16 Jun 2021

[102] The Meditation Object

A meditation object is something I intentionally choose to be the focus of my attention during meditation

  • The breath is always with me
  • It allows me to be a completely passive observer
  • I can meditate on my breath at any opportunity, wherever I am, every day

The breath is used as the basis for the practice of Tranquility and Insight (śamatha-vipassanā), dry Insight practices (sukkha-vipassanā), and meditative absorption (jhāna)

When I refer to the “breath” as the meditation object, I mean the sensation produced by breathing

  • Breathing in the chest or abdomen would bring the focus to the sensations of movement, pressure, and touch occurring there as I breathe in and out
  • Breathing at the nose would bring the focus to the sensations of temperature, pressure, and air moving on the skin anywhere around the tip of the nose, the rim, inside the nostrils, or on the upper lip just below the nostrils

A Gradual Four-Step Transition to the Meditation Object to transition gently from the free-ranging attention of daily life to focusing on the breath at the nose

  • As the steps progress, I restrict the space in which attention is free to move until I’m finally focused on the sensations of the breath at the nose
  • Every step of the transition provides a good opportunity to learn to distinguish between attention and awareness
  • Step One
    • Establish an open, relaxed awareness and attention, letting in everything, but give priority to sensations over thoughts
      • Open my peripheral awareness fully
      • Allow my attention to tune into and range freely among any of the sounds, bodily sensations, smells, or thoughts I may experience
      • My goal is to remain in the present, here and now
      • If I find a particular sensation to be pleasant, take a moment to enjoy it
      • If my mind reacts to something unpleasant, distinguish between the reaction and the object that produced it, then let go of the reaction
      • In general, mindfully observing thoughts is tricky, so it’s better to focus on sounds, smells, and physical sensations to avoid being hooked by thoughts
  • Step Two
    • Focus on bodily sensations, but continue to be aware of everything else
      • Once I have become fully present with every kind of sensory stimulus, limit my attention to bodily sensations
      • With my attention limited to bodily sensations, let everything else slip into the background of peripheral awareness
      • As I pay more attention to my body, release any tension I find and make final adjustments to my posture
  • Step Three
    • Focus on sensations related to the breath, but continue to be aware of everything else
      • As I tune in, start paying attention to all the different kinds of breath-related sensations; I will notice them especially in my nose, face, chest, and abdomen
      • It is important to breathe naturally
  • Step Four
    • Focus on sensations of the breath at the nose, but continue to be aware of everything else
      • The meditation object is the sensations of the breath, not the breath itself
      • If my attention wanders, gently bring it back
      • For now, my aim is just to tame the constant movement of attention, while at the same time trying to maintain peripheral awareness of things in the background

As I move through these Four Steps, always remember to relax my body, calm my mind, and deliberately evoke feelings of contentment

Summary of the Basic Practice

  • Sit down, close my eyes, and go through the Six Point Preparation for Meditation
    • Motivation
    • Goals
    • Expectations
    • Diligence
    • Distractions
    • Posture
  • Then, do the Four-Step Transition, gradually restricting the natural movements of my attention as I move from one Step to the next
    • When I reach Step Four and I’m focusing on the breath at the nose, stabilize my attention by counting five or ten breaths without interruption
    • When I finish counting, keep attending to the sensations of the breath at the nose

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