Mindfulness of breathing (Ānāpāna Sati) may seem to be the most straightforward of meditation techniques, but it is also the most profound. It is said that Yogi Siddhartha used awareness of the breath to reach full enlightenment – the complete release of heart and mind – the highest goal of human endeavour.

Step 1 - Finding a right place
Small wound can be dressed anywhere; a tablet or painkiller can be taken anywhere; However, a complicated disease cannot be treated like that If  the  wound  is  complicated,  it needs a specialised hospital with a specialised theatre as per certain standards and the treatment should be given under controlled environmental conditions.This treatment to cure the life-after-life ailment, the  treatment  called Ānāpāna Sati Bhāvanā (Mindfulness on in- and out-breathing), has to be performed in a suitable operating theatre.

Therefore, you have to find a quiet environment or you have to generate one. No place can be called completely quiet. Therefore, we should know how to fit the practice into our daily routine, wisely managing our household duties. During the 24 hours in a day, which time, which hour and which instant would be the best moment for you? Which time is quiet, relaxed, less active, less problematic and calmer? Find out and then start practicing. Then there will be a difference. Your practice of Mindfulness of Breathing can go in-depth, without disturbances. These prescribed locations are just examples. It doesn’t mean that you have to go to a forest or under a tree, or chase everybody out from the house. No, We should each be able to find a similar location for our own meditation. It depends on your circumstances.
Step 2 - Establish a comfortable posture

A comfortable chair could be used to practice Mindfulness of Breathing. Even leaning against a wall is allowed. But It is better if you can sit cross-legged on the floor as that is the recommended way to sit.

The way an image of Lord Buddha is seated, such as the lotus or half lotus positions (Siddhāsana, Padmāsana) are difficult at the beginning because of unfamiliarity. It is good to train gradually to sit cross-legged on the ground for practising Mindfulness of Breathing if you intend to go in-depth. Try to be in that posture as much as possible – you can gradually increase the time you sit like that.

The supreme state in the process of mental evolution is the Realization of the Truth. The prescribed posture for this is to sit with cross-legged and the upper body straight. These are not rules. There is no legislation to say that if you do not follow these recommendations to the dot you can’t meditate. This is a help, an aid and assistance for meditation. Mental development does not depend on the body. Our posture does not determine our path of spiritual progress but this posture helps with meditation therefore it is advisable to use it.

Once you are aware of the posture, then by identifying any pains or discomforts in the body you can adjust the posture to minimise them. You cannot start meditation with pains and aches. Therefore, adjust the posture accordingly. Again, by being aware of the body from top to toe, you can identify any pains, discomforts or aches and adjust the posture so that you can meditate for about half an hour without any problem. It is better to adjust at the beginning rather than to change the posture later on while meditating.

Step 3 - Identify the sensation

Most meditators, as soon as they sit, try to find the breath. Then it is difficult. Let it happen slowly. First become aware of the environment, the stillness and the sounds, the attachment and the aversion towards them, and let go of them. Bring the mind to the present moment  and feel the posture - is it upright? Feel the stillness - is it relaxed? If not, adjust accordingly.

from that relaxed posture  You will also feel the internal sensations and activities, little by little. Be patient. Don’t be in a hurry. When the awareness becomes subtle, the subtle breath will be felt. Nobody knows how long it will take for this. It doesn’t matter, however much time it takes. Be patient until you feel your breath automatically, without any effort. Until you feel the breath, be aware of the body and bodily sensations.

Step 4 - Being in the present
You do not live either in the past or the future. You see, hear and feel what is happening in the present moment; you are aware in this present moment. The best way to gauge whether a person was aware is to check whether he knows what is happening at that moment. If you are not aware you will be in the long-lost past. On the other hand, you may be dreaming of or building castles in the air about the future which hasn’t yet come. You may be enjoying or lamenting over the past or the future and then again you are not in the present and you don’t have awareness. We miss the present moment in both these situations. The present is being wasted moment to moment, if you are not aware. 

We may be emotionally involved with the hindrances and may be enjoying or lamenting about what we are remembering. If we are emotional and bogged down in defilements, there is no awareness at that moment. When you are aware you may also get defilements but you know that it is happening in the present moment. This is the second point. Point is, if we are not here and do not know what is happening that means we are not in this moment spatially. We are at a different place. We sat down here to give importance to mindfulness. We sat down to be aware and to establish mindfulness and not with any other objective than precisely to be in the present moment with mindfulness and to observe the breath. We must develop that overall attitude, forget the rest, keep other intentions aside and do not bring all of them into the meditation and become a prisoner. Do not bring all the expectations to your seat and spoil the meditation, do not corrupt the meditation and do not cover the meditation as otherwise meditation practice becomes difficult to continue.
Step 5 - Establishing Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the primary factor. First place should be given to mindfulness. We are not trying to concentrate our mind on the breath. Most meditators get confused at this point. The most common answer to what Ānāpāna Sati is, is “to concentrate the mind on the breath.” This is wrong. It says, “parimukhaṃ satiṃ.” We should establish good mindfulness, nothing to do with concentration. Not to control the mind, not to stop it from wandering, we are just being aware of what is happening.

The action of inhalation and the action of exhalation usually happen without our knowledge; without our observation. Though it happens without our knowledge, when we are aware of our body, we begin to feel that the body inhales and exhales. Therefore when you are silent and calm just be watchful of your body, be aware for about two, five, ten, fifteen or even twenty minutes. Then when our mindfulness is established in front we begin to see, the body is inhaling and exhaling throughout all the physical activities.

When you are aligned with the body, being free of past and future thoughts and in the present moment, being here in this moment, you will instantly begin to feel that the body is inhaling and exhaling. Do not be hasty thinking now I felt the breath, now it is ok, now I can concentrate my mind. Just be observant of the body, not with your eyes but with mindfulness. Sometimes you will feel the breath, again it will disappear and again it might be felt. Whether you feel it or not, just be observant of the body and the posture.

We might remember things or people, but they are just thoughts. All of them will be forgotten in a little while when a new thought comes........Why do we get attached to these thoughts and run miles with them when their existence is very temporary and they are something we forget after a while?.......

What is the importance of the sounds we are hearing now? Is there any need to even think of them as a disturbance? Whenever we attribute a value to them by labelling them as a disturbance, we give them more strength to disturb us. Just let the sounds be heard......

Within a-thousand-and-one sounds and thoughts you will deeply feel that you are breathing.......... Dear Dhamma Friends, try to find time to practice Composure of Mindfulness of Breathing as frequently as possible....It will bring you peace.......

Upul Nishantha Gamage, Meditation Instructor at Nilambe Meditation Centre, Sri Lanka