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Why focus on breath?

betaboybetaboy Veteran
edited June 2011 in Buddhism for Beginners
Namaste,

In meditation, why do we focus on breath specifically? Couldn't there be any other meditation object, such as looking at some object without losing focus, or hearing something, or smelling etc. Why this particular object, breathing?

BB

Comments

  • edited June 2011
    Breathing is the easiest. You could use those other objects of concentration as well if it works well for you.

    In Buddhism, a lot of things are "whatever floats your boat". And here in the USA it's Sunday afternoon as I write this so the Buddhist Lawyers Association is closed, but I'm pretty sure I'm right. :D No one's going to get kicked out for concentrating on those other things.

    Breathing is something we all do and hopefully it's nice and rhythmic and somewhat controllable, so following breathing can be relaxing. If you have nothing to look at or hear or smell there's still your breathing.
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    You won't go to hell for staring at your favorite daisy or humming your favorite mantram ... AND ...

    Breath is simple. Breath is intimate. Breath carries no baggage...no philosophy, no religion, no virtue, no bliss, no error of any kind. Breath has its feet on the ground: Everyone breathes, unless s/he wants to drop dead. All of this and more like it mean that while it may be hard to focus on the breath, the payoff is better and the barriers fewer.

    Your life, your choice.
  • Focusing on the breath is an easy object to fall back upon when your mind wanders. Its where we can build our foundations for mindfulness. It's like having a map that shows where the campsite is, and other things that we can mark on the map. No matter how far off we wander into the forest, no matter how lost we get, we can always refer to our map and find where we need to go.
  • DhammaDhatuDhammaDhatu Veteran
    edited June 2011
    Its tranquilising. It calms the body & mind and to be calm offers the mind a vision of how to act & relate. Its healthy, both physically and mentally.

    Also, the breath is the natural meditation object for Buddhism. For example, if a person practises according to the Four Noble Truths and gives up/abandons craving then the mind that is not engaged in any sense objects will naturally converge onto the breath because the breath becomes the most predominant sense object for the empty mind

    Kind regards
  • it is always there, why focus on something that is not always there?
  • As a prerequisite to further development in meditative practice - calm abiding following breath (Shamatha) is a form of conditioning - like weight training conditions muscles - that leads to practice of clear intuitive insight (Vipashyana) into impermanence, suffering and egolessness - and then further leads to one pointed intense focusing of consciousness (Samadhi). Like one begins with lighter weights and gradually increases for conditioning - practitioners start with breath - then progress to different emphases.

    For some each breath in and out is one complete meditation - one complete birth and death - one present moment experienced fully - eternally.
  • One advantage of breath as an object of meditation is that our breath is always changing. Sometimes short, sometimes long, sometimes shallow, sometimes deep. Sometimes there are little catches or pauses within the breath, and the pause between breaths can vary from one moment to the next. There is always something different to note to keep our attention directly in the present moment. It is impermanence in action.

    Like most animals, our attention is more easily captured and held by something in motion than something that is stationary, unchanging. that makes the breath an easy object on which to maintain focus.

    Alan
  • The breath is involuntary, like the heart beat. It requires no effort and therefore allows you to "fall awake" during mindfulness meditation. You can of course over ride the normal breathing pattern so that the breath can also be used in various types of meditation. Simply, you take it with you everywhere you go and it is the most consistent focal point.

    Happy Father's Day everyone.

    Namaste
  • betaboybetaboy Veteran
    it is always there, why focus on something that is not always there?
    Sounds are always there. Plus, when watching the breath, we inadvertently try to regulate it. We can't just watch it without exercising some degree of control. OTOH, we can listen to sound effortlessly, without any control, and it's always there.
  • edited June 2011
    @betaboy

    sounds are different, it will be like focusing on hearing,
    breath changes but is always there.
  • Namaste,

    In meditation, why do we focus on breath specifically? Couldn't there be any other meditation object, such as looking at some object without losing focus, or hearing something, or smelling etc. Why this particular object, breathing?

    BB
    Hi Beta ....
    The objective of meditation is to get to know your mind but also to know consciousness with no mental content ... ie emptiness and simultaneously brilliant pure awakeness, so to say. IN meditation its done

  • Namaste,

    In meditation, why do we focus on breath specifically? Couldn't there be any other meditation object, such as looking at some object without losing focus, or hearing something, or smelling etc. Why this particular object, breathing?

    BB
    Hi Beta ....
    The breath will always be there as long as we are alive. Therefore if we take it as a sole object of attention then all other mental content that intrudes is brought into relief for our scrutiny ... and we can become aware of all the background obsessive mental crap that is there all the time that we are not usually aware of ... then with patience and motivation all the obsessive mental crap eventually goes dormant... voila we are in samadhi...... profoundly rock solid stable, serene silent crystal clear pure awareness on whatever we choose to focus on.

    The objective of meditation is to get to know your mind but also to know consciousness with no mental content ... ie emptiness ... or ... simultaneously brilliant pure awakeness with no content, so to say. In meditation its done by relaxing deeply and placing attention on one stable object .... which we at first cannot do because your mind is wildly out of control running your attention instead of you being able to pull off stabiity of your mind. With good instruction from a teacher who is in samadhi and with good motivation .... and for most of us wi
  • it is always there, why focus on something that is not always there?


    Sounds are always there. Plus, when watching the breath, we inadvertently try to regulate it. We can't just watch it without exercising some degree of control. OTOH, we can listen to sound effortlessly, without any control, and it's always there.
    So use sound. Do whatever works for you.

  • Breathing is where mind and body meet. It is both involuntary and controllable.

    Always available, yet nothing to be attached to. You do not think about the breath you took 3 breaths ago and you do not imagine about the breath you will take 3 breaths from now. It just is happening right now.

    As far as not being able to think about the breath without having to control it.
    No. It just takes practice.
    But, it is OK to control it also. You are still focusing your awareness.

    What happens to your breathing when you go off on some thought tangent? As you come back to reality and let go of the random thoughts, returning to the breath, you are not controlling it. The breath is breathing itself. Relax into this knowing.
  • DhammaDhatuDhammaDhatu Veteran
    edited June 2011
    consciousness with no mental content ... ie emptiness...
    "mental content" is also emptiness (sunnata)

    buddha taught all five aggregaters are empty (of self)

    literal empty mind is not Buddhist
  • Breath rises, dwells, and falls away. What is not like this?
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