Although there are numerous methods for training in shamatha, many masters prefer those that use the breath as an object of focus. This is because breathing is something we are constantly doing anyway. Our breath is not something that is only present when we are meditating and not otherwise. Therefore when we focus on the breath, we do not need to do anything special or create anything new. We simply place the mind on what is naturally already there. Instead of thinking that practice involves doing something out of the ordinary, we just return to or settle into what is already happening. That is why the breath is taken as an object of meditation.
However, sometimes people then think that breathing meditation means inhaling very deeply, holding their breath for a bit and then blowing all the air out of their lungs. I think this happens precisely because they think, “I am meditating. I should be doing something special or unusual.” But they have forgotten that they are already breathing. We have this problem of always wanting to do something intentionally. There is no need to intentionally breathe. Just relax on your breathing. Be aware of the breath. That is all.
Nurturing Compassion: Teachings from the First Visit to Europe
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