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How to meditate by breathing - Majjhima Nikaya 119

Gotama taught many methods of meditation. One was a meditation of interruption as a means for developing the awareness required for freedom from suffering. The interruption takes the form of a breath.

Gotama said this meditation should be undertaken in the wilderness, or at the foot of a tree in a park, in an abandoned building, or even amid the trash and filth of a city – while sitting, standing, or walking, while falling asleep, waking up, talking or remaining silent, while when eating, drinking, chewing and tasting, even when urinating and defecating. It should be undertaken frequently, anywhere and at any time.

Taking a breath in and out, become aware of your bodily actions at that moment. If you are sitting, become aware that you are sitting. If you are standing or walking, become aware that you are standing or walking. This is done, whatever it is you are doing, by taking a breath in, and a breath out, and doing nothing for that moment – and recognizing by that interruption what you had been doing.

With another breath in and out, recognize what you were thinking – all the things you anticipated happening if you interrupted, or didn’t interrupt, all the things you were preoccupied with. Recognize what you were feeling, emotionally with your mind and sensually with your body, the pleasure, the pain – and your instinctual pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. Become aware of all your habits and instincts - and recognizing that they may be interrupted.

With another breath in and out, recognize that they may not only be interrupted, but abandoned.

With another breath, become aware of your choices to continue your behaviors, or assume new ones, and cultivate the purpose of rationality, logicality, of acting rightly without regard to instinct or habit.

With another breath, recognize that action is not necessary at this very moment of interruption, of stillness, of doing nothing.

Now that you are interrupted, with another breath in and out, become aware that you are breathing. Become aware of all that your body is doing, even when stilled. Study your body, study your mind.

Breathing in and out, study your body, recognize, as a butcher would examine a carcass, as a scientist would study an animal, that there hairs on your body, nails, teeth, skin, muscles, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, a colon, feces in that colon, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints, urine – all the different components of your body. These are all sustained through breathing.

Breathing in and out, recognize that they are sustained through eating, drinking, working, exercising – all the actions you require to survive.

Breathing in and out, recognize that you were born only by your father and mother sustaining themselves, and sustaining you. Recognize the endless sustenance which they required – from their parents, and their parents’ parents.

Breathing in and out, recognize you will grow old and die – even if provided with adequate sustenance. It is inevitable that you will die, your body will bloat and become fetid and festering, and eventually decompose.

Breathing in and out, recognize you will become sick and grow weaker with age – even if provided with adequate sustenance. This is inevitable.

Breathing in and out, recognize your present strength, your present life, your present breathing.

Breathing in and out, become aware of your mind – each thought, each memory, each belief requires sustenance. As does each emotion. These are also impermanent, changing. They can be let go of.

Now, aware of your body, breathe in and out, and interrupt that sustenance – if only for a moment. Become calm, composed, still, without pleasure or pain. Become equanimous, mindful and alert - if only for a moment.

In this moment of neither pleasure nor pain, no-thought, no-action, become aware that you are without suffering – and become aware of how suffering arises, and how it ceases.

Conquer both your displeasure and your delight. Conquer fear and dread. Resist cold, heat, hunger, thirst, the touch of flies and mosquitoes; resist the wind, sun, and every creeping thing. Resist abusive, hurtful language. Cultivate endurance of bodily and mental feelings that, when they arise, are painful, sharp, stabbing, fierce, distasteful, disagreeable, deadly.

Develop your ability to – at will, without trouble or difficulty – interrupt your behaviors, master your habits and instincts. Develop your constant awareness of your actions of mind and body, remain purposed in your heart toward rightness.

Let go of your beliefs – even those beliefs of impossibility. Impossibility is just a belief, too – perfect your knowledge of how things are. You are neither one nor many, you are neither here nor there, walls and mountains present no obstacle, the earth itself is like water, water is like dry land, you can fly through the air, and even touch the moon and sun.

Cultivate your hearing, your sight, all your perception, purifying them through greater attention. And with this perception and attention become aware of the minds of others, their suffering, their avoidance of pain, their seeking pleasure, their ignorance, their hate, their habits, their beliefs, their impossibilities and possibilities, understand their minds.

Understand your changing being, your self, your many lives - even within this same body. Study them, the birth, the sustenance, the death. What you did, what you didn’t do – and why. See the many lives, the many becomings and endings of all beings, understand the cycle of birth and death, of rebirth and redeath, the consequences of actions both good and bad. And the advantages of non-action.

End your suffering.