For this meditation one needs the sitting posture with a straightened upper body and legs crossed. The Blessed One always recommended this sitting posture for anapanasati meditation. The Blessed One had not advocated a sitting posture for any other type of meditation. However, a person who has gained mental development through anapanasati meditation, can then continue by maintaining any posture.
“Ujum kayam panidhaya parimukham satim upatthapetva” – “Holding his body erect, he sets mindfulness on the body.”
Then, the normal breath should be noticed and observed. It is essential to be mindful of the breath. But, are we able to at once focus the mind on the breath and eliminate all other thoughts? No, it is difficult to do so. The mind wanders to other thoughts. This is the nature of the unrestrained body and mind. That is why it is essential to first discipline ourselves in speech and action. Then, we can train our mind for meditation.
If you have performed an unskilful action with your body and speech, your mind gets agitated and keeps on repenting the act. To avoid this, one should have a strong determination to preserve mindfulness, and never act mindlessly. If we entertain various kinds of distracting thoughts, we cannot train the mind to concentrate on the object of meditation. That is why the mental calm through virtue is important.
The foundation is virtue or morality (sila). This is the discipline in speech, action and thought. Control of verbal and physical action is somewhat easy. The more difficult task is controlling the mind. Nevertheless, there is a technique for disciplining the mind. It is called the restraint of faculties.
First, a person would abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and taking liquor or drugs that cause intoxication. Now, he is controlled with respect to physical action. Then, he would abstain from false speech, divisive speech, abusive speech and idle chatter. Now, he has anchored himself in refraining from unskilful actions with both body and speech. The next step would be controlling of mind. Having developed the virtues that purify speech and action, cleansing his thoughts is now a less difficult task.
What would be the process he adopts for mental development? He would go about it in the following manner. We have five physical sense organs – eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. The awareness or consciousness comes through these sense organs. He begins by preventing the cultivation of unwholesome thoughts. Let’s assume there is something that is unwholesome and blameworthy, yet we desire it very much. What should we do in this situation? We must be intelligent enough to think thus: ‘Although I am enjoying this at this moment, it will bring painful consequences throughout samsara’. In this manner, with the understanding of the misery and suffering of endless samsara, every effort must be made to prevent the arising of evil and unwholesome thoughts. This is the way to establish a solid base for developing the fourfold mindfulness.
The in-breathing and out-breathing we know is automatic, and this happens throughout the day. However, when we try to breathe mindfully it is indeed complicated. Some people face difficulties in breathing when they try to breathe consciously, or mindfully. Some cannot notice the breath. The breath flows freely in its own natural rhythm; and normally, this flow of breath is not noticed. However, it is not easy to be mindful of the breath.
Start your meditation on mindfulness of in and out breathing with your eyes closed. Merely allow the breath to ebb and flow freely under the light of full awareness. Your one and only aim is to focus the mind on the breath. You should not try to find the point where the moving air strokes the nostrils, but keep your focus at the nose breath. Breathe in and breathe out mindfully with full awareness. Your breathing should be very natural and effortless.