In MIDL Mindfulness Training 9/52 you change your perception from mindfulness of the breath as it draws in and out, to the expansion & deflation of your whole body as it responds to breathing. This is a necessary transition from the development of one-pointed concentration to momentary concentration in order to open to the experience of your six senses to develop Wisdom. This transition is initially made by increasing awareness of your whole body as it responds to breathing by gradually expanding your awareness of the experience breathing within it. Submit Your Question
Our Ninth Training:
MIDL Mindfulness Training 9/52: Deepening The Whole Breath
1. Develop sensitivity to the full range of each breath.
2. Develop perception of our whole body as it breathes as a basis for pure mindfulness meditation.
3. Develop accuracy and continuity of the factors of attention.
4. Learn to ground within the experience of the whole body breathing.
Meditation is practiced in a seated position.
The Four Stages:
1. After grounding awareness within your body as in MIDL 7/52 observe the breath naturally flowing within your body.
2. Bring awareness to the breath as it draws into your body autonomously at the tip of your nose.
3. Next experience the breath inside your head, then throat, chest etc dwelling at each stage.
4. Gradually expand your awareness of each breath as it moves through your body until you clearly perceive your whole body breathing.
Practice daily for 1 week, begin mindfulness of breathing by observing the experience of the breath as its flows in and out through your nose - autonomously - free from control. Observe and label any movements of your attention away from the breath. Gradually deepen your perception of breathing by experiencing it flow into your head, the feeling of pressure. Move down through your throat, chest, upper back and ribs. Experiencing the full length of each breath. Continue this awareness into your belly then out to your fingers and toes until you feel your whole body breathing. As the breath comes in and your body expands out go outwards with that expansion. As your body deflates soften and allow that deflation to draw you inwards.
1. Develop ability to mindfully observe whole body naturally breathing.
2. Develop initial momentary concentration for pure mindfulness meditation in preparation to open to six senses.
3. Develop accuracy of your attention: Investigation, mindfulness, concentration and awareness.
Your Question: I am confused about why we develop concentration on our breathing then start looking at different parts of our breath. Doesn't this disturb the development of concentration in meditation? I was feeling really tranquil and now it feels like my concentration is going away. Why don't we continue to concentrate on our breathing?
Stephen Procter: The transition you have observed is a necessary one if we wish to practice pure mindfulness meditation. The purpose of mindfulness of breathing in MIDL 7 - 8/52 is to develop enough concentration to settle the Five Hindrances and to bring steadiness and clarity to our awareness. This is done by keeping one object gently in mind, in this case the in and out-breath, to develop one-pointed concentration (unification of awareness). This unification, commonly known as concentration, is necessary if we wish to develop understanding about ourself because of the unification of the mental factors it develops. It is important to understand however, if we wish to practice pure mindfulness meditation, that this unification has a tipping point.
As one-pointed concentration develops and awareness unifies then awareness of our six senses also starts to fade until our focus is only on our meditation object and nothing else, in this case the experience of breathing. This can be likened to absorbing into a movie in a picture theatre and not being aware of people around you until a sound draws you back out. The movie becomes your only reality for this time. This unification of awareness is very pleasurable because of the seclusion of mind from the Five Hindrances and sensory experience, but it does not however develop understanding of the habitual tendencies embedded within our heart/mind.
How Much Concentration?
The question now arises for the practitioner of mindfulness meditation: "How much concentration is necessary to cultivate Wisdom?" This then gives rise to the question: "Where is Wisdom cultivated?".
Wisdom in MIDL is cultivated through developing understanding of ourselves by observing the deeply ingrained habitual patterns within our mind as it interacts with experiences that arise within the field of our six senses. Since the development of one-pointed concentration fades our experience of the six senses, then the level of this fading tells us how much concentration is needed to self-observe habitual patterns of heart and mind.
In this way we can observe this 'tipping point' that defines two distinct paths: The path of tranquillity and the path of Insight. If we continue to develop one-pointed concentration we will enter the path of tranquillity as sensitivity to the six senses shuts down. If we wish to follow the path of Insight it is necessary to increase, not lower, our awareness of our six senses. This is why in MIDL when we observe the fading of the six senses we change the way that we perceive breathing from 'in and out-breaths' (MIDL 7 - 8/52), to the experience of our whole body as it breathes (MIDL 9 - 11/52).
About This Training
This MIDL Mindfulness Training 9/52: Deepening the Whole Breath moves from the concept of breathing moving 'in' on the in-breath and 'out' on the out-breath to experiencing how our body 'responds to breathing'. We do this by becoming aware of all the phases of breathing from the tip of our nose, to the expansion of our ribs and deep down into our belly until this transfers to the experience of our body expanding and contracting with each breath.
This is the actual experience of breathing which is the sensations that appear in our body as it expands out-ward on the in-breath and in-ward on the out-breath. Swapping our perception of the experience of breathing at this stage, from mindfully breathing in and out in MIDL Mindfulness Training 7 & 8/52, to the expansion and contraction of our whole body as it breathes, MIDL 9 - 10/52, grounds awareness within the sensations of the body and dissolves all identification and boundaries. This then leads into the next stage in MIDL 11/52 of opening to all experience that arises within the field of the six senses on the expanding in-breath and Softening into all our relationship towards that experience with the contracting out-breath. In this way it can be considered the path of pure mindfulness meditation.
Your Question: I have been meditating for Jhana for many years and was recommended to follow with your MIDL group on Insight Timer this year as a way of enhancing my investigation skills. It has been interesting so far but some questions have come up. Does it matter that I practice a different type of meditation? In MIDL do you meditate for jhana at all? I have seen you giving different meditation instructions to different people, this seems to be a bit confusing to me, could you explain? I also want to thank you for softening, it has been helpful for my meditation practice.
Your Question: "...Does it matter that I practice a different type of meditation?.."
My Reply: The first thing to understand is that it is not necessary to change from your original meditation technique to practice MIDL. While MIDL contains its own structure that can be used it is not limited to one base technique. MIDL is a way of self observation based on three pillars of attention, softening and stillness, these in themselves have no shape or form and can together be absorbed into any technique. MIDL is formless and smoothly integrates with and enhances any Wisdom based method of meditation.
Your Question: "...I have seen you giving different meditation instructions to different people, this seems to be a bit confusing to me, could you explain?..."
My Reply: MIDL is based on the Satipatthana Sutta and in its essence is formless in its structure. Because MIDL is concerned with meditating within daily life it contains different paths of entry based on the natural tendencies and life situation of each individual meditator.
Meditators with Natural Samadhi
For MIDL meditators with little disturbance within their life, the ability to meditate for long periods and natural tendency towards samadhi (concentration) the path of developing jhana first, insight second is available.
Follow MIDL Mindfulness Training to MIDL 7 & 8/52. At MIDL 8/52 when observing the length of each breath turn awareness away from the ending of the breath and join the in-breath and out-breath as one. If you observe the arising and ceasing of each breath, as in mindfulness meditation, the mind will become disturbed as its perception of impermanence develops. Instead your task is to perceive the characteristic of permanence, steadiness, continuity; pleasure within the breath itself. By joining the breaths as one and perceiving them as one breath, pleasure will arise and with gentle awareness and continuity of mindfulness, Samadhi (concentration) will develop to the level of access concentration.
From this point when the Nimitta arises you can develop it and enter Jhana, mastering your skill up to the fourth Jhana. Once mastered as you emerge from the forth Jhana, use the equanimity within the mind to observe the dissolution of the Jhana factors and the arising of the interaction of the mind with the six sense fields. From this basis, after emerging from Jhana, you can use MIDL Mindfulness Trainings 13 - 50/52 to cultivate Wisdom.
Meditators with Busy Lives
When meditating in daily life it is more difficult for the meditator to separate themselves from the disturbance of the Five Hindrances to Meditation: attraction, aversion, mental sluggishness, restlessness and doubt. These are the normal characteristics of living a non-monastic life. This being so the initial develop of Jhana is difficult for someone raising children, working to earn money and involved in normal day to day social interactions. For this lifestyle all Five Hindrances are rampant and will disturb a meditators ability to develop Jhana within daily life.
Since the Five Hindrances to Meditation are part of daily life, the meditator wishing to follow the practice of Satipatthana Vipassana (mindfulness meditation) has little choice if they wish to deepen their practice then to take the Five Hindrances to Meditation as their meditation object in a way that will weaken them within their mind. This is the path of pure MIDL, turning the Five Hindrances to Meditation into their meditation object so that they become the Five Characteristics of Distraction. MIDL Mindfulness Trainings 1 - 52/52 provide a gradual training that develops the ability to mindfully observe and decondition the Five Hindrances from the mind. This is a gradual yet very effective approach that develops a mind that can, if the meditator wishes, cultivate Jhana within daily life without the disturbance of the Five Hindrances and from a basis of equanimity.
To do this the MIDL meditator at MIDL 8/52 only develops enough concentration to temporarily settle the Five Hindrances within the mind, they then turn towards development of the perception of the whole body as it responds to breathing. As it expands on the in-breath and deflates on the out-breath. This swaps the development of concentration to momentary concentration, increasing awareness of the minds interaction with the six sense fields: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and mind; developing the skill of softening into any participation of the mind with them.
The meditator then cycles through the 52 trainings, using these trainings as a way of developing meditation skill but also to challenge the mind, to cause the Five Hindrances to arise in the disguise of deeply embedded habitual tendencies. Softening into attraction towards these habitual patterns and deconditioning them through mindful non-participation until they are feint memories within the mind.
Meditators with Anxiety
Anxiety is often considered a hindrance to meditation because of the strong aversion within the meditators mind it is difficult for the meditator to develop concentration and find the motivation to practice. In MIDL anxiety is not seen as a hindrance but rather another doorway through which to begin Satipatthana practice.
To use anxiety as a meditation object the meditator needs to enter through the Softening door in order to disarm the defensive aspects of the anxious mind. The first step is to recondition habitual stress breathing patterns to diaphragmatic breathing for three reasons :
1. To lower the dominance of the Five Hindrances through turning off the habitual stress response.
2. To develop sensitivity to changes of breathing patterns that give rise to anxiety.
3. To create gaps in habitual anxiety cycles through mindful non-participation.
Mindfully working with habitual anxious patterns in this way not only leads to a lowering of the experience of anxiety but it also fulfils the Four Satipatthana's: Mindfulness of body. feeling tone, mind and conditioned processes. Once habitual anxious patterns have been deconditioned the meditator can then naturally transfer to mindfulness of breathing with the mental qualities of investigation, mindfulness and momentary concentration already developed within their mind.
Your Question: "...In MIDL do you meditate for jhana at all?..."
My Reply: As mentioned above, meditation for Jhana is an optional path in the mindfulness of breathing section in MIDL depending on the natural tendencies of the meditator. For most people meditating in daily life, meditating for Jhana is not practical while the Five Hindrances to Meditation remain a dominant part of their life.
This being the case most MIDL meditators benefit from doing pure Satipatthana Vipassana first in order to decondition the tendencies within their mind towards the Five Hindrances. Through developing the Three MIDL Pillars: Flexible Attention, Softening Into and Allowing Stillness the meditator has the ability to mindfully observe habitual tendencies as they arise, to soften into participation with these tendencies, to abandon participation so that the mind sinks into Stillness.
This appears as a natural 'fading' of the intensity, duration and attraction of habitual patterns gradually leading to their non-arising. Once the meditators defensive patterns have faded then they move onto cultivating wholesome qualities of mind such as Metta or Samatha Bhavana for Jhana.
This pattern of development was given by the Buddha in the Noble Eightfold Path as:
Samatha Jhana sits in the cultivating and establishing section within MIDL for the practical reason that to cultivate and establish wholesome qualities before abandoning and guarding to decondition the hindrances, leads to a covering up of the hindrances and difficulty in uprooting deeply embedded habitual patterns.
Your Question: Why is it that some days, ie today, I just cannot settle the mind.... all over the shop?
Stephen Procter: Because this is the nature of the mind, it is a flow of changing events just like the weather. It is trying to teach you "I am a flow of nature and follow my own patterns", "you cannot control me and do not own me", "if you try to control me or think that you own me you will suffer".
Our mind is trying to tell us this all the time but we won't listen.
Your Question: I have problems with observing from a distance. I always feel pretty immediately in the body. I try to imagine watching from a distance, but it feels fake. Is there any way to practise this?
Stephen Procter: To get a feel for this try sitting in a chair and looking across the room. Look at one thing, stare at it as closely as you can. Notice the effort behind that stare. Then back off that stare, relax the effort of the stare. Use your peripheral vision, bring your vision wide.
Bring everything in your vision into focus, notice that you can still see the one thing that you were staring at in your field of vision but the looking now is soft, it is general, there is no effort to it.
This is watching from a distance.
Your Question: As you guide us to breathe into the body, this is really interesting because my body seems to have blurred into the surroundings at this point. Should I be trying to find and stay within the edges of my body with the breath?
Stephen Procter: Allow the perceptional borders of your body to fade away, also allow the idea "I am breathing in, I am breathing out" to fade away. Stay with and develop the perception of expansion and contraction without borders. Widen the awareness beyond your body and be aware of all six senses, allowing the sense input to 'come into you'. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, mind (thoughts, memories) to arise and cease as part of the experience of expansion and contraction. Soften your relationship towards what you are experiencing. Be open to everything.