Following the Breath

This is the practice that usually gets recommended for beginners. It’s so common that some meditators only do this practice and never do any others. We bring attention to each breath and this helps us to still the mind and increase our focus. We can count on either the inhale or the exhale. We spend the time of the sitting mentally counting. Every time something distracts us, we bring the mind back to one. There are two options for how to focus this. Some people like to focus on the breath entering the nose. Others like to focus on the rise and fall of the abdomen as each breath occurs.

First, establish the time of the meditation. Set a timer for an amount of time that you think you can do. A lot of people like to start with just 5 or 10 minutes and try to do more after they have an established meditation practice.

Find a comfortable place to sit. Adjust your posture so that your spine is erect without being stiff. Allow the rest of your body to relax. Rest your hands in your lap or on your legs. Allow your eyes to gently close. Bring your full attention to the feeling of sitting still. Allow your breathing to be natural. Bringing attention to your head, release any tension that you feel in your face.

Scanning the body slowly downward, relax your neck and shoulders.

Feel the rising and falling of your chest with each breath. Bring your attention all the way down your body to the places of contact with the floor (or chair if you’re sitting in one). Feel the pressure and density of your relaxed upright body.

Bringing your full attention to the present moment, acknowledge everything you’re experiencing. Thoughts are happening, hearing is happening, and there are probably mental and emotional sensations. Allow these experiences to be as they are, but bring your attention to the sensation of breathing. Bring your awareness of your breath to the foreground in your mind. Take a few moments and investigate where you can feel the air entering and leaving your body.

Breathing in, know that you are breathing in.

Breathing out, know that you are breathing out.

We can focus on this by counting one with each inhalation and two with each exhalation. Every time a thought or feeling arises to distract us, we can notice it and bring our attention back to one on the next inhalation.

It sounds very simple and it is. One of the most important things is to have a passive attitude, to not be upset with ourselves and starting thinking we can’t do it when things get difficult.

If you can do this simple practice for 10 minutes, every day for a week, your life will change.

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