Anapana: The Simplest Form of Meditation

    इदं पुरे चित्तमचारि चारिकं, येनिच्छकं यत्थकामं यथासुखं।
    तदज्जहं निग्गहेस्सामि योनिसो, हत्थिप्पभिन्नं विय अङ्कुसग्गहो॥
    This mind that wanders wherever it wishes, wherever it desires, wherever it sees pleasure, I will first make it steadfast. I will train it thoroughly like a mahout with a goad, trains a wild elephant.

    Dhammapada

    My Breath and I

    Anapana is the first step in the practice of Vipassana meditation. Anapana means observation of natural, normal respiration, as it comes in and as it goes out. It is easy to learn, an objective and scientific technique that helps develop concentration of the mind.

    Observation of the breath is the ideal object for meditation because it is always available and it is completely non-sectarian. Anapana is very different from techniques that are based on the artificial regulation of breath. There are no rites or rituals involved in the practice or presentation of Anapana.

    Anapana provides a tool to deal with the fears, anxieties and pressures across all age groups, especially children. Besides helping to calm and concentrate the mind, Anapana helps people to understand themselves better and gives them an insight into the workings of their own minds. Because of its simplicity, the technique is easy to understand and practice.

    Why Natural Respiration?

    The goal of Vipassana meditation is not the concentration of the mind but to purify the mind completely, by eradicating all mental impurities such as anger, hatred, passion, fear. Vipassana is the analytical study of the mind and body (matter). To achieve this, one must gain complete knowledge of the body, of the mind and of the mental impurities at the experiential level, which is done with the help of respiration. Respiration acts like a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious mind and between voluntary and involuntary processes of the body.

    The first step of this technique is to develop an awareness of the present reality. Life can really be lived only in the present. When one observes respiration, one begins to understand the nature of the mind. The mind is very fleeting, very fickle – this reality becomes very clear. It never stays in the present, constantly tries to escape into a past or future that is unattainable. The past moment is gone forever. Even in return for all the wealth in the world, one cannot bring back that moment. Similarly, one cannot live in the future. When the future becomes the present, only then can one live in it. One has not learned how to live – one has not learned the Art of living. By observing natural respiration, we slowly train our mind to live in present.

    Another reason for adopting natural incoming and outgoing breath as the object of concentration is that the rhythm of our respiration has an intimate natural connection with the negativities of the mind. When the mind is polluted and overpowered by any harmful negativity such as anger, fear, lust, envy or any other, we see that the rhythm of our respiration naturally becomes rapid and gross. When these negativities stop polluting the mind, the rhythm of respiration becomes slow and subtle.

    Observing natural breath is a universal practice. Breath is breath, not a Hindu breath, a Muslim breath or a Christian breath. Thus, Anapana becomes universal.

     

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