Seven Ways to Practice

Edited excerpt from “Breathe, You are Alive!” by Thich Nhat Hanh

Here are seven different ways to focus on putting the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing into practice:

• Following the Breath in Daily Life
• Awareness of the Body
• Realizing the Unity of Body and Mind
• Nourishing Ourselves with Joy and Happiness
• Observing Our Feelings
• Caring For and Liberating the Mind
• Looking Deeply in Order to Shed Light on the True Nature of All Dharmas

• Following the Breath in Daily Life

We can begin to enter the present moment by becoming aware of our breath. Breathing in and breathing out, we know we are breathing in and out, and we can smile to affirm that we are in control of ourselves. Through Awareness of Breathing, we can be awake in and to the present moment. Being attentive we already establish “stopping” and concentrating the mind. Full Awareness of our breath helps our mind stop wandering,  confused, never ending thoughts.

• Awareness of the Body

Our breathing is part of our body. Sabbakaya means the whole body. During our in-breath we become aware of our body as a whole. We embrace our body in its entirety. The object of our mindfulness is no longer our in-breath alone. It now includes our body. We embrace our body tenderly during our in-breath and out-breath with the intention to reconcile ourselves with it, to take care of it, and to show our concern and loving kindness. You may want to modify the language a little, but the content of the practice is the same” “Breathing in I am aware of my body, Breathing out I smile to my body.” This is a smile of awareness.

• Realizing the Unity of Body and Mind

Breathing and body are one. Breathing and mind are one. Mind and body are one. Mind is not an entity that exists independently, outside of our breathing and our body. The boundary between the subject and the object of observation does not actually exist. We observe “the body in the body”. The mind is one with the object it is observing. This principle has been developed extensible the Mahayana Buddhism: Subject and object are empty. Subject and object are not two.

• Nourishing Ourselves with Joy and Happiness

Life in this world is both painful and miraculous. If you can set aside the stresses and difficulties of your day and enter your meditation filed with joy, it is easy to arrive and the state of peace and happiness. Happiness is more that joy. If we are too excited about the future, how can we enjoy what is happening in the present moment?

In the river of our feelings are many unpleasant ones. We want more that anything else for them to change. Joy and happiness are  the medicine we need to strengthen us before we try to cure the deepest, most fundamental causes of our sickness. Whatever we are are doing – we can ask ourselves, “What are the conditions that we have for happiness?”

• Observing Our Feelings

Feelings originate in either the body or in our perceptions. Breathing exercises help us observe all our feelings: pleasant, and unpleasant, neutral and mixed. Whatever feeling is present, we identify it, recognize that it is there, and shine the sun of awareness on it. We do not set up barriers between good and bad in ourselves and transform ourselves into a battle field. We treat our irritation with compassion and nonviolence, facing it with our filled with love, as if were were face our own baby sister.

Mindfulness helps us to identify a feeling as a feeling and an emotion as an emotions. It helps us hold our emotions tenderly with us, embrace them, and look deeply at them. By observing the true nature of any feelings, we can transform its energy into the energy of peace and joy.

• Caring For and Liberating the Mind

When we recognize the mental formation that is manifesting in us, we recognize whether it is wholesome or unwholesome. In traditional Buddhist literature, mind is often compared to a monkey always swinging from branch to branch or to a horse galloping out of control.

When we say “liberate my mind”, “mind” refers to any mental formation that makes us anxious, makes us suffer, or pushes us in the wrong direction. Once our mind is able to identify what is happening, we will be able to see clearly our mental formation and make it calm.

Looking deeply into our body and consciousness, we recognize our internal knots. True happiness is not possible unless we know how to untie these knots and become free. We open our mind so the light of concentration will reveal what is there and liberate what is there. We have to be calm, and we need to take time. Concentration as energy has the power of transformation.

 • Looking Deeply in Order to Shed Light on the True Nature of All Dharmas

All phenomena, whether physiological, psychological, or physical, without exception, are impermanent. There is no phenomena whatsoever with a separate, lasting individuality. All things are in endless transformation, and all things are without an independent self.

If we do not look deeply at impermanence, we may think of it as negative aspect of life, because it takes away from us the things we love. But looking deeply we see that impermanence is neither negative nor positive. It is just impermanence. Without impermanence, life would not be possible.

If we can extend beyond every limit we have created for ourselves, we will see that our life exists in everything, and the the deterioration of phenomena cannot touch that life, just as the arising and disappearing of the waves cannot influence the existence of the water. By observing in this way we shed light on the deterioration of everything, we can smile in the face of birth and death and attain great peace and joy in this life.

About Still Water Sangha of MN

We are a community, formed with enthusiasm and joy, practicing Mindfulness and Meditation together in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. We meet on Monday nights from 7-8:30pm in a private home in Stillwater, Minnesota.
This entry was posted in letting go, liberation, meditation, no birth, no death, no self and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Seven Ways to Practice

  1. A problem with the 7 ways to enhance meditation introduced here is that all these methods continue to focus on self; more of the same human-centric focus. Such focus does not lead one into communion w/ Celestials unless They intervene, or one learns to turn the focus of one’s meditation outward. I suggest abandoning the 7 ways. Rather, in meditation learn to focus your attention outward beyond self, but not outward with your physical sensation’s awareness. When you rooted out you own thoughts turn your inner eye outward and learn to see beyond. Forget self. When you do succeed in turning your focus beyond don’t forget to be polite and say hello.

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