Excerpts from Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator’s Handbook by Ajahn Brahm.
[Note: The following is the beginning of the meditational guide that takes the reader to the jhānas, the higher states of bliss. Ajahn Brahm explains that even though the jhānas may seem distant and unreachable, for some meditators, discussing such sublime states can create inspiration, as well as map out the territory ahead. Some readers may have already gotten close enough to be able to understand this discussion from their own experience, and it may help them to make that last leap into the jhānas – eventually the seeds that are planted in this kind of discussion will someday bear fruit.]
It would be marvellous for each one of us if we could abandon all inner speech and abide in silent awareness of the present moment long enough to realize how delightful it is. Silence is so much more productive of wisdom and clarity than thinking. When one realizes that, silence becomes more attractive and important. The mind inclines toward it, seeks it out constantly, to the point where it engages in the thinking process only if it is really necessary, only if there is some point to it.
Once we have realized that most of our thinking gets us nowhere, we gladly and easily spend much time in inner quiet. Turn the awareness onto the breath and follow that breath from moment to moment without interruption. Notice the arising of inner speech and the mind’s tendency to go off into the past or future. Come back to the breath, and see how your attention expands to take in every single moment of the breath.
You know the inbreath at the very first moment, when the first sensation of inbreathing arises. Then you observe as those sensations develop gradually through the whole course of one inbreath, not missing even a moment of the in-breath. When that in-breath finishes, you know that moment. You see in your mind that last movement of the in-breath. You then see the next moment as a pause between breaths, and then many more moments of pause until the out-breath begins. You see the first moment of out-breathing and each subsequent sensation as the out-breath evolves, until the out-breath disappears when its function is complete. All this is done in silence and in the present moment.
You can attain this degree of stillness by letting go of everything in the entire universe except for this momentary experience of the breath happening silently. Actually “you” do not reach this stage, the mind does. This is where the doer, the major part of one’s ego, starts to disappear. One finds that progress happens effortlessly at this stage of meditation. We just have to get out of the way, let go, and watch it all happen. The mind will automatically incline toward this very simple, peaceful, and delicious unity of being alone with one thing, just being with the breath in each and every moment. This is the unity of mind, the unity in the moment, the unity in stillness.
The Beautiful Breath
This is what I call the “springboard” of meditation, because from it one may dive into the blissful states. When we simply maintain this unity of consciousness by not interfering, the breath will begin to disappear. The breath appears to fade away as the mind focuses instead on what is at the center of the experience of breath, which is awesome peace, freedom, and bliss.
When the breath disappears, all that is left is “the beautiful.” Disembodied beauty becomes the sole object of the mind. The mind is now taking the mind as its own object of contemplation. We are no longer aware of the breath, body, thought, sound, or outside world. All that we are aware of is beauty, peace, bliss, light, or whatever our perception will later call it. We are experiencing only beauty, continuously, effortlessly, with nothing being beautiful! We have long ago let go of chatter, let go of descriptions and assessments. Here the mind is so still that it cannot say anything. One is just beginning to experience the first flowering of bliss in the mind. That bliss will develop, grow, and become very firm and strong. And then one may enter into the jhānas.
The book has been extensively discussed in dhammafootsteps, Click on the link below for a more detailed presentation
Photo by Simon Berger
Very helpful at this time. Actually listening to Thay helps me with my breathing like no one else. I don’t know why. But now I think I have to meditate twice a day. This piece of writing was very accessible for someone as dense as I am. Thank you. Lovely picture, too.
Sorry for lateness of reply, I was pondering Ajahn Brahm’s writing and came across his talk: “Inclusiveness.” He has such a soft voice, and a calmness, surprising; I haven’t explored his teachings other than our Meditation Handbook. Thanks for reminding me of Thay’s gentle presence.