Exercise 1-4: Body
These first two exercises (conscious breathing) are very important. That's because we are supposed to stop thinking, or perception, and establish ourselves in mindfulness through this initial conscious breathing. In other words, we are supposed to transform ourselves from ego (separate self, fake self) to awareness (non-separate self, true self, Dharma body) through this initial conscious breathing. If we can stop thinking, this transformation automatically occurs in a moment. However, if a person has strong fear or anxiety, that person can not stop thinking because s/he keeps thinking even though s/he tries to concentrate on breathing.
We need to keep in mind that if we do not establish ourselves in mindfulness at this initial stage, we will not be able to expect the effects of the third exercise and after. Thich Nhat Hanh says that one in-breath (a few seconds) is enough to return to our true self. And I understand that what he means by this statement is this initial conscious breathing.
(3-4): The whole body
When we have established ourselves in mindfulness through the first two exercises (conscious breathing), awareness (awakened consciousness) will be able to automatically recognize what is going on inside and around us by the energy of mindfulness. In fact, we will be able to recognize everything at once (we attain various insights at the same time), but in the 16 exercises on mindful breathing we will be aware of them step by step in order. The objects we recognize are 5 aggregates (the five Skandhas) which constitute a human being, namely body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. Concretely speaking, we will recognize and calm them in the following order; Exercise 3-4: body, 7-8: feelings, 9-12: mental formations and consciousness, 13-16: perceptions.
First of all, in Exercise 3-4 we will recognize the pain in the whole body and release the tension of the painful part. Since the body and the mind are closely interacting with each other, we can not concentrate and establish ourselves in mindfulness if the physical pain is intense. Therefore, first of all, we start with checking the health of the whole body with a ray of mindfulness like X-ray, and caring the unhealthy part well by embracing them. As mentioned above, the energy of mindfulness has the function to recognize, to embrace, to ease and relieve the pain and suffering. In addition, as soon as we establish ourselves in mindfulness, there will be the effect of stopping, resting, calming and healing at once.
(to be continued)