Not surprisingly, I regard the Buddha as the master meditation teacher. He offered much more than meditation for a fully awakened life – ethics, values, knowledge, understanding, fulfilling views, depth of wisdom on matters of the heart, mind and consciousness.
He taught the conditions for suffering and the conditions to end suffering. A psychologist, sociologist, radical reformer, environmentalist and more.
The Buddha gave specific teachings on skilful communication, right livelihood, and a comprehensive psychology, He endorsed the importance of community, dissolution of egotism, addressed social issues and encouraged a lifelong inquiry into social/religious/political issues and more. His teachings pointed the way to waking up rather than sleepwalking through life.
He once commented that meditation on Mindfulness of Breathing brought the most benefits of the vast range of meditation practices.
Fifteen Benefits of Mindfulness of Breathing
In alphabetical order
- A contribution to freeing up the whole being in the process of liberation and awakening.
- Brings harmony to body and mind
- Calms the mind and reduces stress
- Contributes to revealing changes in perception and experiences of life
- Develops a sense of well-being.
- Develops equanimity
- Develops the capacity to witness change – each breath comes, stays and passes – as everything else.
- Develops the power of concentration
- Directs oxygen to the cells in the body from head to foot.
- Enables a depth within to reveal happiness, joy, peace of mind and clarity
- Enables the capacity to handle sickness and physical pain.
- Interrupts unwanted and obsessive thinking
- Keeps one focussed in a challenging situation
- Mindfulness of breathing releases insights, inspiration and fresh energy.
- Releases dark corners of the mind requiring attention and sharing with the wise.
Mindfulness of Breathing is not a stand-alone practice.
The Buddha’s teachings endorse a comprehensive exploration of every area of life with mindfulness of breathing as a feature of the exploration. To use two common metaphors.
Mindfulness of breathing is NOT a single medicine for all ailments. It is NOT one size fits all approach.
Breaths per Day
You might wonder how much practice you need to realise through experience the benefits.
Simple. As much as you can in a variety of environments. You do not have to employ will power and keep making strong determinations to practice. You practice with care, respect and interest in the experience of breathing – as an aid to knowing yourself without hiding behind a role. We face our bare existence when we meditate on the breath.
The number of times we experience mindfulness of breathing refers to a tiny number of breaths we take.
For example, let us say we take 10 breaths a minute.
That is 600 breaths in an hour.
That is 15,000 breaths in a day.
That is around 105,000 breaths in a week
That means around 5.5 million breaths a year.
The Buddha did not specify the tip of the nose for this meditation nor the abdomen. He emphasised the full breath experience in the body knowing the condition of the breath, such as long or short. Of course, other approaches are immensely beneficial.
The entrance to the nose reveals a small location in the body. That has the potential to place stress on the meditator in their effort to focus on the breath.
It may not always be easy to witness the impact of the breath, if any, on the rise and fall of abdomen.
We can practise mindfulness of breathing sitting, walking, standing and reclining.
Primary principle consists of using the nose for breathing and mouth for eating. We develop mindfulness of breathing with mouth closed when jogging, swimming weightlifting and more.
You can see from the list of benefits why Buddhist psychology employs mindfulness of breathing as one of its features, along with other practices/reflections/inquiry with another and meditations to resolve any suffering in the mind.
You can benefit from mindfulness of breathing for two minutes and benefit as well as 20 minutes or an hour. Key is regularity on a daily practice to focus on some of the 15,000 inhalations and exhalations per day.
Meditators, who have reduced significantly problematic states of mind. such as stress, anxiety and anger, will take fewer than 10 breaths per minute due to calmness of being.
Comment from a Buddhist Psychologist
A psychologist is a person who responds through knowledge and insight to mental processes of people and problematic forms of behaviour.
I know many working in the field of psychology/psychotherapy using in profoundly important ways their knowledge, skills and training in Western psychology.
Sometimes psychologists, psychotherapists and others will say to me: “Christopher, I know you are not a psychologist, but I would like to ask…..”
My response is “Of course, I am a psychologist. I am a senior Buddhist psychologist.”
I then add with a smile: “Western psychology started in Germany around 150 years ago. The Buddhist tradition is 2600 years old founded by the Master of Psychology.
“In that respect, Western psychology is the new kid on the block.”
PS. Meditation Centres request a brief bio of the Dharma teacher for residential and zoom teaching. I am going to add Buddhist psychologist to the bio for those who believe only the West can train people to be psychologists. I had the thought of offering a training for people to be Buddhist psychologists. Just a thought….
Photo. Thai Monastery. Sarnath, India, where the Buddha gave his first teachings.
Click to see photo.