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I have heard two ways off approaching mindfulness of breathing:

  • Breath in a inhale-pause-exhale-pause pattern, focusing on the sensations of the breath at the nostrils and the silences at the pauses between breaths.You would control your breath in this method.

  • Quiet your mind and just follow the sensations of your breath as it naturally arises.

Questions are

  1. Should you control your breathing if you want to reach the Jhanas?
  2. Which one is best if you want to attain the jhanas?
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At the start of practice, it helps to cultivate concentration, so focusing on one object single-pointedly, whether it's the breath, a sound, or something in the visual field. The manners in which this concentration is developed can give different results for different people, so I'd say to experiment and see which works for you.

I will say though, that focusing on the natural arising and passing of the breath can lead to a subtle realisation that the breath is arising and falling all by itself, utterly disconnected from the noticing of it. It's very interesting to 'catch' your body breathing, independent of your control.

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Method #2, as the Buddha taught:

There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind. Quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental qualities, he enters & remains in the first jhana....

SN 48.10

  • What about the second jhana, third jhana, etc.? – thom Aug 16 '18 at 3:36
  • Same method. Just let go & be silent. Also, completely forget about "jhana". Just keep the mind in the silent present moment. – Dhammadhatu Aug 16 '18 at 3:37
  • So pranayama and breath control has no use for actual meditation? – thom Aug 16 '18 at 4:03
  • pranayama and breath control are Hindu yoga and useless for Buddhist jhana. You should try to realise that when the mind is quiet & silent; it will automatically become aware of the breathing because in silence the breathing is the grossest sense object. This is similar to when the mind is silent it can hear sounds automatically. When the mind is silent; completely abandoning any type of ambition for any type of meditation; the mind, in its silence & surrender; will automatically know the breathing; just like the quiet mind automatically hears sounds like birds, cars or the wind. – Dhammadhatu Aug 16 '18 at 4:06
  • But siddhis are part Buddhist jhana or Hindu jhanas? Your method seems at odds with this answer from Absolutus: reddit.com/r/Meditation/comments/93m5by/… Note the last comment of regulating your breath in a inhale-pause-exhale-pause format. – thom Aug 16 '18 at 4:11
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Should you control your breathing if you want to reach the Jhanas?

In the Anapanasati Sutta, there's no mentioning of controlling one's breath. Instead the emphasis is on the "awareness" of one's natural breathing. If it's long, simply aware that it's long; if it's short, simply aware that it's short:

Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication."

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