Instruction on vipassana
meditation using the breath as object.
Joseph Goldstein SPRING 1995
We begin with breath,
opening to the feeling or the sensation of each breath, each
movement of the rise and fall or in and out, without any
expectation of how any particular breath should be, not trying to
force it into a particular pattern, not thinking that there should
be any one kind of sensation. It is a settling back into each
moment, with a great deal of care and precision, and being open to
what is revealed in that particular breath. What is the sensation
of this rising, or this in-breath? What is the feeling of it? Is it
long or short, is it rough or smooth, is it deep or shallow, is
there heaviness or pressure or tingling?
There is no need to go
through a checklist. Just by our being open and paying careful
attention, the characteristics of each breath will show themselves.
So we settle back and stay open, with a beginner’s mind for each
rising, each falling, each in-breath, each out-breath.
If there is a space or a
pause between the breaths, notice one or more touchpoints, making
the note “touching, touching.” When sensations in the body become
predominant, when they’re calling the attention away from the
breathing, let the mind go to the sensation that is predominant;
open to it, feel it. Note what kind of sensation it is. Is it heat
or cold, heaviness or lightness, is it vibration or tingling, is it
a painful sensation or a pleasant one?
When you open with
awareness to each sensation, the characteristics of that sensation
will become obvious. Let the mind stay very receptive to the
sensations. Note what happens as you observe them. Do they get
stronger, do they get weaker, do they disappear, do they increase?
Observe what happens, without any model or expectation of what
should be there; simply be with what is. When the sensations are no
longer predominant, return again to the breath.
Stay mindful too of the
different mind states or emotions. These states are less clearly
defined as objects. They don’t have such a clear beginning, middle,
and end, and yet they can become very predominant objects of
experience. So if a mind state or emotion or mood becomes strong –
feelings such as sadness or happiness or anger or desire,
restlessness or excitement, interest or rapture, joy or calm – make
the mental note of that mind state, feeling it and observing how
that too is part of the passing show. It arises, it is there for
some time, it passes away.
Use the breathing as a
primary object, being with it if nothing else is very predominant
and coming back to the breath when other objects disappear. Also,
if the mind is feeling scattered or confused, without knowing
exactly what to observe, center the attention on the breathing,
either the rise and fall or in and out. When the mind feels more
centered and steady, again open the awareness to the entire range
of changing objects – the breath, sounds, sensations, thoughts,
images, intentions, emotions – noting each in turn as they arise.
Keep the mind open, receptive, and alert, so that in each moment
there can be an accurate awareness of what is present.