Excerpt from “The Key to Happiness“
The 16 methods of inhaling and exhaling, in combination with the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, are the essence of the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing.
Everything that exists can be places into one of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness (the body, feelings, mind, and objects of the mind).
The 16 methods of breathing in and breathing out can be divided into 4 groups of four methods each. The first group uses the body as the object of Full Awareness; the second uses the feelings; the third uses the mind; and the fourth, the objects of the mind.
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.
4. Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.
In the first two exercises the object of our awareness is the breath itself. Our mind is the subject, and our breath is the object. Our breath may be short, long, heavy, or light. Practicing our awareness this way we see that our breathing affects our mind, and our mind affects our breathing. Our mind and breath become one. We also see that breathing is an aspect of the body and that awareness of breathing is also awareness of the body.
In the third exercise the breath is connected with our whole body, not just a part of it. Awareness of the breathing is, at the same time awareness of our whole body—our mind, breath, body are one. In the fourth breathing exercise, our body’s function begins to calm down. Calming the breath is accompanies by calming the body and the mind. Our mind, our breathing, and our body are calmed down, equally. In these 4 exercises, we can realize the oneness of body and mind. Breathing is an excellent tool for establishing calmness and evenness.
5. Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.
6. Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.
7. Breathing in, I am aware of my mental formations. Breathing out, I am aware of my mental formations.
8. Breathing in, I calm my mental formations. Breathing out, I calm my mental formations.
The second four exercises help us return to our feelings in order to develop joy and happiness and transform suffering. Our feelings are us. If we do not look after them, who will do it for us? Every day we have painful feelings, and we need to learn how to look after them. Teachers and friends can help but we have to do the work. Our body and our feelings are our territory and we are responsible for that territory. As a result of conscious breathing and calming the body, joy, a pleasant feeling arises.
In the 6th exercise, joy is transformed into peace and happiness, and we are fully aware of it. The 7th and 8th exercises bring our attention to all feelings that arise, whether produced by the body or the mind. The mind’s functions include feelings and perceptions. When we are aware of every bodily and every mental action, we are aware of every feeling. The 8th exercise calms the body and mind and makes them peaceful. At this point we can perfectly and completely unify body, mind, feelings, and breath.
9. Breathing in, I am aware of my mind. Breathing out, I am aware of my mind.
10. Breathing in, I make my mind happy. Breathing out, I make my mind happy.
11. Breathing in, I concentrate my mind. Breathing out, I concentrate my mind.
12. Breathing in, I liberate my mind. Breathing out, I liberate my mind.
The third group of four exercises have to do with our mind which refers to the activities of our mind. These exercises help us deal with whatever mental formations are present, cultivating mental formations that are beneficial, and being in touch with and transforming mental formations that are not beneficial.
The 10th exercise makes our mind happy because it is easier for the mind to become concentrated when it is in a peaceful, happy state than when it is filled with sorrow or anxiety. We are aware that we have the opportunity to practice meditation and that there is no moment as important as the present one. The 11th exercise of using the mind to observe the mind brings us into deep concentration. All mental formations that manifest in the present moment can become objects of our concentration. 12th exercise can release the mind to freedom, if it is still bound. Mind is bound either because of the past or the future. With clear observation, we can locate the knots that are binding us, making it impossible for our mind to be free and at peace. We loosen the knots and untie the ropes that bind our mind.
13. Breathing in, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas.
14. Breathing in, I observe the disappearance of desire. Breathing out, I observe the disappearance of desire.
15. Breathing in, I observe cessation. Breathing out, I observe cessation.
16. Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go.
Mind cannot be separated from its object. Mind is consciousness, feeling, attachment, aversion and so on. Consciousness must always be conscious of something. Feeling is always feeling something. Loving and hating are always loving and hating something. This “something” is the object of the mind. Mind cannot arise if there is no object. Mind cannot exist if the object of mind does not exist. The mind is, at one and the same time, the subject of consciousness and the object of consciousness.
The 13th breathing exercise sheds light on the ever changing, impermanent nature of all that exists. The insight into impermanence opens the way for use to see interbeing and selfless nature (nothing has a separate, independent self) of all that exists. The 14th exercise allows us to recognize the true nature of our desire, to see that every dharma is already in the process of disintegrating, so that we are no longer possessed by the idea of holding on to any dharma as an object of desire and as a separate entity. The 15th exercise allows us to arrive at the awareness of a great joy, the joy of emancipation and the cessation of illusion, by freeing us from the intention to grasp any notion. The 16th exercise illuminates for us what it is to let go of ourselves, to give up all the burdens of our ignorance and grasping. To be able to let go is to arrive at liberation.