- Breath Meditation: Seven Steps
- Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
There are seven basic steps:
1. Start out with three or seven long in-&-out breaths,
thinking bud- with the in-breath, and dho with the out. Keep the meditation
syllable as long as the breath.
2. Be clearly aware of each in-&-out breath.
3. Observe the breath as it goes in & out, noticing whether
it's comfortable or uncomfortable, broad or narrow, obstructed or free-flowing, fast or
slow, short or long, warm or cool. If the breath doesn't feel comfortable, change it until
it does. For instance, if breathing in long & out long is uncomfortable, try breathing
in short & out short. As soon as you find that your breathing feels comfortable, let
this comfortable breath sensation spread to the different parts of the body.
To begin with, inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull and
let it flow all the way down the spine. Then, if you are male, let it spread down your
right leg to the sole of your foot, to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. Inhale
the breath sensation at the base of the skull again and let it spread down your spine,
down your left leg to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. (If you are female,
begin with the left side first, because the male & female nervous systems are
Then let the breath from the base of the skull spread down over both
shoulders, past your elbows & wrists, to the tips of your fingers, and out into the
Let the breath at the base of the throat spread down the central nerve
at the front of the body, past the lungs & liver, all the way down to the bladder
Inhale the breath right at the middle of the chest and let it go all
the way down to your intestines.
Let all these breath sensations spread so that they connect & flow
together, and you'll feel a greatly improved sense of well-being.
4. Learn four ways of adjusting the breath:
a. in long & out long,
b. in long & out short,
c. in short & out long,
d. in short & out short.
Breathe whichever way is most comfortable for
you. Or, better yet, learn to breathe comfortably all four ways, because your physical
condition & your breath are always changing.
5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind
-- the resting spots of the breath -- and center your awareness on whichever one seems
most comfortable. A few of these bases are:
a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f. the navel (or a point just above it).
If you suffer from frequent headaches or nervous
problems, don't focus on any spot above the base of the throat. And don't try to force the
breath or put yourself into a trance. Breathe freely & naturally. Let the mind be at
ease with the breath -- but not to the point where it slips away.
6. Spread your awareness -- your sense of conscious feeling --
throughout the entire body.
7. Unite the breath sensations throughout the body, letting them
flow together comfortably, keeping your awareness as broad as possible. Once you are fully
aware of the aspects of the breath you already know in your body, you'll come to know all
sorts of other aspects as well. The breath, by its nature, has many facets: breath
sensations flowing in the nerves, those flowing around & about the nerves, those
spreading from the nerves to every pore. Beneficial breath sensations & harmful ones
are mixed together by their very nature.
To summarize: (a) for the sake of improving the energy already existing
in every part of your body, so that you can contend with such things as disease &
pain; and (b) for the sake of clarifying the knowledge already within you, so that it can
become a basis for the skills leading to release & purity of heart -- you should
always bear these seven steps in mind, because they are absolutely basic to every aspect
of breath meditation.