Step by Step

“Try to get the mind as still as possible. This is the basic pattern in all the tetrads of the breath meditation. You sensitize yourself to what you’re doing, and then you try to do it in a way that leads to more calm, to more subtle forms of concentration and more subtle levels of pleasure.

“You work through this process of sensitizing and refinement step by step by step, which means that you have to be very observant. The Buddha gives you some guidance. If you notice that things are inconstant in the mind, especially if the level of stress or ease in the mind is inconstant, look at what you’re doing. When the level of stress goes up, what did you do? When it goes down, what did you do? When things seem to be perfectly still and perfectly at ease, try to maintain that stillness as a baseline, to see if you can begin to sensitize yourself to more subtle ups and downs.

“This keeps throwing the responsibility back on you. The Buddha’s there with guidance. He gives you lots of different meditation methods to deal with specific problems as they come up. Breath meditation is your home base because that’s the method that sensitizes you directly to bodily, verbal, and mental fabrication and points you in the direction of learning how to calm these things.”

~Thanissaro Bhikkhu, from “One Thing Only”