Chan Meditation Roadmap

Why Meditation Starts from Experiencing the Breath

By definition, "breath" refers to the inhalation and exhalation,  normally  sixteen to eighteen times per minute, in ordinary people. Practitioners can gradually slow down, lengthen, deepen and soften their breathing to a state called Xi(息). Xi has the power to energize the blood, and that energy vitalizes the body's physiological functions; it is called Qi(氣). When the practitioner experiences the function of Qi, it is called “sensory awareness ”. Having experienced sensory awareness , the practitioner would feel that sitting in meditation is a great happiness and blessing in life.
Besides, there are three big advantages in the method of experiencing the breath:
  1. Everybody can use it; everybody breathes.
  2. We can use it any time: Breathing is always present, and  it does not stop as long as we are alive. We can put our mind on breathing any time.
  3. It is easy to learn; that is, it is easy to feel our breathing.
The Method of Experiencing the Breath
Everybody breathes. However, because our mind is always rushing outwards, most of the time we are not aware of how we breathe. To experience breathing, we just need to detach the mind from thoughts and stick to the breathing, regardless of passing phenomena and thoughts. Feel the breath, and be aware that you are breathing. Enjoy the feeling of the breath, and just experience the natural, smooth breathing.
The method of experiencing the breath is just that easy. After you are steadily seated, gradually pull back your attention. Feel the breaths moving in and out of the tip of your nose. Enjoy the natural, relaxed feel of the breath. If other thoughts come in, never mind them; just let them go and continuously come back to the breathing.
Essential Tips for Experiencing the Breathing
  1. Breathe Naturally: Just maintain natural breathing. Do not deliberately control the speed or depth of the breaths.
  1. Do not compare or analyze: Simply be aware of the feeling of air passing in and out of the nostrils; feel the warmth of the exhaling air, and the cool of the inhalation. Do not ponder where the air goes down into the body, or whether the air quality is good or bad.
  1. Treat every breath as a new beginning: Every breath is a fresh start, a new experience, and a new beginning of life. Experience that life is constantly restarting, constantly moving forward; it does not stay stepping in the same spot. Then you will not get bored or idle. You will become interested in experiencing the breaths,  the wandering thoughts will diminish, and the mind will become stable.