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Regulating the Mind by Counting the Breath

The basic method of regulating the mind is to count one's breath in a repeating cycle of ten breaths. The basic idea is that by concentrating on the simple technique of counting, this leaves the mind with less opportunity for wandering thoughts. Starting with one, mentally (not vocally) count each exhalation until you reach ten, keeping the attention on the counting. After reaching ten, start the cycle over again, starting with one. Do not count during the inhalation, but just keep the mind on the intake of air through the nose. If wandering thoughts occur while counting, just ignore them and continue counting. If wandering thoughts cause you to lose count, or go beyond ten, as soon as you become aware of it, start all over again at one.

If you have so many wandering thoughts that keeping count is difficult or impossible, you can vary the method, such as counting backwards from ten to one, or counting by twos from two to twenty. By giving yourself the additional effort, you can increase your concentration on the method, and reduce wandering thoughts.

Regulating the Mind by Watching the Breath If your wandering thoughts are minimal, and you can maintain the count without losing it, you can drop counting and just observe your breath going in and out. Keep your attention at the tip of your nose. If, without any conscious effort, your breathing naturally descends to your lower abdomen, allow your attention to follow your breathing there. Do not try to control the tempo or depth of your breathing: just watch and follow it naturally. A less strenuous method, also conducive to a peaceful mind, is to just keep your attention on the breath going in and out of your nostrils. Again, ignore wandering thoughts. When you become aware that you have been interrupted by thoughts, just return to the method.

 《TSO-CH'AN》p. 0012-0013

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