PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTIONS FOR ANAPANASATI
& WALKING MEDITATION
Transcription of a Dhammatalk delivered on 8/12/95
by Ven. Brahmavamso
This is the first talk of the meditation retreat here at the monastery and I would like to use this time just to give a basic instruction on the way of meditation which I am encouraging everyone to do here during the retreat. At this time of the retreat I am going to encourage what we call the practice of samatha. Samatha is the Pali word which is used for that activity, that attitude of mind which causes tranquillity, which settles disturbances, and which takes the mind to an evenness. You may imagine that the mind when it is disturbed is like a lake with waves on the surface and we are trying to tranquillise the mind to be able to keep it still but still have awareness in the mind. We are looking to attain a bright, still, tranquil awareness inside. The word 'samatha ' is used in many places by the Buddha to describe any activity which deals with business, which settles the duties and results eventually in those disturbances disappearing. This is why you may regard this path of meditation as a settling meditation whose result is calm.
In order to settle the mind you need a lot of application of the mind, continuously putting the mind in one direction. Actually the mind's natural state is to be still, is to be tranquil. However, because of the defilements in the mind, because of its search for satisfaction, its search for pleasure, its search for something to do outside of itself it very rarely reaches its natural tranquil state. A very skilful meditator who knows the mind very well can just by cutting off that part of the mind which goes outwards, by just cutting that off, can very quickly make the mind still and go into deep states of calm. However, for the rest of us we have to use a skilful means, a path, a way, in order to bring this mind to its natural state of calm, settled, bright awareness. In order to do that, the Buddha gave instructions, and the type of meditation which he praised above all others was the meditation on the in-and-out-breath, the Anapanasati. And this is the type of meditation I like to teach here during this retreat. This way of meditation using Anapanasati is on the surface quite simple, the instructions are quite bare. However, if one keeps to those instructions and follows them, then usually it would result in attaining states of calm, states of deep inner stillness. The way the Buddha taught to develop Anapanasati is as follows:
First of all one just finds a quiet place and sits down. Sitting down can be on the floor or a chair. There is nothing magical about sitting on the chair or sitting on the floor, and you can gain very deep states of mind in any posture. So during this retreat if you find that your knees or your back or any other part of the body is causing you intense pain, then go and sit on a chair, or use a stool. This meditation retreat is not to torture you. You will find that if you have too much discomfort of the body, you block off all possibility for the mind to become tranquil. One of the reasons why the Buddha taught the Middle Way is that too much indulgence and too much discomfort will make the mind hard, so hard that it will be impossible to take it to peacefulness. And without taking it to peacefulness it is impossible for it to gain wisdom. So when we sit down we must always remember the Middle Way and make sure we are not sitting in a posture which is causing us great pain just because we want to sit on the floor, because everyone else is sitting on the floor. So be humble, give up your pride, and then you will find the meditation will proceed much better.
Having sat down on the floor, then the Buddha said, you bring mindfulness in front of you. Bringing mindfulness "in front of you" means that one casts aside all of the external distractions of the mind. Instead of having one's mindfulness a great distance from one, either a great distance in the physical world or a great distance in the temporal world, in other words oneís mindfulness concerned with things outside this retreat or outside of this moment, one has to cut off that in order to develop mindfulness in front of one. That should be one of the first tasks after one has closed the eyes, just to gather the attention in the moment, and to take it away from the past and the future, to take it away from anything, any concern outside of this meditation retreat. Sometimes that will take a few minutes, just to get the mindfulness established in the moment, in the here and now. Once that mindfulness is established in the here and now, then it is time for you to choose your meditation object and to develop that meditation object. In order for the mind to be at peace it has to take up a peaceful object. The mind cannot exist without its object. It has to take up something, and often the object which the mind takes is called its food and its nutriment. The mind will always be looking for that food and nutriment, something to, as it were, occupy it. If one does not give the mind a clear and peaceful object, then the mind will go out searching for something else, and very often it will be an unpeaceful, stimulating, disturbing object. So we have to choose a peaceful object. At this stage in the meditation, having attained this basic mindfulness then we choose our meditation object. And here we are going to be choosing the object which we call the breath.
Some meditation teachers will tell you where to watch the breath. In my experience of both practising and teaching it seems more successful to be unconcerned where you experience the breath, simply because some people experience the breath at the tip of their nose, some people in their abdomen and some people in other places in their body. And the point of this meditation is: It does not matter where you experience the breath. In the beginning part of the meditation, all one needs to do is to have that experience clearly in one's mind. The first part of the meditation is just knowing that one is breathing in, just knowing that one is breathing out, and that is all which is required. Very often you will find that if you look for the breath in a particular part of your body, one of two distractions can occur. The first distraction is that the breath isn't manifesting itself in that part of the body. You are looking there and you can't see the breath, you can't experience it and not having a clear object the mind will go searching for something else, it will go wandering off, and you lose any hope of success in meditation. So that is the first obstacle in trying to observe the breath at a particular point, that the experience of breath isn't manifesting there, the mind will go wandering off.
The second obstacle or disadvantage to that is, that if you are watching the breath at one particular point, you are becoming aware of the physical body as well as the process of breathing. You are likely to become more aware of other parts of the physical body especially in the vicinity of where you are watching the breath. Any itches or aches, heat or cold will also become manifest to your mind as well as the breath and those physical feelings are strong, then they can take your attention away from the breath onto the physical body, and the body does not attain tranquillity very quickly. The body tends to keep on disturbing you if you try and watch the breath at a particular part of the body. Watching the breath at a particular part of the body is like too much body awareness and it brings up all the rest of the body with it and it becomes hard to let go and dismiss these physical feelings. That's the second disadvantage. However, if you just recognise whatever it is, whatever physical feeling or whatever informs you of where the breath is in the cycle of coming in and going out, just enough to know: 'breath going in or breath going out', just that much, then you are centred on the meditation object which leads to calm. Just the knowledge of the breath.
The way the Buddha taught Anapanasati is that to begin with you just notice whether the breath which is going in is long, or you notice whether the breath that is going in is short, whether breath going out is long or the breath going out is short. This is just a means to gain some interest in watching the in-and-out-breath. Just watching the in-and-out breaths for some meditators is not sufficient, it does not attract the mind, there 's not enough to do there to keep the mind's attention. So, in order to know long or short, it just needs that extra piece of mindfulness. However, many of you will know that the way I teach Anapanasati is instead of necessarily noticing whether the breath is long or short, just to know that the breath is going in and just to know that the breath is going out. The most important part of this stage in the meditation is to be able to sustain that knowledge over many successive breaths, not just one or two breaths in succession, but literally hundreds of breaths in succession. So you know every in-breath, out-breath, in-breath, out-breath, one after the other, not missing one.
That brings me on to the point which is very important in order to understand what we are actually doing here, and that is the meaning of the Buddhist word 'samadhi'. You may have read many definitions of that term. I think you might find the most practical definition, the one which you can use and gain good results from, is to understand samadhi as the ability of the mind to sustain its attention on the chosen object. And the most important word is sustaining the attention. Anyone can watch a breath, an in-breath and out-breath, just once, but it takes a skilful meditator to be able to watch, say, a hundred or two hundred breaths, one after the other, without missing any. It is only when one can achieve that sustained attention on one chosen object that that quality of mind deserves to be called samadhi.
Not only is it called samadhi, but it is also called tranquillity, because if the mind has sustained its attention on one thing it is at the expense of the mind becoming diverse and going off to many different objects. When the mind is not diverse and it does not travel to many different places, it is called a tranquil mind. A mind that has sustained its attention on one thing for a long time, is a mind which does not move very much, and that's why it is called tranquil in the same way if you sustain the position of your body without moving it becomes tranquil. If you sustain, as it were, the position of your mind, its focus where it is looking at, then the mind deserves to be called tranquil. So, it is true, the ability to sustain your awareness on an object, that will create this quality of mind which is called samadhi: One-pointedness. It is better to understand one-pointedness as pointed on one object for a long length of time. If you like: 'one-pointedness in time', rather than 'one-pointedness in space'. So this is what the meaning of samadhi is.
In order to attain that samadhi, we have to work hard to sustain the attention on just the in-and-out-breath. One method which I teach, which is very effective, is to count the breaths. Even though one might have been meditating for many years, the technique is still useful. I use the counting now and again to test myself to make sure that I am calm, mindful and clear. Counting is a very simple method: When you breath in you count to yourself Ďoneí silently, breath out one, breath in two, breathe out two...........in nine, out nine. And then you go back to one, breathing in one, breathing out one, breathing in two, breathing out two........breathing in eight, breathing out eight. And then back to breathing in one, breathing out one.... breathing in seven, out seven, going up to seven this time. And similarly breathing in one breathing out one up to breathing in six, breathing out six. Back to one again, breathing in one, breathing out one, this time up to five, breathing in five, breathing out five. Back to one...up to four....then one to three....then one to two...then breathing in one, breathing out one.
Then you have completed one whole cycle. To be able to do that you have to watch 45 successive breaths. If you complete three cycles of that you have watched 135 successive breaths. Having completed 3 cycles, you can be assured for yourself that you have completed this first stage of the meditation, that you have sustained awareness on the breath going in and the breath going out. If anywhere during that cycle a doubt arises in your mind: 'Where am I in the cycle? Am I in the middle of the eights or the sixes or where am I ?' Then you should go back to the very beginning, to the 'breathing in one, breathing out one' of the nines. Only when you complete three of those cycles, without any doubt arising in the mind where you were, you can say to yourself that you have the sustained awareness of the in-and-out breath.
Sometimes during the meditation it is hard work because, sometimes whether one is very sleepy, or one is far too restless, one cannot keep the attention sustained on the breath and you do go wandering off, you forget where you are. The forgetting where you are, the doubt 'where was I?', is a sign that you have not achieved sustained awareness. You have to go back and start again. Going back and starting again is for the meditator a psychological nudge to put forth more effort, to brighten the mind, and to develop more careful attention. Because after going back to the beginning a few times one gets very fed up. And that nudge can create the necessary energy, the necessary care, so that one will gain that first stage of sustaining the attention on the breath. This corresponds in the Anapanasati sutta to the first two stages of the first meditation instruction tetrad, to: '...a monk who knows: 'The breath going in is a short breath or a long breath; the breath going out is a short breath or a long breath''. Breath after breath after breath.....
Now once you have that stage fully present, only then you should go on to the second stage of the meditation, which is increasing the attention on each in-breath and each out-breath. Before all you needed to know is just one or two moments of the in-breath, one or two moments of the out-breath, just enough to give you the sign that the breath is going in or the breath is going out. In the second stage you need the full awareness of the breath. And that is the awareness of the breath from the very moment it starts to go in, continually through the whole process of one in-breath, until the last sensation of the in-breath. And then from the very beginning of an out-breath, one has continual awareness through all stages of the out-breath, until the out-breath fades away and ends. This is called in the Anapanasati sutta: 'The full awareness of the body of breath'. This takes a lot of skill to be able to completely follow the breath. To be able to do this the mind has no freedom at all to go wandering away. Just one moment of the mindís wandering away means that one has not achieved the second stage of the meditation. One hasn't had continuous, full awareness of the breath. This is why the stage one of the sustained attention on the in-and out-breath is a stepping stone to stage two. When one can achieve stage two and have full attention on the breath there can be very little other distractions and thoughts present in one's mind. At this stage one may find that such distractions which may be sounds from the outside or physical feelings or thoughts, that those will manifest to one's conscious experience as things on the edge of one's mind, whereas the experience of breath will be central to one's attention. And as such, those distractions of sounds or thoughts or physical feelings, being on the edge as it were, of one's mind, will not have the power to take one's attention away from its focus, the breath. So one can still say that one has achieved that stage of full awareness of the breath, even though there are some thoughts orbiting the centre of your mind, some sounds that you can hear in the distance, or some physical feelings, which are a faint echo of what they were before.
The second stage of the meditation, the full awareness of the breath, is very important to attain. It does show you that the mind has gained a far deeper state of samadhi than at the end of the first stage. Very often when we are practising meditation we do need these signposts, these clear indications which tell us of where we are in the practice of meditation. You can go to a teacher and you can ask him or her, but you will always be your own best teacher. If you are honestly aware of your meditation and use these signposts then you can tell for yourself during this meditation retreat how you are going. So you should aim to gain that second stage of the meditation, the full awareness, continuous awareness of each in-and-out breath, sustained over many breaths: 100, 200, 300 breaths.
For those who are experienced meditators here sometimes when you start to attain this second stage the mind might feel like it is held on a leash and wishes to go off into deeper states of peace. Sometimes at this stage we get what is called the 'samadhi-nimitta' arising. 'Samadhi-nimitta' literally means the sign of concentration. This is a mental sign which is an aspect of the breath, and this mental sign in the deeper stages of meditation is crucially important to take you into a jhana. But even though this mental sign, the samadhi-nimitta, might come up early as you are about to gain the second stage of the meditation, you do well to ignore it and to gain strength in the second stage first of all. It is a common mistake of meditators that before fully accomplishing the second stage in the meditation, that the samadhi-nimitta comes up and they go running after it, when they are not strong enough, when the mind has not sufficient tranquillity. And what happens is, they lose the samadhi-nimitta, they also lose the breath and have to start again way down in the early preparatory stages. Wherever one teaches one always looks for similes, and the simile which I dug up for the monks in the monastery is the simile of the old toy cars we used to have as a child. We had little toy cars with gears inside, and you put them on the ground and run them on the ground. You would run them backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, so that they build up momentum. Only after the gears inside were running very fast would you let it go, and it would run all the way to the other end of the room. If you let it go too soon it would go only a few inches. In a similar way you have to build up this momentum of tranquillity in the second stage before you let it go after the samadhi-nimitta, otherwise you will find that if you do get into a deep state of concentration you will not be able to maintain it. You will go in and come out. There will not be a full experience of jhana-state. So even though it is hard work, and even though a promise of something wonderful and joyful is as it were, dangling in front of your mind resist that and just do the hard work of gaining the second stage of meditation, the full awareness on the breath, sustained for a long length of time.
At that stage, where you have the full awareness of the breath, the attention being placed on one thing continuously for such a long length of time, much of the distractions would have fallen away. If you have any awareness of the body left, it is such a distant awareness. Itís as if all there is is the breath; the body, your legs, your bottom, your back, your arms, your head have all fallen away, disappeared. This particular stage is called tranquillity of body. The only way you can get tranquillity of body is by taking your attention away from it. As long as your attention stays with the body its demands will not stop, and there will be no tranquillity of body. However, if one places the attention somewhere else, if one places the attention on the experience of breath and removes the attention from the body completely, one should experience the body disappearing. That body disappearing is a sign of 'kaya-passadhi', the tranquillity of the body. The tranquillity of the mind will also become manifest. Not a full tranquillity but much of the movement of the mind has been abandoned and one just has the breath. Any thoughts which are happening at this time should be just concerned about the meditation, about the breath. At this time when one gets full awareness of the breath one can still have thoughts. These thoughts are the further directing of the mind, the checking it, and the making sure that the awareness is sustained. Here there is still some commentary going on, some orders being given, but the whole area in which such thoughts, such orders, and such commentary occur, is just around in the region of the task at hand: the sustaining of the awareness on the experience of breath.
When you have attained the second stage and you have complete awareness of the breath sustained moment after moment for many minutes on end, then you can start to do what the Buddha called, the fourth stage, but what I call the third stage. In the Anapanasati sutta, this would be step four. In this stage you tranquillise the object of your mind, you tranquillise the breath, you calm it down. Calming down the breath can be achieved by suggestion, just the suggestion in the mind 'Calm down'. At this stage, the mind is already starting to get powerful, and just those few words softly spoken inside are very often enough to set the breath into the motion of calming down. Another way is to just let go, let go of control, let go of orders, but don't let go of the object. Because for those who know the mind very well, you will find the very reason that there is any disturbance, the reason why the mind is separated from its natural state of tranquillity, is because of these orders and commands many of which your mindfulness is not sufficient to take notice of. If you at this stage start to let go, you will experience the breath becoming more subtle, softer, and more hard to discern. The quality of mind which is, as it were, embracing that object starts to become more subtle and refined. You start this marvellous journey of the object getting refined and the mind becoming more refined. You start to travel into the deep states of samadhi. When the object becomes refined, its coarser aspects start to disappear. The physical aspects of the breath start to disappear and the mind begins to perceive the mental aspects of the breath. That mental aspect of the breath becomes what we call the 'samadhi-nimitta'.
Again, trying to use a simile from the external world, it's like looking at an apple. When you first look at an apple, you see many aspects of that fruit, its shape, its colour, maybe even smell, its fragrance. After a while you pick up only one aspect, just say its fragrance, its smell, until that is all that you can see and the rest of the apple disappears. This is what you do with the breath. At first in the second stage you have the whole breath there. The usual experience of the breath, even though it is sustained and pretty calm. Then one aspect of that experience will start to grow, and all other aspects will start to fade and that aspect which grows and becomes more prominent is the mental sign, the mental aspect of the breath, the samadhi-nimitta.
To help you at this stage, I use a skilful means which is to look for the beautiful breath. Because here the breath is reasonably still , reasonably calm and just by suggesting to yourself: ' Look for the beautiful breath.', you will start to see that aspect of the breath which is indeed very beautiful and very attractive. Beauty is an aspect of the breath which had always been there, but because of other coarser factors one wasn't perceiving it. By suggesting to the mind: ' Look for the beautiful breath.', at this stage of having completed stage two and going on to stage three of this meditation, it will very often manifest to you. Again, saying 'beautiful breath' may not mean very much to you, but if at the second stage you look for the beautiful breath, and you find it then you will know what I mean. Again , it is the samadhi-nimitta which manifests as the beautiful breath, the delightful breath, the attractive breath, the blissful breath. In a short while, that description 'beautiful breath' changes, the breath disappears and there is just the beautiful, just the attractive, just the lovely. Because here you start to go into the world of the mind.
At this point you have to be very careful not to take in your labels and judgements of the external world because they do not fit this world of the mind. And you have to let go of these and explore a world which is fascinating and sometimes fearful. It is fearful only because we do not know it. It is not dangerous, in fact it is most beneficial for both body and mind. However, because we do not know it well fear can come up. And if fear comes up it can shatter the peace of our meditation very quickly, and take us way back to the earlier stages. So be wary of fear, and if you start to see it coming up, then through faith, through confidence, through hearing other monks, nuns, other meditators, who reassure you there is nothing to fear, you can go just that one step further, and just test out that deeper state of peace. As you just take one step further you will be able to notice that this is safe and that this feels good. Take one more step further, this also feels good. It's only by just that one step further and reassessing that one can overcome this fear which is one of the major obstacles for entering these deep states of mind. If one can calm the object of the breath down, then look for the beautiful breath, and that beautiful breath will start to manifest. It is a joyful experience, a beautiful experience, and that beautiful experience will be the vehicle which takes you into the jhanas.
As far as the jhanas are concerned, I will be talking about those later in this meditation retreat. But, the preliminary instructions are to gain stage one, which is sustained awareness on the in-and-out breath so that you know every in and out breath, one after the other. Then once you have the stage one, stage two is full awareness of the breath, from the very beginning of an in-breath to its end, from the very beginning of an out-breath to its end, sustained over a long period. Once that is fully attained, then calm the object of the mind down and look for the beautiful breath. I will give more instructions on what to do next later.
As far as the walking meditation is concerned in order to bring the walking meditation in line with this way of sitting meditation; when you walk you can consider the first stage to be the continuous awareness of every step, every left step and every right step. One step after the other you should know, without missing one step. If you can walk ten cycles up and down on your path without missing one left step, without missing one right step, then you can say to yourself that you have completed stage one. Then increase the attention so that you notice every feeling, every aspect of the left step, from the very beginning when the left foot starts to move and lifts itself off the ground. All of the movements as it goes up, and goes forward, and goes down, and takes the weight. And that continuous awareness of the left step, and the continuous awareness of the right step, from the very beginning of the steps to their end without missing a movement, sustain that over walking backwards and forwards, maybe, ten cycles. Then one can say that one has the full awareness of walking. So much so that the process of walking so fully occupies the attention that the mind cannot be distracted. You know if this happens, because the mind goes into a state of samadhi, sustained attention and it becomes peaceful. Even the sound of the birds disappears as your attention is fully taken up on the experience of walking. Your attention is concentrated on one thing, sustained on one thing, it is settled on one thing. You will find this a very pleasant experience indeed. So if you can, as it were, reflect the sitting meditation with the walking meditation and with every other thing you do today. If it is eating, the first stage will be every spoon, or forkful which you put in your mouth, to know do that as stage one. From the very beginning of lifting up the fork and putting food in the mouth, to chewing, to swallowing, every aspect of eating you should know. You do not need to do this slowly. But, you need to do it mindfully and carefully, so your full awareness is on what you are doing. Then you are not wasting time on any of the necessary duties which we have to do towards the body. This is sufficient instruction for now. Are there any questions about this method of meditation, this method of samatha?
Question inaudible. ... Just turning around, and then walking backwards. Again, as one turns around, that has to be part of the walking meditation. So, as one turns around one notices every step. If one can notice every step, then that is completing stage one. If one can notice every movement which makes up one step as one turns around, then that is the full awareness of the object which is the moving of the feet.
So I hope you can understand where this is coming from. One is developing a sustained, awareness on a chosen object. That sustained awareness is achieved stage by stage. First of all, it is not full awareness, but it is: notices, goes away again, notices, comes back again and notices. When you are watching the breath, one should notice an in-breath the attention can go off to something else for a short while, but it has to come back by the next out-breath. And once it noted it, it can go off a little way, but has to come back by the next in-breath. So what you are doing is that you are restricting how long the attention can go away in stage one. In stage two, the attention can not go away at all. It is like putting a person in prison: First of all you accustom a person to prison by just making sure they visit once a day just for 5 minutes. Once they come 5 minutes every day then you increase it to 10 minutes every day, and then you keep them inside all day, every day -- only it is a very lovely prison we are going in!
Question inaudible ...You are asking, if you are noticing the breath at one particular part of the body, sometimes that the breath becomes more evident in another part of the body. Should you then move over to that part of the body and follow the breath around? Now the answer to that is usually: If you follow the breath around the body, you will find that you will not get that much peace because the mind is getting too distracted, too active. That this sometimes happens is one of the problems with noticing the breath at one particular part of the body. Usually the meditation teacher will say: 'No, do not follow the breath around, stay at that one place, the place where it most usually manifests.'. However, what happens when you do that is you don't notice any breath at all the breath has disappeared from there, and that is why this is a cause for the mind wandering off. So to counter that problem I advise you to experiment with not being concerned where the breath is actually registered on the body. But just to know, just to have your perception concerned with, not where the breath is manifesting, but whether it's going in or going out, and what stage of going in or out it is. So do not concern the perception with the place in the body, just be concerned with where in the cycle of breathing your breath is right now and you will solve that problem. Just a practical test. Close your eyes and ask yourself: 'Am I breathing in or am I breathing out?'. The answer to that question will occur to you before you notice where the breath is positioned on the body. You don't need to ask the second question: 'Where is the breath on the body?'. You just need to answer the question: 'Where is the breath in its cycle?'.
The perception of the mind can sometimes have too much data, and that can confuse the mind. Here the data for our perception is just where the breath is in its cycle. Exactly how the breath feels, whether its comfortable or uncomfortable you don't need to consider now. You do not need to consider where is it on the body, instead you just need to consider where is it in its cycle. Just that much and no more.
Questions and answers
Question inaudible. ... You are saying that you can be aware of the breath and at the same time another part of the mind can be thinking. You have to be careful of that one because what may be happening there is one of two things : Firstly either your mind may be aware of the breath then be going somewhere else, then come back again quickly, and then going somewhere else. It can be a mind that is going backwards and forwards very fast, in which case it will never get to any stillness. Or, secondly it could be that the mind is centred on the breath, but you are aware of other things around the object. Just like when you are looking at me right now, you can also be aware of the monk sitting next to me, the shrine behind me, and other things to the left, right and above. However, in order to accomplish the object of this meditation, if you find you can be aware of the breath and other things as well, make sure that the awareness of the breath is so important that it's central in the mind and the other things are, as it were, orbiting around the outside. They are not central to the screen which is your mind. If you do that, then you will find that because the breath is central, if you sustain the central focus on the breath the other things will disappear. In just the same way you can do this experiment visually and just, say, look at the Buddha statue. Notice that first you are aware of the big wall around it, the shrine underneath it, the flowers to the left and the right. But if you keep continuous staring at that Buddha statue you will find that other things start to fall away. And after 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes all you can see is the Buddha statue. You can not even see the flowers to the left and the right. That is just the way of attention. If you sustain your attention on something, then the other things to the left and the right, above and below disappear, as the mind shrinks onto its focus. Just like when you watch the ĎTVí at night, when you first turn it on you can see the control, you can see the things to either side, but after a while all you can see is the few inches of 'TV', as the attention just goes to its focus. But if you are aware of the breath and many other things at the same time, then make sure that the breath is right dead centre in the mind, and that those other things are on the outside. If you do that then those other things will disappear. However, if you centre the mind on those other thoughts then the breath disappears, it falls off the screen of the mind.
Meditation is to get full awareness of the breath, and if there is to be anything else in the mind at all it is just a few thoughts, feelings, or descriptions, just about the breath, as if there is nothing else in the world. This just gives a clear indication of what the method is. Do not be afraid of aspiring, putting forth energy, desiring these stages because the path of meditation uses desire to end desire, uses craving to end craving. Without desire there would be no energy. So set yourself a goal and work towards it. In setting yourself a goal be careful of frustration which is just born of impatience. So having set yourself a goal, if you donít achieve it this meditation, if you donít achieve it today and if you donít achieve it this retreat, it does not matter you might achieve it next retreat. If itís not the next retreat keep on going, it might be next lifetime. If itís not next lifetime keep on going, it might be the next aeon. But you have to keep on going. Some people become so frustrated that after 2 or 3 aeons they give up. Thatís called impatience.