Anapana Meditation

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Guidelines

  1. A Mini Anapana session should be conducted in a quiet hall or room suitable for meditation
  2. Participants must listen and practice carefully, sitting with their backs straight while maintaining complete silence through out the entire session
  3. Neither the person hosting the session nor anyone else should give any other instructions, live or recorded; the only instructions given should be that of Mr. Csonka’s Mini Anapana recording
  4. There should be no charge whatsoever for attending a Mini Anapana session

I signed up for a Vipassana course in a moment of quiet desperation. I was coming up on close to a year of insomnia. I found myself exhausted by the anxiety of not sleeping, yet unable to find any meaningful rest. For the first time in my life I was having panic attacks. Nightly, they were triggered by the dawning realization that sleep would elude me yet again.

I was also dealing with chronic pain. A bad accident as a kid followed by a series of rib fractures and back injuries over the years generated a state of permanent hurt made worse with the lack of sleep and an excess of cortisol.

I chose this specific course, which took place in New Zealand, because despite the trendiness of meditation classes and apps, Vipassana seemed to be about equanimity, discipline and hard work – right up my alley. I am not the most woo woo of humans, and the idea of a giant drum circle of positive thinkers made me want to run away screaming.

Vipassana is different from mindfulness meditation, which focuses on awareness, or to transcendental meditation, which uses a mantra. Instead, it dictates a blanket command of non-reaction. No matter the pain as you sit, or the fact that your hands and legs fall asleep and that your brain is crying for release. You are instructed to refocus attention on the objective sensations in your body, arising and falling, as you do a scan of your limbs in a specific order. By doing so, over 10 days, you train yourself to stop reacting to the vicissitudes of life.

I told my friend I wanted to break my brain and put it back together again

While descended from Buddhism, the modern-day courses are secular in nature. The father of these retreats is the late SN Goenka, who was raised in Myanmar and learned Vipassana from monks there.

When a friend asked me why I was willingly heading into solitary confinement, especially since I had never meditated before, I told her I wanted to break my brain and put it back together again.

“I need to defrag my hard drive,” I quipped. “It isn’t running efficiently.” I compared it to hiring a personal trainer to help me at a first-ever gym session.

Anapana Meditation (First Step to Vipassana Meditation)

One of the most important practices that have helped me shape my life is Vipassana meditation. This is just a quick video to share the technique behind Anapana meditation. This is just for you, if you are a starter to the practice of using meditation in everyday life.

Breathing Lessons: Learn Anapanasati Meditation

Many yogis find that anapanasati, a form of meditation that focuses on the breath, is a natural place to begin their sitting practice.

Many yogis find that anapanasati, a form of meditation that focuses on the breath, is a natural place to begin their sitting practice.

When yogis begin a meditation practice, they tend to approach it as separate from their physical practice. But many aspects of yoga, in particular the use of the breath, are central to meditation. Case in point: For the past two years, I have participated in the Buddhism and Yoga conference held at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. My contribution was to teach anapanasati, a form of vipassana, or insight, meditation that emphasizes breath awareness much like the practices of asana and Pranayama.

There is a distinction between concentration (dharana) and insight (vipassana) in the Buddha’s teaching. A classical Buddhist meditation manual, Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification) provides 40 preliminary themes to choose from in order to develop concentration. The breath is one of these themes and has proven to be both popular and effective throughout the centuries. Anapanasati, in addition to using the breath to help concentrate the mind, employs the breath to help develop vipassana.

Anapanasati Meditation

Step 1

After sitting quietly for a few minutes, bring attention to your exhalations. Becoming aware of your exhalations in the beginning is often necessary to get you going. Think of it as properly warming up. Feel the breath sensations associated with exhaling again and again—without interfering. Accept whatever sensations turn up. Let them be.

Step 2

As you become more familiar with the details of exhalation, do you find that you are interfering with the process of breathing out? If so, in what way? Instead of letting the out-breaths happen on their own, do you tamper with them? You may discover, as some yogis do, that you don’t trust your own breathing to do the job of exhaling on its own.

Step 3

There are many ways to disturb the breath—as your awareness becomes more precise, see the specific ways in which you direct the natural process of breathing. Do you give exhalations the full time that they need? If you are cutting the breaths short, notice this. Gradually, as your breathing becomes less willful, your exhalations will begin to terminate naturally, by themselves. As you begin to interfere less with your breathing, can you see any change in the quality of the breath—or your mind?

Step 4

Now begin to work with your inhalation in much the same way. Do you disturb your inhalations as soon as you begin to observe them? Any help at all by you is interference. In short, become aware of the unique ways in which you disturb your inhalations.

Step 5

Finally, become more familiar with the breathing pause—the gap between breaths. What happens during the pause, especially as it lengthens itself? Anxiety? Boredom? A tendency to get distracted? You can begin with exhalations, and as you feel them, become more aware of how your exhalations change into inhalations. Do you, for example, rush and cut short the end of your exhalations, pushing inhalations through before they are due? Are the inhalations willful and early, curtailing the pause between exhaling and inhaling?

As you observe how you tamper with this natural process, you interfere with the transitions between breaths less and less. Re-establishing the full strength of the pause, even if it is only brief, brings with it calm and satisfaction. The breath recovers on its own if you let it. You develop trust in the “recuperative” power of your own breathing process.

In allowing the breath to flow naturally, you develop a crucial skill for when your practice expands beyond just breathing in vipassana. Can you also allow the entire mind-body process to unfold just as naturally and see it clearly as it does? To do so is to invite the liberating power of insight to manifest itself and enrich your life.

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