Shaila Catherine gave the first talk in a four-week series titled "Cultivating Mindfulness." This talk focused on using the breath as the meditation object. When we observe our breath, our mind is free from unwholesome states, such as anger, greed, or doubt, because we are simply connecting with the very ordinary experience of breathing. We are not being pushed or pulled by desire or aversion. In fact, when we connect with the breath, we experience ease and happiness.
When starting meditation, begin with balancing and calming the body and breathing, but just getting it good enough. This is something that is gained through direct practice over time. Bring certain signs (nimita) to mind to aid in calming. The mind’s tendency is to focus on negative things. Practice bringing the beautiful to mind and make much of it.
Liberation requires clearing citta of its contracted state. We can learn to care for our citta, to know what lifts and steadies it to bring it out of contraction. In meditation we try to concentrate and feel even more constricted. Opening up the body and accessing the vitality that comes from mindfulness of breathing can have a calming effect.
This morning we experiment in using breathing as a meditation object. How do we know we are breathing? We find movement in the body, air element (vayo dhātu). We practise precision in our mindfulness of breathing by tracking its location, its length, its shape or form, its clarity, its beginnings and ends. This opens up issues regarding both the nature of breathing and our relationship to breathing.