These are my notes from a few years ago…

Meena’s notes from Thich  Nhat Hahn’s Commentary on the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing

Three sutra’s fundamental to the practice of meditation are Anapanasati, Satipatthana (Four Establishments of Mindfulness), and Bhaddekaratta Sutta (Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone).  In the Southern traditions these are regarded as the most important texts on meditation.  Thay feels that if we understand these sutras we will have a deeper vision and comprehensive grasp of t he scriptures classified as Mahayana, just as after we see the roots and trunk of a tree we can appreciate its leaves and branches more deeply.

The 16 methods of inhaling and exhaling, in combination with the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, are the essence of the Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing. Breathing is a means of awakening and maintaining full attention in order to look carefully, long, and deeply, to see the nature of all things.

Everything that exists can be places into one of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness (the body, feelings, mind, and objects of the mind).

The 16 methods of breathing in and breathing out can be divided into 4 groups of four methods each. The first group uses the body as the object of Full Awareness; the second uses the feelings; the third uses the mind; and the fourth, the objects of the mind.

If the methods of fully aware breathing are practiced continuously they will lead to the realization of the Seven Factors of Awakening.

Analysis of Sutra’s content

The first part describes the circumstances under which the teaching was delivered.  The second section is the heart of the sutra. It elaborates the 16 methods of fully aware breathing in connection with the Four Establishments of Mindfulness.

Four Preliminary Exercises: Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

1. Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.

2. Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out a short breath, I know I am breathing out a short breath.

3. Breathing in, I am aware of my whole body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.

4. Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.

These exercises of fully aware breathing help us return to our body in order to look deeply at it and care for it. In our daily lives, it is important that we create harmony and ease in our body and to reunite our body and mind. In the first two exercises the object of our awareness is the breath itself. Our mind is the subject, and our breath is the object. Our breath may be short, long, heavy, or light. Practicing our awareness this way we see that our breathing affects our mind, and our mind affects our breathing.  Our mind and breath become one. We also see that breathing is an aspect of the body and that awareness of breathing is also awareness of the body.  In the third exercise the breath is connected with our whole body, not just a part of it. Awareness of the breathing is, at the same time awareness of our whole body—our mind, breath, body are one. In the fourth breathing exercise, our body’s function begins to calm down. Calming the breath is accompanies by calming the body and the mind.  Our mind, our breathing, and our body are calmed down, equally. In these 4 exercises, we can realize the oneness of body and mind. Breathing is an excellent tool for establishing calmness and evenness.

The Second Four Exercises

5. Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.

6. Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.

7. Breathing in, I am aware of my mental formations. Breathing out, I am aware of my mental formations.

8. Breathing in, I calm my mental formations. Breathing out, I calm my mental formations.

The second four exercises help us return to our feelings in order to develop joy and happiness and transform suffering. Our feelings are us. If we do not look after them, who will do it for us? Every day we have painful feelings, and we need to learn how to look after them. Teachers and friends can help but we have to do the work. Our body and our feelings are our territory and we are responsible for that territory. As a result of conscious breathing and calming the body, joy, a pleasant feeling arises. In the 6th exercise, joy is transformed into peace and happiness, and we are fully aware of it. The 7th and 8th exercises bring our attention to all feelings that arise, whether produced by the body or the mind. The mind’s functions include feelings and perceptions. When we are aware of every bodily and every mental action, we are aware of every feeling. The 8th exercise calms the body and mind and makes them peaceful. At this point we can perfectly and completely unify body, mind, feelings, and breath.

The Next Four Exercises

9. Breathing in, I am aware of my mind. Breathing out, I am aware of my mind.

10. Breathing in, I make my mind happy. Breathing out, I make my mind happy.

11. Breathing in, I concentrate my mind. Breathing out, I concentrate my mind.

12. Breathing in, I liberate my mind. Breathing out, I liberate my mind.

The third group of four exercises have to do with our mind which refers to the activities of our mind. These exercises help us deal with whatever mental formations are present, cultivating mental formations that are beneficial, and being in touch with and transforming mental formations that are not beneficial. Mental formations are part of our territory. They are seeds buried deep in our consciousness that we do not touch often enough, seeds of love, understanding, compassion, joy, knowing right from wrong, the ability to listen to others, nonviolence, and the willingness to overcome ignorance, aversion and attachment. Through the practice of mindfulness, we learn to identify these traits in us and nurture them. When we survey our territory we also find destructive traits, such as anger, despair, suspicion, pride and other mental formations that cause suffering. With the aid of mindful breathing we learn to take full responsability for restoring our territory and taking good care of it.  The 10th exercise makes our mind happy because it is easier for the mind to becom concentrated when it is in a peaceful, happy state than when it is filled with sorrow or anxiety. We are aware that we have the opportunity to practice meditation and that there is no moment as important as the present one. Calmly abiding in the present moment, immense joy arises each time we touch in ourselves the seeds of faith, compassion, goodness, equanimity, liberty, and so on. These seeds are buried deep in our consciousnes, and we only need to touch them and water them with conscious breathing for them to manifest. The 11th exercise of using the mind to observe the mind brings us into deep concentration. Mind is the breath. Minds is the oneness of the subject that illumines and the object that is illuminated. Mind is peace and happiness. All mental formations that manifest in the present moment can become objects of our concentration.  12th exercise can release the mind to freedom, if it is still bound. Mind is bound eithr because of the past or the future, or because of other latent desires of anger. With clear observation, we can locate the knots that are binding us, making it impossible for our mind to be free and at peace. We loosen the knots and untie the ropes that bind oru mind. Looking deeply at the nature of mental formations such as fear, anger, anxiety, and so on brings about the understanding that will liberate us.

Four Final Exercises

13. Breathing in, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas.

14. Breathing in, I observe the dissapearance of desire. Breathing out, I observe the dissapearance of desire.

15. Breathing in, I observe cessation. Breathing out, I observe cessation.

16. Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go.

Mind cannot be separated from its object. Mind is consciousness, feeling, attachment, aversion and so on. Consciousness must always be conscious of something. Feeling is always feeling something. Loving and hating are always loving and hating something. This “something” is the object of the mind. Mind cannot arise if there is no object. Mind cannot exist if the object of mind does not exist. The mind is, at one and the same time, the subject of consciousness and the object of consciousness. All physiological phenomena, such as the breath, the nervous system, and the sense organs; all psychological phenomena, such as the earth, water, grass, trees, mountains, and rivers, are objects of mind, and therefore are all mind. All of them can be called “dharmas.” The 13th breathing exercise sheds light on the everchanging, impermanent nature of all that exists–the psychological, the physiological, and the physical. Breathing itself is also impermanent. The insight into impermanence iis also very important because it opens the way for use to see the interrelated, interconditioned nature as well as the selfless nature (nothing has a separate, independent self) of all that exists. The 14th exercise allows us to recognize the true nature of our desire, to see that every dharma is already in the process of disintegrating, so that we are no longer possessed by the idea of holding on to any dharma as an object of desire and as a separate entity, even the physiological and psychological elements in ourselves. The 15th exercise allows us to arrive at the awareness of a great joy, the joy of emancipation and the cessation of illusion, by freeing us from the intention to grasp any notion. The 16th exercise illuminates for us what it is to let go of ourselves, to give up all the burdens of our ignorance and grasping. To be able to let go is to already have arrives at liberation.

The Four Establishments of Mindfulness

4 Establishments are:

– Body

– Feelings

– Mind

– All dharmas (objects of mind)

We practice full awareness of these 4 establishment through conscious breathing. The key to “observation meditation” is that the subject of observation and the object are NOT regarded as separate. Students of meditation have to remove the boundary between subject and object. When we observe something, we are that thing. “Non-duality” is the key word. “Observation meditation” is lucid awareness of what is going on in the 4 establishments: body, feelings, mind, and all dharmas. To suceed in this work we must go beyond attachment and aversion.

The 7 Factors of Awakening

This sectiosn discusses the arising, growth and attainment of the 7 Factors of Awakening, through abiding them in conjunction with concious breathing.

1. Full attentions is the main Factor of Awakening. Full attention is awareness, being fully awake.

2. The work of observation to shed light on the object of our dharmas and see clearly all that exists is investigation of dharmas.

3. Energy is perseverence and dilligence.

4-5. Joy and ease are wonderful feelings nourished by energy.

6. Concentration gives rise to understanding. When we have understanding we can go beyond all comparing, measuring, discrimination, and reacting with attachment and aversion.

7. Going beyond is letting go. Those who arrive at letting go will have the bud of a half-smile, which proves compassion as well as understanding.


In this section the Buddha reminds us that the Seven Factors of Awakening, if practiced diligently, lead to true understanding and emancipation.

A Point of View on Practice

Six Wonderful Dharma Doors: counting, following, stopping, observing, returning, and calming

Counting is an excellent technique. Breathing in, count “one,” and so on. This method can help us refrain from dwelling on troublesome thoughts; instead we concentrate on breathing and the number. When we have developed some control of our thinking we can abandon counting and just follow our breath.

Meditation has 2 aspects: stopping (shamatha) and observing or looking deeply (vipshyana)

Stopping is concentration and looking deeply is insight. We stay with one object in order to observe it and look deeply into it. In this way, stopping and observing become one. Thanks to our ability to stop we are able to observe. The more deeply we observe the greater our concentration becomes.

Subjects of Practice

We practice stopping and observing in order to arrive at liberation, freedom from being bound. bound to what? First of all, falling into forgetfulness, to losing our mindfulness. We live as if we are in a dream. We are dragged into the past and pulled into the future. We are bound by our sorrows, by holding onto anger, unease and fear. “Liberation” here means transforming and transcending these conditions in order to be fully awake, at ease and in peace, joyfully and freshly.

7 methods for putting the Anapanasati Sutta into practice:

1. Following the breath in daily life–eliminating forgetfulness and unecessary thinking (Exercises 1-2)

2. Awareness of the body (Exercise 3)

3. Realizing the unity of body and mind (Exercise 4)

4. Nourishing ourselves with the joy and happiness of meditation (Exercise 5-6)

5. Observing our feelings (Exercises 7-8)

6. Caring for and liberating the mind (Exercises 9-12)

7. Looking deeply in order to shed light on the true nature of all dharmas (Exercises 13-16)

When we practice sitting we should always begin with following our breath and nourishing ourselves with the joy of meditation and only after should we go into the other subjects. The 5th subject should be practiced when oru mind becomes agitated or ill at-ease and the 7th subject is the door that opens onto liberation from birth and death. The first 6 emphasize stopping and looking deeply but the 7th emphasizes looking deeply but we can only embark on that once we develop the capacity to concentrate our mind with great stability.

The First Subject of Full Awareness: Following the Breath in daily Life, Eliminating Forgetfulness and Unnecessary Thinking (Exercises 1-2)

Breathing in, I know I am beathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

1. Breathing in a long breath, I know I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I know I am breathing out a long breath.

2. Breathing in a short breath, I know I am breathing in a short breath. Breathing out, I know I am breahthing out a short breath.

It is important we learn to practice Full Awareness of Breathing during our daily lives. Usually when we perform these tasks our thoughts wander, and our joy, sorrow, anger and unease follow close behind. We enter the present moment by becoming aware of our breath. Breathing in and out, we can smile to affirm that we are in control of ourselves. Through Awareness of Breathing, we can be awake in, and to, the present moment. Being attentive, we already establish “stopping” and concentrating the mind. Most of our daily activities can be accomplished while following our breath. When our work requires special attentiveness we can unite Full Awareness of Breathing with the task itself like carrying a pot of boiling water, repairing something etc. We can nourish this awareness with our breath, “Breathing in, I am aware my hands are carrying a pot of boiling water.” But it is not enough to combine awareness of breathing with tasks that require so much attention. We must also combine Full Awareness of our Breathing with every movement of our body: “Breathing in, I am sitting down.” Stopping the random progression of thoughts and no longer living in forgetfulness are giant steps forward in our meditation practice. We can realize this by following our breath and combining it with awareness of each daily activity. Some people have no peace or joy because they cannot stop their incessant thinking. Thinking too much can give us headaches and our spiritual power diminishes. By following our breath and combining conscious breathing with our daily activities we can cut across the stream of disturbing thoughts and light the lamp of awakening. Our breath is usually short at first but as we practice it gets longer, slows down and deepens. It is not important to make your breath long or short, it is important to recognize it.

The Second Subject of Full Awareness: Awareness of the Body (Exercise 3)

3. Breathing in, I am aware of my while body. Breathing out, I am aware of my whole body.

With this exercise we embrace our body with mindfulness rather than just embracing our breathing. We recognize the presence of our body and we return home to be one with it. Breathing is the vehicle that brings us home, to our body. If we do not come back to our home and cae for it, who will? We embrace a wounded body, care for it, and heal it with right mindfulness. In the Anapanasati Sutta, the Buddha teaches four exercises in connection with the body, but in the Satipatthana Sutta many more methods are taught: 1. Breathing. 2. Recognizing the body, calming the body. 3. Recognizing the positions of the body. When standing, sitting, walking, or lying down, you know you are standing, sitting, walking, or lying down. 4. Recognizing actions of the body: bending down, drinking tea, etc. If your actions are hurried and forgetful you recognize that and your hurriedness and forgetfulness disappear. 5. Observing different parts of the body.

During the practice of meditation mind and body are united. The Buddha taught walking meditation and we can use ideas from the Anapanasati Sutta to help us succeed in our walking. We can take one step and say, “In,” silently. It means, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” For as long as the in-breath lasts, we continue stepping with our left foot. As soon as the out-breath begins, we begin stepping with our right foot and say the word, “Out” silently, which means, “Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” We just take a step and know we are breathing in, and we take a step and know we are breathing out. That is all we need to do. After practicing “In, Out” four or five times our breath will become deeper and slower quite naturally. Sometimes we practice observing different parts of our body, one by one, and then observe the whole body. We can start with our hair, “Aware of my hair, I breathe in. Smiling to my hair, I breathe out,” and then we survey all the different parts of our body, down to the tips of our toes. Right mindfulness is a ray of light that recognizes different parts of our body, helps us become acquainted with them, and shows us how to take care of them. In half an hour we can scan the 36 parts of our body named in the Satipatthana Sutta. During this practice difficult feelings can arise but in that case do not push the feelings away. Instead just look at it and say, “Breathing in, I am aware that I am anxious,” and then continue observing your body under the supervision of the Full Awareness of Breathing. The secret of practicing this second subject of Full Awareness, “Awareness of the Body,” is to concentrate your mind and observe each organ of the body in full awareness.

The Third Subject of Full Awareness: Realizing the Unity of Body and Mind (Exercise 4)

4. Breathing in, I calm my whole body. Breathing out, I calm my whole body.

Now that we have observed our whole body we can bring peace and calm to it. Sometimes our body does not function peacefully. In this practice allow your breathing, your body, and your observing mind to all become one. Subject and object are empty. Subject and object are not two.

The Fourth Subject of Full Awareness: Nourishing Ourselves With the Joy and Happiness of Meditation (Exercises 5-6)

5. Breathing in, I feel joyful. Breathing out, I feel joyful.

Those who practice meditation should know how to nourish themselves with the joy and happiness of meditative concentration, in order to reach real maturity and help the world. Life in this world is both painful and miraculous. Joy is a positive psychological and physiological state.

6. Breathing in, I feel happy. Breathing out, I feel happy.

This exercise helps us feel happiness as we breathe in and out. Happiness is easiest when our body and mind are at ease, free of excessive worries and preoccupations. Happiness is more than joy. According to the Buddhist teachings, joy is less pure because it contains excitement. If we are too excited about the future how can we enjoy the present moment? The Buddha never criticized joy, we need joy very much but we also need to go futher than joy. To succeed in the practice we must experience joy and happiness–it is not enough to repeat the words.

The Fifth Subject of Full Awareness: Observing Our Feelings (Exercises 7-8)

7. Breathing in, I am aware of my mental formations. Breathing out, I am aware of my mental formations.

Mental formations are psychological phenomena. There are 51 mental formations according to the Mahayana School and 52 according to Theravada. Feelings are one of them. In the 7th and 8th exercises mental formations simply mean feelings. Some feelings are rooted in our body, such as a toothache of a headache. Feelings that are more rooted in our mind arise from our peceptions. When you feel sad remember that it will not last forever. Whatever feeling is present, we identify it, recognize that it is there, and shine the dun of our awareness on it. If we have an unpleasant feeling, we take that feeling in our arms like a mother holding her crying baby. The “mother” is mindfulness and the “crying baby” is the unpleasant feeling. Mindfulness and conscious breathing are able to calm the feeling. If we do not hold the unpleasant feeling in our arms but allow it just to remain in us, it will continue to make us suffer. “Breathing in, I touch the unpleasant feelings in me. Breathing out, I touch the unpleasant feeling in me.” In Buddhist meditation looking deeply is based on nonduality. We do not view irritation as an enemy, we see that irritation is the present moment and we breathe in and out this awareness. We treat our irritation with compassion, every feeling is a field of energy. Feelings originate in the body or in oru perceptions. Insomnia we feel fatigue which originates in the body. Seeing a rope as a snake we may cry out in fear but fear is a feeling and mistaking the rope for a snake is an inaccurate perception. If we live our daily lives in moderation, keeping our bodies in good health, we can diminish painful feelings that originate in the body. When we observe a feeling deeply, we recognize the multitude of causes near and far that helped bring it about, and we discover the very nature of feeling.

8. Breathing in, I calm my mental formations. Breathing out, I calm my mental formations.

We use our conscious breathing in orer to calm and transform the energy of our feeling. It is like riding a bicycle. As long as we continue to pedal, we will move forward, but as soon as we stop, we will lose our balance and fall off. We have to keep following our breathing for the feeling of calm to transform. “Hello fear. Come here. I shall look after your.”

The Sixth Subject of Full Awarenes: Caring for and Liberating the Mind

9. Breathing in, I am aware of my mind. Breathing out, I am aware of my mind.

The 9th exercise recognizes the other mental formations aside from feelings. It is the first of the group of four exercises that belong to the field of the mind. In the Sutra of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, we are taught to observe “the mind in the mind.” It means we should observe mental formations in the spirit of non-duality, with no barrier between the subject and object of observation. When we look at the blue sky, the boundary between the observer and the infinite blue sky disappears, and we feel a deep contact between ourselves and the blue sky. When a grain of salt standing next to the sea asks, “How salty is the sea?, he is told that the only was to know is to jump into the sea and become one with it. Mind here is compose of psychological phenomena, including perception, thinking, reasoning, discriminating, imagining, and all the activities that have their roots in the subconscious. As soon as any psychological phenomena arises we should breathe in and out and identify it. As we continue to observe it, we can see its connection with the whole of our mind. The meaning of the 9th exercise is: “I breathe in and out and identify the mental formation that is present at this moment in me.” To identify a mental formation with the help of conscious breathing means to recognize, embrace, and become one with that mental formation–it does not mean to drown in that mental formation, because the subject that is recognizing, embracing, and becoming one with the mental formation is the energy of mindfulness. When our mindfulness is one with the mental formation, the mental formation quite naturally changes for the better. The first 4 breathing exercises help us become one with our breathing and drop all thinking, discriminating ideas, and imaginings. The second four exercises get us in touch with our feelings. The 9th exercise helps us identify psychological phenomena, such as thoughts or imaginings as they arise. “Citta” refers to all psychological phenomena, such as feelings, perceptions, thoughts, reasoning, and so forth, along with their objects. Mind is a river of psychological phenomena that is always flowing. To know how to identify psychological phenomena as they arise and develop is an important part of meditation practice. When we recognize the mental formation that is manifesting in us, we recognize whether it is wholesome or unwholesome. Once our mind is able to identify what is happening, we will be able to see clearly our mental formation and make it calm. Just that will bring us peace, joy, and stillness.

10. Breathing in, I make my mind happy. Breathing out, I make my mind happy.

The 10th breathing exercise is intended to gladden the mind. Compare this with the 5th and 6th exercise. The 5th aims at the experience of joy, the 6th at the experience of happiness. To gladden the mind is to see the beneficial mental formations that are within us like faith and confidence in the path. You can practice the 10th exercise by, “Breathing in, I recognize the mental formation of non-violence in me. Breathing out, i feel happy.”

11. Breathing in, I concentrate my mind. Breathing out, I concentrate my mind.”

The 11th method aims at concentrating our mind on a single object. We bring all our power of concentration and place it on the mental formation that is present. Whether the mental formation is positive or negative we recognize it and call it by its name, directing all our mental energy upon it. We embrace it and look deeply at it, and doing this already begins the work of transforming that negative mental formation. It is like waking up on a cold morning and lighting a fire. The cold air is warmed by the warm air of the fire. We do not need to open the door and force the cold air out to make the room warm. All we have to do is tend the fire. In the case of a negative mental formation, all we have to do is look after it with warmth of the fire of our mindfulness. Only by concentrating on the object can we observe it. The object of our mind is lit up by our observation, like a performer standing in a spotlight on the stage. The object might be moving in time and space, since it is alive. But our mind is also alive, and in the state of concentration, subject and object become one. Breathing is an object of our mind and we pull all our attention on our breath and our mind and our mind and breath become one. That is concentration. Only if there is concentration can the work of looking deeply take place.

12. Breathing in, I liberate my mind. Breathing out, I liberate my mind.

The twelfth exercise aims at untying all the knots of the mind–the sorrows and meories of the past, the anxieties and predictions concerning the future, feelings of irritation, fear, and doubt in the present, or confusion created by inaccurate perceptions. Only by concentrating the mind do we have the capacity to observe, illumine, and be emancipated from obstacles. When we say, “liberate the mind” what we are referring to is any mental formation that makes us suffer or pushes us in the wrong direction. “Breathing in, I open my heart for all the knots to be untied. Breathing out, I open my heart for all the knots to be untied.”

The 7th subject on Full Awareness: Looking Deeply in order to Shed Light on the True Nature of All Dharmas (Exercises 13-16)

13. Breathing in, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas. Breathing out, I observe the impermanent nature of all dharmas.

All phenomena are impermanent. Understanding impermanence is not a matter of words but a matter of practice. Only through our daily practice of stopping and looking deeply can we experience the TRUTH of impermanence. Looking deeply we realize that impermanence is neither good nor bad. Impermanence also means interdependence. Impermanence also means “signlessness” (alakshana). The categories of perception and thought are “signs.” A wave can be high or low but the essense is neither “high” or “low”. All signs, “high” or “low” cannot touch the essence of water. When we begin the practice, we want things to be permanent and we think things have a separate self. Whenever things change, we suffer. To help us not suffer, the Buddha gave us the truths of impermanence and non-self as keys. When we look deeply at the impermanent nature of all things and no-self we are using those keys to open the door to reality or “nirvana.” The reality of everything that exists is its signlessness since it is a reality that cannot be grasped by concepts and words. Because it cannot be grasped it is empty. Emptiness here does not mean nonexistent as opposed to existent, it means signless, free from all imprisonment by concepts–birth/death, pure/impure etc. Impermanence also means aimlessness (apranihita) the presense of everything that exists is not to attain a final goal.

14. Breathing in, I observe the dissapearance of desire. Breathing out, I observe the dissapearance of desire.

The fourteenth exercise looks deeply in order to shed light on the true nature of all dharmas and the true nature of our desire. We see that happiness does not lie in ideas about what we realize in the future, and for that reason we are no longer attached to the objects of our desire that we thought would bring us future happiness. A practitioner should clearly observe the impermanence and fading nature of all things including the Five Aggregates that comprises his or her own self. The Nine Contemplations were a special practice used during the time of the Buddha where you observe the decomposition of a corpse.

15. Breathing in, I observe cessation. Breathing out, I observe cessation.

The fifteenth exercise helps free us from individuality so that we can become a part of the whole universe. Nirodha is the Sanskrit and Pali word and it means cessation of all erroneous ideas, of all notions that keep us from directly experiencing the ultimate reality, and of all suffering born of our ignorance. Cessation of ideas like birth and death, increasing and decreasing, coming and going. We have to go beyond these ideas because they form the basis of our suffering. When we look deeply and see that reality is beyond ideas then that leads to cessation.

16. Breathing in, I observe letting go. Breathing out, I observe letting go.

The 16th exercise, like the 15th, aims at helping us look deeply in order to shed light on giving up desire and attachment, fear and anxiety, hatred and anger. The more we let go, the happier we become. We do not let go of reality but we do let go of wrong perceptions about reality. We have to practice letting go of our ideas in order to see life everywhere, beyond space and time. Letting go means giving up every comparison, seeing that the boundary between ourselves and others is not real. Let go in order to be everything and to be completely free.


The order of the 16 Breathing Exercises is the order of the Four Establishments of Mindfulness: body, feelings, mind, and objects of mind. The intelligent practitioner knows how to regulate and master his or her breath, body, and mind in order to enhance the power of concentration before proceeding in the work of looking deeply to shed light. Meditation rpactice is nourishing for body and mind, and can also expand our vision. Expanded vision enables us to go beyond passionate attachment or aversion to life. It makes us joyful, calm, stable, tolerant, and compassionate.