Breath as Vehicle

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh is a thoughtful little book that I read a few decades ago and then largely forgot. Maybe putting it aside to gestate for a while and then coming back to it with fresh eyes was helpful? Regardless, rereading it recently I appreciated Hanh's comments on following the breath a bit more. From Chapter Four ("The Pebble"):

During meditation, various feelings and thoughts may arise. If you don't practice mindfulness of the breath, these thoughts will soon lure you away from mindfulness. But the breath isn't simply a means by which to chase away such thoughts and feelings. Breath remains the vehicle to unite body and mind and to open the gate to wisdom. When a feeling or thought arises, your intention should not be to chase it away, even if by continuing to concentrate on the breath the feeling or thought passes naturally from the mind. The intention isn't to chase it away, hate it, worry about it, or be frightened by it. So what exactly should you be doing concerning such thoughts and feelings? Simply acknowledge their presence. For example, when a feeling of sadness arises, immediately recognize it: "A feeling of sadness has just arisen in me." If the feeling of sadness continues, continue to recognize "A feeling of sadness is still in me." If there is a thought like "It's late but the neighbors are sure making a lot of noise," recognize that the thought has arisen. If the thought continues to exist, continue to recognize it. If a different feeling or thought arises, recognize it in the same manner. The essential thing is not to let any feeling or thought arise without recognizing it in mindfulness, like a palace guard who is aware of every face that passes through the front corridor.

(translation by Mobi Ho; cf. EatTheOrange (2004-11-28), Midcourse Correction 2009-02-13), Try It for a Few Years (2009-05-19), ...) - ^z - 2009-06-17