Meditation - mind tends towards breath early

Hello all

I have been meditating on and off for about 4 years now and I just wanted to clarify something that has been bugging me.

I have read all of Ajahn Brahm’s books on meditation and just recently read the basics to meditation post. This year I am trying to start from the ground up again as a feel in the past I have missed out some important foundations.

The concern I have is that my mind is tending towards awareness of the breath before i have established silent awareness of the present moment (I think this is from so many years of going straight to the breath). This results in my awareness of the breath being broken by thoughts.

Should I keep bringing my awareness back away from the breath (e.g., to sounds in my environment) to establish silent awareness of the present moment first. Or, should I just let my mind do what it wants to do and remain on the breath.

I am confused whether to take the active or passive approach on this one.

Thanks in advance.

With metta



I usually let go of breath and switch to hearing, or body sweeping, or “sound of silence”. How about standing meditation, walking or laying down?

I’ve also just skip the thought of meditate and just relax the whole thing, and the mind is more than willing to do nothing, as long as it is not forced to do what I want all the time.

One important advice I picked up from Ajahn B, is to consider the mind one’s best friend, and now we are hangin out like best friends like to do. Been working a bit on that aspect, and after a few months I am satisfied with a mind that is easier to switch to whatever, and also just switch to bare awareness

Best regards friend!


Hey sam,

Good question. I had the same experience in my most recent retreat where I dived into Aj. Brahm’s breath technique.

Like AB says, I think it really is good not to jump onto “Silent Present Moment Awareness of the Breath” too soon. Build a strong foundation first.

But as you have probably found (as I did) once the mind starts to calm down a bit, the breath becomes the most dominant impression in the mind, and it feels ‘right’ to start focusing on it. That’s fine, Just allow the breath to be a part of your present moment experience rather than making it the whole straight away.

So you might have a silent present moment awareness of the inhale, pause, exhale, sound outside, inhale, bird, exhale, car going past…etc… does that make sense?

Don’t ignore the breath, but don’t try to shut everything else out either yet. The breath is your main character, it’s the one you want to watch, but all the supporting characters are on stage too, and you’re aware of them to some degree.

The reason you’re getting distracted is that the breath is kinda subtle and has pauses - if you switch to only looking at the breath to early, the mind loses concentration in those pauses and gets distracted. If you take a step back and look at the bigger picture including the breath, your mind can stay in the present a bit more easily.

Anyway, that’s just my very personal experience, may or may not help or be relevant, so take with a grain of salt!
much metta


It’s not only your experience, Cara; it also resonates a lot with me! :grin:

Added: This is the first thing I write on the new D&D—works fine, also with emojis! :heart:


The idea in Ajahn Brahms method (although I can’t remember the details of his description) is not to ‘bring your awareness back’ to anything as that would be considered a force of will in his method. Instead he uses the technique of ‘letting go’ of whatever is not in the stage that you are at. This is quite a different approach to many other meditation teachers who use the ‘will’ to constantly bring you back to (for example) the breath whenever you notice that you have lost it.

So you ‘let go’ of thoughts of the future and thoughts of the past to arrive at the present. You let go of thoughts of the present to arrive at the silent present. The breath is within the silent present and it is completely legitimate to be there (as are all of the following stages including the jhanas), so if the breath (or for that matter a jhana) comes up, then leave it. But if a thought starts to form then this is not allowed entry at this stage.

To establish what is not allowed in at a certain stage use the gate-keepers simile - tell the gate-keepers (AB recommends three times I think) what cannot come in (at that stage) and then just watch as they do their job. Don’t use the will to bring your awareness back - let the gate-keepers do their job and you can just watch. At first it is quite interesting to watch the gate-keepers (or bouncers :wink: ) pacifying thoughts and getting them to leave, but once you are confident in their ability you can leave them to it until you are ready for the next stage (or maybe I should say ‘until the next stage is ready for you’).

So you are not moving on (or moving back) from one stage to another in this technique, you are moving in - the next stage is within the stage that you are at.


I love intention of sitting down to relax, instead of meditating which can sometimes feel like hard work.

Thanks for your help

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That makes a lot of sense and I think is the piece that I am missing. I will try to encompass the whole from now on until my awareness attends to just the breath all by itself.


I never thought of it like this! great advice.

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Don’t mention it! :slight_smile:

If I was to consider my best advice’s, it would be to not listen to me, but just be happy for my “success”, and find the nerve to just plunge yourself into practice.

I’ve been listening a lot, and then I just find a solitary space, play around while keeping the wise words from teachers in the back of my mind, but in the front keep a nice free space where I can find my way of doing it all the time, and that means finding it joyful regardless of attaining something special, and with this “child mind” it will find it’s way back home as long as you leave it alone!

Don’t believe anybody, just believe that it’s possible for us all to do it, but you have to find “your way” inside the boundaries the teacher has given you!
When you have been practicing “enough” you can ask questions that are fresh and new even for an experienced teacher.

I hardly ask questions about practice, I just do it all the time where ever I might be (home or in ordinary work). It is actually very easy to practice in lay life, you just have to love it!!!