mental formations.
8. Breathing in, I calm the mental fabrications. – Breathing out, I calm the mental formations.
9. breathing in, I experience the spirit. – Breathing out, I experience the mind.
10. inhaling I delight the mind. – Breathing out, I delight the mind.
11. inhaling I gather the mind. – Breathing out, I gather the mind.
12. breathing in, I release the mind. – Breathing out, I release the mind.
13. breathing in, I see impermanence. – Breathing out, I see inconstancy.
14. Breathing in, I see the letting go (of clinging). – Breathing out, I see the letting go.
15. Breathing in, I see cessation. – Breathing out, I see cessation.
16. Breathing in, I see complete detachment. – Breathing out, I see complete release.
This is how awareness is developed and practiced with the breath, that it is of great fruit and great benefit.”
Frequently asked questions about Anapanasati - Breathing Meditation
- I. Physical formations are the perceptions of physical sensations, including the breath. The sensory perceptions of hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting are also usually counted among these.
- II. Mental formations (sensations) are all our thoughts, mental impulses and feelings, i.e. all the conceptual and non-conceptual processes that take place in the mind. This also includes the sensations of things as pleasant, unpleasant or irrelevant.
- III. Mind refers to the wide or narrow, free or imprisoned state of the mind and the moods that can be felt within it.
- IV. Dharmas refers to the laws and connections that are recognized through high mindfulness.
Mindfulness and meditation are closely related, but they are not exactly the same thing. Here are some differences:
- Mindfulness is a form of attention in which you focus your full attention on the present experience without judging or analyzing. It is a state of awareness that can be achieved anytime and anywhere, not just in a formal meditation session.
- On the one hand, meditation comprises a series of techniques or exercises that serve to calm and center the mind. On the other hand, it serves the realization of being on the basis of the developing quality of mindfulness. The essence of meditation is to focus mindfully on the present experience again and again and thus, over time, to directly understand its true nature. We are mindfully present.
We recommend practicing these sixteen steps for a while until we feel completely free with them and can improvise. This is not about analysis, but about subtle perception. A calm, joyfully open mind sees clearly and can be directed towards any question in order to explore it.
Breathing meditation is a very easy to understand meditation method and is suitable for almost everyone. Breathing is an excellent support for awareness as it mirrors our sensations and connects body and mind.
It may be that meditation on the breath becomes a little boring for some people. In this case, other meditation methods are suitable, e.g. meditation on a mentally imagined golden Buddha or the meditation methods of Vajrayana.
Overview Media Anapanasati
Our media library already contains numerous explanations and meditations on Anapanasati breathing meditation. Here is an overview of our media:
- Text / Lama Lhundrup / Français
- Text / Lama Lhundrup / English
- Text / Lama Lhundrup / Deutsch
- Text / Lama Lhundrup / Português
- Text / Lama Lhundrup / English
- Text / Lama Lhundrup / Français / 2001
- Audio / Lama Lhundrup / Português (Tradução) / 2012 / Brazil
- Audio / Lama Lhundrup / English / 2017 / Slovakia
- Audio / Lama Lhundrup / Deutsch / 2012 / Brazil
- Audio / Lama Lhundrup / Deutsch / 2023 / Grüner Baum
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