With a little bit more practice, you find that you can stay here, stay balanced here more solidly than you could floating around in your old habits.
Be as immediate as possible with each breath. Sense it as soon as it comes in, as soon as it stops. Try to sense any sense of discomfort that comes when the breath begins to get a little bit too long as you pull too long, and as you try to squeeze it out a little too much at the end.
Sometimes we do that subconsciously as a way of marking the beginning and the end of the breath. Try to find an area where there’s little difference between the beginning of the in breath—the little difference between the in breath and the out breath. There’s no difference at all. See that. Where is that spot in the body? Where is that spot in your awareness? Focus there.
See if you can catch yourself as you put a little subconscious squeeze at the end of the breath or a little pulling at the beginning. Just let that not happen.
This requires that you get very close to the breath, so close that it seems like you can’t focus your mind in the normal way on the breath, the way you would normally focus on an idea or focus on a word. It’s like the focal length of your mind has to go out a certain way before things get into focus. And this is a little bit too close. Like when you point a camera at a flower and you get too close to the flower so that the lens refuses to get into focus at all.
That’s precisely what you want because anything that’s within that kind of focal ring, within the verbal focal ring of the mind, gets blurred out this way. You’re right here with the breath. Right here with the immediate sensation of the breathing. How long can you keep it up? Don’t worry, just right now. Right now.
Once you can do this, there’s not a lot to say. It becomes a trick of maintaining it, not allowing yourself to switch out to those verbal levels, or the blatantly verbal levels. If you get to know this immediate area of the awareness, you’ll find that ultimately there is a little bit of commentary going on inside. But it’s a different level. It’s a different strata in the mind.
But to see that you have to stay here for a long time. As long as you can keep your awareness on this layer, this level, this frequency right here, it just becomes a trick of staying there. Staying there. Staying there. Noticing when the mind tends to switch back to its further out focal length. And seeing how quickly you can bring it back.
This is why the practice of concentration is so important for mindfulness.
This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the talk, Cutting Through Disturbances, February 29, 2004.