Your Goal: Aware of breath sensation, free from gross dullness.
Your seventh step as an insight meditator is to introduce the meditative skill of passively experiencing the flowing change in sensation that can be observed within in & out-breathing at the tip of your nose, to develop stability in your attention.
This transition to the intimacy of breath sensation at the tip of the nose is a necessary step in accessing the conditions for the fifth Enlightenment Factor, tranquility, and to calm the habitual 'going out' of attention by sustaining it on one point.
As relaxation transforms into calm, your attention will naturally transition from the flow of each breath within your body to the sensations within the length of each breath at the tip of your nose.
This process can be encouraged through methodical relaxation and calming. While being aware of the whole of each in and out-breath:
As this relaxing and calming takes place, you will become ever more intimate with these sensations at the tip of the nose until you can clearly perceive the sensate difference between each in and out-breath.
This transition occurs as a natural development of calming three areas:
Too much effort and restlessness will arise. Too little effort and awareness will sink into dullness.
Your task during this stage is to become so intimate with breath sensations that the very idea of breathing fades into the background.
Note: It is important to note that the increased clarity of breath sensation arises from increasing tranquility due to progressive letting go of the desire for sensory experience and not due to holding attention to sensation.
As the feeling of tranquility and seclusion grows, your attention will naturally rest on the flow of sensations as air enters and leaves your nose. (changing coolness and warmth). Notice the difference in sensations between each in and out-breath.
Your meditation is the same as Meditation 06, except you now develop mindfulness at the tip of your nose of the changing sensations within the whole length of each breath.
Step 1: Sit down for meditation on a chair or the floor and gently close your eyes. Develop mindfulness of your body & joyful presence as in Meditations 03 & 04.
Step 2: Develop mindfulness of the whole length of each breath as you did in Meditation 06.
Meditation 07 Additions:
Step 3: As your awareness settles on the whole length of each breath, begin to calm by relaxing any extra effort you feel in your body, breathing, and then mind.
Step 4: As your mind calms, tune into the flow of sensations as air enters and leaves your nose, such as coolness and warmth.
Step 5: Observe the distinct difference in sensations between each in and out-breath.
Step 6: Access the pleasure of letting go by gently smiling with your eyes into it.
Bring it into your mind to dissolve any dullness that arises through over-calming.
Apply the GOSS formula to calm any slight wandering of your attention from the breath sensations.
GOSS: Ground --> Observe --> Soften --> Smile.
The seventh marker of mindfulness of breathing, awareness of sensations in the breath at the tip of your nose, naturally arises as a progression of two things:
Meditative Hindrances are signs of an imbalance in either your effort or the structure of your attention.
It is skillful to view them as an opportunity for insight into your mind rather than something to overcome.
(8) Gross Dullness, (9) Doubt, (10) Gross Restlessness.
(08) Gross Dullness:
Become familiar with and apply the antidotes in the introductory page for Cultivation 03: Working with Dullness.
When doubt is present, engage more with the MIDL community to be supported on the path.
Notice the effort it takes to doubt and soften/relax that effort using by applying GOSS Formula.
Observe where you experience doubt in your body. Break it up into tension, tightness, restlessness, hard, warm, etc. using simple, silent labels.
Find the background quality of unpleasantness and unease, noticing this feeling of unpleasant discontentment (Labelling Instructions).
Observe the feeling of "I don't like, I don't want" within your mind: the aversion. Applying the GOSS Formula to soften/relax into the effort to doubt, tuning into the pleasure of letting go.
(09) Doubt & (10) Gross Restlessness:
Doubt & Gross Restlessness go hand in hand and come from the delusion of Gross Dullness and the inaccessibility of meditative joy.
When this combination is present, engage more with the MIDL community and come to regular weekly classes to be supported on the path.
Switch to shorter meditation lengths, dividing your meditations into 10-minute periods.
Set a countdown timer on your phone and place it behind you so that you don't peek at it.
The important part is to commit to your meditation time frame and rebuild trust in yourself.
What happens during your meditation isn't important, building trust with yourself is.
Take your time during your meditation, feeling, and resting in each Experiential Marker.
It doesn't matter how many markers you get through. What matters is that you re-find enjoyment in your meditation.
Really tuning into the pleasure of relaxation and letting go with the aim of re-arousing meditative joy.
Once you can access the pleasure of letting go, the experience of restlessness and doubt will gradually cease.
You are ready to progress to Meditation 08: One Point of Sensation when:
In this simple map you can observe that when practicing Meditation 07 (blue line) the main hindrances to your insight meditation will be Gross Dullness, Doubt & Gross Restlessness.
The Experiential Marker: maturity of awareness of sensations within breathing, developed by Meditation 07 is the method you should use to calm/weaken the present hindrance.
During quiet times bring this simple skill of being mindful of your breathing into your daily life to relax your body and refresh your mind.
From your foundation of GOSS, you can begin to train attention skills learnt in seated meditation, into your daily life.
Meditation 07 in Daily Life:
Question: Is it necessary to perceive the whole breath as one thing to observe the experience of breathing (when we skip from just knowing whether it is in or out to sensations) or can we still have the conceptual perception of in and out?
Stephen: We still clearly perceive that the breath is coming in and out in stages 2-4.
1. Body sitting >
2. in & out-breaths >
3. whole of each breath >
4. sensations in each breath >
5. one point of breath sensation >
6. sustained attention >
The perception of in & out-breaths only ceases in stage 5 when we become so present with the experience of breathing at the tip of our nose, that time, and the idea of in & out-breaths, cease.
Question: Asking this because I didn’t fully understand the point about perceiving the middle...
It is easy to understand sitting here now that you can know that our breathing is either coming in or going out. If you pay attention to this in & out-breathing you may start to notice that each breath has length: this means that each in-breath happens over a period of time, and each out-breath happens over a period of time.
Stephen: It is being aware of each in & out-breath over a period of time from when it starts to when it ends that is known as the length or whole of each breath. The middle of the breath simply refers to experienced middle point between when the breath starts and when it ends.
If you therefore pay continuous attention to a in or out-breath you will begin to notice that it has a beginning, middle and end.
Question: TMI doesn’t mention this perceiving breathing as one unit (which would require the dropping of the concept of in breath and out breath) in novice stages as a requisite for observing the sensations of breath.
Stephen: As mentioned above, the perception of in-out-breaths continues up to one point of breath sensations (see map above). The process of moving from: (2) in & out-breaths to (5) one point of breath sensation is a gradual increasing of the application of our attention towards our meditation object.
Just knowing if the breath is coming in takes one application of attention, knowing if the breath is coming out takes another. In total knowing an in and out-breath takes two applications of attention.
As we pay closer attention, we begin to notice that we can notice the moment a breath begins, that it has a middle, and an end. If we know these three stages of each breath, then each in and out-breath cycle contains six applications of attention.
If we continue to pay even closer attention to the length of each in & out-breath the application of our attention significantly increases, lowering the gap for mind created distraction.
In this way transitioning to experiencing the sensations within the length of each breath increases the application of our attention so that it is so continuous that there is no gap for distraction or even the perception of time.
It is at this point that tranquility begins to arise and the idea: breathing in or breathing out falls away until all that is left is the experience of one point of breath sensation.
Question: ...perceiving breathing as one unit...
Stephen: I think this is referring to perceiving in & out-breathing as one continuous breath that changes direction. It is important to understand that this is simply a technique that increases the application of attention and brings calm to the mind because of the continuity of the meditation object.
To develop this, you simply pay no interest in the beginning or end of each breath but rather pay attention to each breath's length. This technique significantly increases the application of attention to the breath while providing access to the pleasure of breathing itself.
If you find this helpful then use it, if not then it is not necessary to developing stable attention, it is simply a technique like counting, labelling, experiencing breath sensation. The important part is that you develop stability of attention not though effort but rather through accessing the pleasure of letting go.