I’d like to share some thoughts on mindfulness of breathing as a way to keep the body in the picture in meditation and also as a way to keep contact with the body moment to moment during a day’s activities. Anālayo, in his wonderful book – Satipaṭṭhāna: the Direct Path to Realisation (p.125)– writes:
In ancient times, and still today, mindfulness of breathing might well be the most widely used method of body contemplation. The Buddha himself frequently engaged in mindfulness of breathing, which he called a “noble” and “divine” way of practice. According to his own statement, even his awakening took place based on mindfulness of breathing.
To obtain a sense of the importance of mindfulness of the body, we only have to consider that attention to the presence of the body is a foundational ‘step’ in the following practices:
- awareness and investigation of the five ‘existential functions’ (Wallis’ translation of the ‘aggregates’ or ‘khandhas’);
- the four establishments of mindfulness (satipaṭṭhāna);
- and the ‘Mindfulness of Breathing’ meditation practiced by the Buddha (ānāpānasati);
- and, related to the first point: in general in the teachings (not only in the first foundation of mindfulness), mindfulness of the body is important in the contemplation of the earth-element, as well.
In other words, as we progressively encounter subtler phenomena in ourselves, we continue to check in with the breath and body; we transcend and include the body, embodying our realisation.