Before beginning TIER 1 of Mindfulness of Breathing it is helpful to read these instructions so that you become familiar the structure and goals of your meditative training.
TIER 1 Instructions
TIER 1 Mindfulness of Breathing
Mindfulness of Breathing is a method of training attention through observing the sensations that arise through the 'touch' of the breath as it flows within your body.
The sensations that arise as we breathe provide a constant object of meditation that is always available; one that reflects and develops with the changing state of our mind.
Observing the interaction between your body, breathing and mind will lead to understanding about your relationship towards life.
Mindfulness of Breathing is divided into 16 Meditation Skills.
Each of the below Meditation Skills train a different aspect of your attention. It is helpful to think of these Meditation Skills as being a gymnasium for your mind. Each skill not only strengthening an aspect of your attention but also providing opportunity for insight.
When developed, these skills will allow you to comfortably rest your attention on one point of breath sensation during mindfulness of breathing.
The softening meditation skills are designed to develop your ability to release the habitual grip of your attention on thoughts, sensations, feelings etc. Softening relaxes the effort that underlies the tendency of attraction, aversion or indifference you may have towards what you are experiencing.
TIER 1 MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING
The TIER 1 meditation skills are designed to address any imbalances you may have in both peripheral awareness and attention. During TIER 1 you will also develop insight into the 16 Meditative Hindrances (listed below on this page) in a way that will significantly weaken them.
TIER 2 MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING
The TIER 2 meditation skills are designed to bring stability to the structure of your attention by intentionally cultivating the first six Enlightenment Factors: mindfulness, curiosity, balanced effort, joy, tranquility and samadhi (unification of attention).
TIER 3 MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING
The TIER 3 meditation skills are designed to develop meditative skill in sustaining both attention and peripheral awareness. Attention is one focus point within peripheral awareness.
Peripheral awareness is the background awareness of everything that you are experiencing now. Sustaining means that your attention and/or awareness stay on your meditation object, by themself.
When attention and peripheral awareness are sustained then the conditions are right for access concentration (stable, unified attention, free from the meditative hindrances).
Meditation Skills 04-16 each introduce a new Experiential Marker to mindfulness of breathing.
Experiential Markers are observable experiences that arise as a direct reflection of the development of samadhi (unification of attention) during mindfulness of breathing.
These Markers create simple meditation objects to train your attention on, that naturally progresses from gross to subtle, aiding in the development of samadhi. When all 12 Experiential Markers are followed sequentially, they create a complete mindfulness of breathing practice up to access concentration.
THE 12 EXPERIENTIAL MARKERS
Notice that each of the descriptions of these Markers creates a map for mindfulness of breathing.
Experiential Markers are used to guide mindfulness of breathing. They are like snow poles in a ski field guiding the way, once your mind knows the path they are simply abandoned. But initially they are experiences that can be tracked to guide to keep you on the path.
MARKER 01: Remember the Touch of Your Thumbs.
Marker 01 is concerned with establishing a posture of samadhi on one simple object; touch of the thumbs (parimukham: bring a posture of mindfulness, curiosity, unification (samadhi) to the forefront of the mind). Not only does Marker 1 establish mindfulness but it also deconditions the habitual tendency to forget the meditation object.
MARKER 02: Tuning in to the Experience of the Room.
Marker 02 is concerned with opening awareness to all distraction occurring in the six sense fields and once acknowledged softening participation (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, bodily sensations, mind experiences). This is aligned with indriya samvara in regard to calming the habitual 'going out' of attention. Indrya samvara and the development of nirvikalpa samadhi (objectless unification: aka stillness) is one of the main underlying threads of MIDL.
MARKER 03: Your Body as it Sits in Meditation.
Marker 03 is concerned with establishing a general awareness of our body posture as it sits to create a doorway to kaya-gata sati (mindfulness immersed within the body). This grounding point for attention arises as awareness naturally relaxes from the sense fields into the body in Marker 2 and is used to develop skill in flexible attention (self-observation).
MARKER 04: Awareness Grounded Within Body.
Marker 04 arises as awareness softens into the body until the idea of my body dissolves and all that is left is bodily sensation (kaya-gata sati). This immersion of awareness within the body creates the grounding point for attention from which you will be able to observe the habitual 'going out' of attention towards the six sense fields. To develop samadhi (unification) you should observe the effort beneath the 'going out' of your attention and soften/relax this effort. The softening of this effort causes awareness to return home and establish within the body sense.
MARKER 05: Natural Flow of Your Breathing.
Marker 05 arises as kaya-gata sati establishes and the natural flow of breathing within your body is experienced. This simple flow of breathing can be felt within your body as a natural expansion or stretch as the breath comes in, and a natural deflation or relax, as the breath goes out. Being attention to this has two purposes: to bring awareness to a meditation object that changes as a direct reflection of the mind experiencing it, and to reveal and decondition any habitual tendency towards controlling that may be present within your mind.
MARKER 06: Knowing 'In' and 'Out' Breaths.
Marker 06 arises as a natural increase of mindfulness in regard to the flow of breathing within your body. As mindfulness increases a knowing will arise within your mind in regard to what the breath is doing. Is the breath coming in, or is it going out? Keeping this knowing in regard to what your breathing is doing, now, is the beginning of the development of samadhi.
MARKER 07: Knowing the Length of Each Breath.
Marker 07 arises as mindfulness strengthens and samadhi develops. As this pair develops you will naturally transition from noticing one in-breath and one-out-breath to knowing the full length of each breath. The full length of each breath means being aware of the complete breath, from the beginning to the middle, to the end. This increases your noticing from one per breath, to multiple noticing along the length of each breath, increasing samadhi and decreasing gaps for habitual wandering.
MARKER 08: Knowing Sensation Within Each Breath.
Marker 08 only arises with the calming of effort within your body, breathing and mind. As these three areas are softened and calmed, in-line with noticing the full length of each breath, sensations within each breath will naturally appear to you. With this comes a natural transition from the breath moving through the body, to awareness of breath at the tip of the nose. Tuning into these sensations at this point develops exclusive, intimate attention and calms the tendency of the mind to view experience through layers of perception. More simply you transition from see in and out-breathing to just changing sensations.
MARKER 09: Knowing One Point of Breath Sensation.
Marker 09 only arises when samadhi becomes strong and all 'doing' has been calmed within the mind. The effort 'to do' the meditation at this stage is very subtle, this is because attention is almost sustained. When exclusive attention is given to breath sensation eventually attention will rest on one point of breath sensation, usually at the tip of the nose. This point of breath sensation is unmoving, unchanging in regard to time, it is however moving and changing in regard to sensation quality. With the calming of all doing, free from dullness, attention will sustain on this one point of breath sensation. This means that you no longer need to apply attention to your meditation object, it happens by itself.
MARKER 10: Knowing Subtle Sensations of Whole-Body Breathing.
Marker 10 is concerned with developing intimacy with the sensate quality of your whole body as it breathes, in order to sustain peripheral awareness. Even though attention is sustained, peripheral awareness still contains sensoury input, and therefore opportunities for habitual distraction. By opening peripheral awareness to the subtle movement of your whole body as it breathes, and tuning into these sensations throughout your body, intimacy of awareness is developed and awareness of the six sense fields is calmed.
MARKER 11: Completely Sustained Attention and Awareness.
Marker 11 only arises once attention and peripheral awareness are both sustained. In the process of awareness sustaining bodily sensation become very subtle. This is due to the calming of sensoury input into awareness. Since the body is also a sense organ, your ability to experience bodily sensations from the touch of the world will calm, and breaths sensation will fade. As awareness sustains this is replaced by subtle pleasurable feeling (vedana) and early stages of piti start to arise. With this pleasurable feeling of the body peripheral awareness sustains and intimacy is complete. this is experienced as a solid, stable unmoving attention, with strong sukha (joy/happiness) within the mind and piti (pleasurable sensation filling the body).
MARKER 12: Unified Stable Attention, Free from Hindrances.
Marker 12 only arises once attention and awareness have sustained and unified with each other. this requires a complete giving up of all anticipation of what is to come, and the fear of giving up control to something that is more powerful than you. With complete giving up of control, this natural process will shift into a flow like state, a flow of piti-sukha. It is at this stage as the marker says, that you have established the conditions for access concentration: unified, stable attention, free from the 16 meditative hindrances, accompanied by piti and sukha that arises from this intimate seclusion.
While training your attention on the 12 Experiential Markers during mindfulness of breathing, you may be visited by any of the 16 Meditative Hindrances. Hindrances are simply signs of an imbalance in either your effort or the structure of your attention. Below is a list so that you can recognise them:
Hindrances are simply signs of an imbalance in either your effort or the structure of your attention.
THE 16 MEDITATIVE HINDRANCES
Learning to recognise and adjust imbalances within your effort or attention structure is the skill that you are developing in TIER 1 Mindfulness of Breathing.
The 16 Meditative Hindrances may hinder the development of samadhi, but they are not hindrances to the development of insight - they are the content of insight.
INSIGHT & THE HINDRANCES
Treat each meditative hindrance that arises as an opportunity to develop insight by using this simple formula:
FORMULA FOR INSIGHT
NOTHING PERSONAL HERE
Hindrances are not personal; they are simply two things:
TIP: Clarify their anatta (not-self) nature by watching them come and go autonomously.
As an insight meditator it is your path to understand and deconstruct the conditions for the arising of these hindrances.
Hindrances are opportunities to freedom, not barriers.
Below is a table of the interaction between Meditation Skills, Experiential Markers, Meditative Hindrances and their antidotes during MIDL Mindfulness of Breathing. This table can be used to direct your progression in mindfulness of breathing.
MEDITATION SKILL 01: Grounding Your Attention.
MEDITATION SKILL: Retrain Your Breathing Patterns.
MEDITATION SKILL 02: Softening Into Breathing.
MEDITATION SKILL 03: Skill of Softening Into.
MEDITATION SKILL 04: Cultivate Skill in Mindfulness.
MEDITATION SKILL 05: Cultivate Skill in Focusing.
MEDITATION SKILL 06: Cultivate Skill in Grounding.
MEDITATION SKILL 07: Cultivate Skill in Observing.
MEDITATION SKILL 08: Cultivate Skill in Allowing.
MEDITATION SKILL 09: Cultivate Skill in Applying.
MEDITATION SKILL 10: Cultivate Skill in Acknowledging.
MEDITATION SKILL 11: Cultivate Skill in Sustaining.
MEDITATION SKILL 12: Cultivate Skill in Experiencing.
MEDITATION SKILL 13: Cultivate Skill in Stabilising.
MEDITATION SKILL 14: Cultivate Skill in Joy & Tranquility.
MEDITATION SKILL: Transitioning from Doing to Knowing.
MEDITATION SKILL 14: Cultivate Skill in Intimate Attention.
MEDITATION SKILL 15: Cultivate Skill in Unification.