Breath Meditation

 Image:shutterstock/XiXinXing

Image:shutterstock/XiXinXing

 

Breath meditation, or awareness, is a specific practice of focusing attention on the sensations of natural breathing. Through this practice, you can effectively connect to your own rhythm of breath as the object of meditation, making it very accessible. Breath is, of course, necessary for life, and how we breathe is both cause and effect of our physical, mental, and emotional response to what we perceive around us. Observing the breath is excellent practice for effectively managing the moment between what you perceive and how you react.

 

Breath meditation is not hard to start and deepens over months and even years. While the goals of breath mediation can include achieving deep insights into oneself, the mindfully mobile practice breath meditation to train the mind in balancing attention and awareness, which strengthens the mind in and out of meditation. The value of meditation begins with reducing the effects of stress and improving the ability to manage the moments between perception and reaction — that is, to be mindful.

 

1.     Set an intention to spend ten minutes sitting in a space free from distraction. You can sit in a chair with both of your feet on the floor and hands in your lap or sit cross-legged on a cushion with hands on your knees.

2.     Set the timer on your smartphone for your allotted time, and then put the phone where you won’t see it. If you need a sound track, we prefer an instructional guide or sounds from nature or a “meditation” sound track.

3.     A goal is to increase your sense of connection to your breath and little else. Be comfortable in your clothes, and remove your shoes.

4.     Begin by sitting straight up from your seat bones, preferably without back support, but adapt as needed. Shrug your shoulders back and down.

5.     Sit tall for a minute or two to sense the balance your body is keeping. Check in with your ankles, knees, pelvis, hips, shoulders, and neck for natural alignment. Make any last adjustments to posture or position.

6.     Gently close your lips, and breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breath — naturally. Avoid adjusting your breath. Breathe naturally. Feel the sensation of air entering your nose and passing into and out of your lungs without effort. If you choose to count breaths, count on the exhalation, and count up to ten. Then, restart.

7.     Become aware of where you sense the breath. It may be the cooler air entering your nostrils, the space gently expanded in your lungs, or the warmer air leaving your nostrils. Pick this spot for your attention.

8.     Keep your awareness on the breath for the duration of the meditation.

 

Here are some things to know:

 

·      Focusing on the breath can be challenged by “monkey mind” — the mind’s natural response to the challenge of focus. One thought leads to another; suddenly, the breath is forgotten. This is natural. When it happens, celebrate realizing it, and focus again on the breath. This will happen a lot, so celebrate realizing it every time.

·      See if you can maintain attention on your breath and be simply aware of what else is happening in your body and mind. When you ask yourself, “Are we there yet?” remember that a timer will tell you, and let the question float away. When an itch is complaining to be scratched, remember that it’s your mind straining against the training, and let it float away. When that more important task or great idea comes to mind, remember that it will still be there in ten minutes.

·      You may find your sense of smell picks up new odors — or not. If yes, notice and let them pass. You may find increased sensations of an itch or twinge or even a cramp. If you can, observe it, and let it pass without action. If you must act on it, decide and do so with purpose.

·      When you are finished, simply stop. Check in with your body and mind. Celebrate the moments you observed your breath without distraction or wandering. Check in with your sense of balance, awareness, and an even flow of energy in your body.