Breathing

 

Breathing is something that we do all the time. We can return our minds to the breath any time because it is something that is with us all the time. When we bring our minds to the breath, we feel connected to the world.

Training in following the breath is so important that the Buddha recommended it to everyone. Focusing on our breath is how we establish mindfulness. It’s how we can practice being here now. We establish a strong foundation of mindfulness just by being here with the breath, breathing in and breathing out with full attention. We are just using our sensations of breathing as a focus for our mindfulness.

When we pay attention to our breathing, the mind calms down  and we begin to experience each breath fully. Mindfulness of the breath helps us see that it’s a part of who we are, the main way we interact with the world around us. We take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide all the time. When we pay attention to it, we notice that and also we notice how our body moves with each breath.

Instructions for following the breath.

  1. Go to a quiet place.
  2. Set a timer. It’s important to set a beginning and ending to our practice.
  3. Bring your awareness to this moment.
  4. Sit in a comfortable posture and straighten your spine.
  5. Put your hands in your lap
  6. close your eyes or focus your gaze on something that won’t distract you.
  7. Focus on the breath coming in and going out.
  8. Try counting. On the next in breath silently think “one” and on the next out breath “two”. Every time a thought comes into your mind to distract you, bring your thinking back to one.

 

Some tips:

  1. If your mind wanders, don’t get upset, just start over at one on the next in breath. It happens to all of us.
  2. If you begin to feel sleepy, try cultivating a stronger focus on the breath. If that doesn’t work, try practicing while standing.
  3. If you feel pain, adjust your posture. Pay attention to painful sensations and how they change.
  4. If you have questions about your practice, don’t be afraid to ask someone. People with more experience than you will almost always be willing to offer words of encouragement.
  5. Be patient and don’t be so hard on yourself.
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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher and Ch'an Adept living in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project. He also runs the Monday Night Zen Group at the Rime Buddhist Center. His writing has appeared in Lion's Roar, Patheos, Tattooed Buddha, and Elephant Journal. Daniel has taken Bodhisattva Vows and was transmitted the Caodong Ch'an lineage of Master Hsu Yun.

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