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I am a beginner in meditation practice (have been meditating for about a week now). Sometimes when I meditate the following occurs: once I am able to keep focus on my breath for some time (some minutes perhaps), I notice that sometimes I slowly begin to go into this state where I am aware that I am breathing but I am not aware of being aware of my breath (if that makes sense). It is as if my mind slows down and calms down, and I begin to be aware of not only my breath but of many other things such as my body, my environment, etc.

Is this ok? Or is this some kind of "daydreaming" that should be noted and then I should bring my attention back to only focus on the breath.

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The primary goal of meditation is to maintain equanimity of mind.

Therefore, when your awareness of the breathing becomes uncertain & vague, you should not worry about it; as though you are doing something wrong. Instead, just maintain your mental equilibrium and take some deliberate conscious deeper & longer breathes to re-establish your awareness. Then return again to observing the natural breathing.

Its OK to be aware of the body. This is only natural & part of meditation practice. A goal of Buddhist meditation is to be aware of how different types/qualities of breathing affect the physical body; particularly experiencing how fine long calm breathing makes the physical body to also become calm, relaxed & stress-free.

As for awareness of your environment, this is also OK. For example, quietly listening to the environment around you is OK. One famous monk, namely, Ajahn Sumedho, has taught a technique called 'the sound of science' (here).

To reiterate, the primary goal of meditation is to maintain equanimity of mind rather than to worry about doing small things wrong.

An excerpt below from this meditation manual:

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  • Can you cite the source of the meditation manual? Book title, author?
    – ruben2020
    Jan 29 at 0:46
  • reluctantly. the meditation manual is too complicated, too long & just appears to be a mixture of personal views and various translated Buddhist commentary (such as Anapanasati Commentary, Patisambiddhamagga, Visuddhimagga) text from Pali to Thai to English. its a translation without any footnotes therefore the reader cannot discern what is what. if you wish to create more confusion than already abundantly exists, the (papanca) meditation 'manual' is at this link: dhammatalks.net/Books3/Buddhadasa_Bhikkhu-Anapanasati.pdf Jan 29 at 1:07
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The Buddha taught many suttas about meditation. For example, here is part of a sutta about breathing:

SN54.8:1.1: “Mendicants, when immersion due to mindfulness of breathing is developed and cultivated it’s very fruitful and beneficial.
SN54.8:1.2: How so?
SN54.8:2.1: It’s when a mendicant—gone to a wilderness, or to the root of a tree, or to an empty hut—sits down cross-legged, sets their body straight, and establishes mindfulness in front of them.
SN54.8:2.2: Just mindful, they breathe in. Mindful, they breathe out.
SN54.8:2.3: Breathing in heavily they know: ‘I’m breathing in heavily.’ Breathing out heavily they know: ‘I’m breathing out heavily.’ …
SN54.8:2.4: They practice like this: ‘I’ll breathe in observing letting go.’ They practice like this: ‘I’ll breathe out observing letting go.’
SN54.8:2.5: That’s how immersion due to mindfulness of breathing, when developed and cultivated, is very fruitful and beneficial.

When I started Zen, I was simply instructed to count breaths. And I did just that for many years. Different traditions approach meditation in slightly different ways. Because of this, reading the suttas provides the background for understanding many of the subtle issues that arise. Reading the suttas also provides fruitful dialogues with teachers since the suttas are a common frame of reference.

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There's no single "the meditation", just like there's no single "the exercise". There are many exercises and many meditations. What you do in a meditation is tied to what you are trying to achieve, and that's where the right/wrong judgment comes from. Consequently, if you are not trying to achieve anything in particular - then there's nothing you could be doing right or wrong :-P

In your case, you are just starting to explore. As a beginner, there are two ways you can go from here:

  1. You can keep exploring. Don't fight with your thoughts but don't get caught up in thoughts either. If you do get carried away, gently come back to the present moment. In this open-style meditation anything goes - including thoughts, memories, the environment, all kinds of mental trips - as long as you keep coming back. It's like the laundry machine, it keeps cycling but always stays in place. Pay attention to all the ebbs and flows, explore your mental/emotional/somatic continuum, and give your introspection some time to mature. Some serious time, at least six months to a year. You can't force the natural progress, it has to take time. Your goal is to learn the landscape through random roaming.
  2. Alternatively, you can take up the breath meditation proper. In this one, your goal is much more narrowly defined. Your goal is to achieve pinpoint focus on the microscopic nuances of how each of your in-breaths and out-breaths feels second-by-second, and through that to access your feeling mind. This requires tremendous level of concentration, exclusively on the breath (and on the feeling mind) not engaging in thinking, reminiscing, observing the environment, meta-analysis, or anything else. Your eventual goal with this meditation, once you learn to access the feeling mind, is to start untangling the emotional tangles, untying the knots and straightening out the old wrinkles.

Eventually, with both types of practice, you should arrive at this open, relaxed, transparent, lucid, and even psychosomatic continuum, like looking down at a very quiet koi pond.

Anecdotally, for many people the specificity of breath meditation seems like a more comfortable more deliberate framework than the open-ended exploration-style meditation. Then again, since our minds are pretty restless, most people end up cycling in and out of their thoughts during the breath meditation, blaming themselves for getting distracted, ending up neither here nor there.

Right now you are kinda trying to do both meditations at once, worrying whether you should focus on the breath or allow your mind to settle and explore naturally.

I recommend to make up your mind and pick either one meditation style or the other, and commit to your choice for at least six months, better a year. Once you get some experience with either one, you'll have enough insight into the functioning of your mind to make a meaningful next step.

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With regards to your statement: "...aware of being aware of my breath (if that makes sense)":

I'm not sure, but how can this be? If I understand correctly, awareness always arises with an object - it's called contact. If I am aware of my breath, the breath is my object. But when I am aware of being aware..., what is my object? Probably the idea of being aware? That would be awareness conjoined with intellect-idea (internal-external base). To me, at least this makes it clear consciousness (awareness) is not transcending (for lack of a better word) itself, it's still sequentially- and object-oriented.

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Please do not overthink of meditation. First step is to accept that a man is a machine. Just take a computer, you use it non stop for hours and hours. It becomes overheated. And if you run even more heavy applications, it might shut down by itself. The overheating might damage the computer altogether and you might have to buy another one.

Our brain is akin to a computer but it is very strong. You might have noticed that when you overexert yourself, you feel so tired because your energy has been drained out completely. So, you shutdown the machine via a nice meditation or a nice sleep.

This is as simple as it gets.

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