Aspects of Sitting Meditation

Breath by Breath

During sitting your breath should be very regular, very smooth, with almost no effort, not noticing that the air is gone, or has come in. Breath has an incredible range of volume, strength, and speed. There are hundreds of techniques you can use, depending on your health and emotional condition. Like playing an instrument, singing, or drawing as you breathe; there are many ways. The basic point is not to push or pull, but to let it go.

The ancient Sanskrit word for breath was prana. This is translated ki in Japanese, or chi in Chinese. Ki, as in aikido, ki is vitality. Sometimes it is called seiki: life-vitality. And this soft part where the intestines are is called hara in Japanese. Hara is also called kai: the ocean of ki. Our vitals are here. When you have no strength in the hara you feel very week. When you are full of energy this part is full of energy. When you chant you let your voice come out from this part center of your stomach. Basically ki comes out and informs the shape of your mind. The contents of your mind are that voice.

The ideal, in sitting, it to forget the breath. You may breathe as you like; there is an incredible variety in the speed of breathing and even the emotion of breathing. So if you want to observe your breathing, you should do it for months and months without trying to control it.

My feeling is that each breath is an independent thing. It arises and goes and some thoughts go with it. Your cannot bring them back; that's it. It's the same as your heart beat; your whole body is needing it. So if you can forget the breath, then you are having perfect breath. I suggest that you keep your best posture: straight, upright posturečthat naturally takes care of the breath.

From deep breath, which carries your awareness with it, to very shallow breath, which also carries your awareness, you have to choose the best breath between them. You can be aware of the texture of your breath, from rocky breath to silk-like breath and finally to transparent breath, like a transparent string of breath. You can feel which is the best breath for sitting.

Try to sit and pay attention to how your breath goes. Each time you sit your body condition is different, so each time you must try to find your best breath and stay with that. I always feel breathing is like drawing a circle. It is best to get really familiar with your breath.

Back to Talks on Aspects of Sitting Meditation, by Kobun Chino Otagawa Roshi.
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