This is a very simple and most profound practice. You can start with 5 or 10 minutes and work your way up to 30 or 45 minutes. This is a great daily practice!
- Find a quiet space to do this mediation, where there will be no interruptions.
- It is a good idea to have a timer set with a pleasant bell or tone to mark the end of the meditation. This way you don’t have to think about that.
- Set up your chair, meditation cushions or bench and have a blanket or cover nearby in case you get cold.
- Get into your preferred position and wiggle or move around a bit until you feel that your weight is properly placed, there are no unnecessary tensions in your body and you are quite comfortable. See my post on meditation posture and positions for more detailed information.
- It helps to take a couple of slow deep belly breaths before starting, just to relax your body. You can also just quickly scan your body to see if there is any unnecessary tensions, and relax them, once you think you have found your position.
- Lastly, Before I truly begin, I like to set an intention in my head. I say to myself that I am going to meditate for 30 minutes (or however many minutes you choose) and that I don’t need to do anything else for that time except focus on my breath (or other object of meditation). This helps calm any nervous energy that may surface in relation to my responsibilities or things I think I have to do that day, or if there are any distractions during my meditation. It reminds me that I have nothing else to do at this moment. I have reserved this time for meditation, and it protects me from the mind’s tricks to distract me into stopping my meditation.
- Start by just breathing in and out in a natural way. Notice the sensations that arise in relation to your breath. Notice the cooler air coming in through your nostrils and entering your chest or belly, depending on how you are breathing. Feel the expansion of the chest or belly. You don’t need to change or adjust your breathing in any way. We are just observing, with curiosity and without judging.
- Notice the space after we breathe out. We don’t normally inhale and exhale without a pause unless we are panting. What happens to your body when this pause arises? Notice how it feels and how your body begins to breathe in again.
- Now notice the temperature, texture and sensations as the breath leaves your body. Notice how your chest falls or your belly pulls inward without effort.
- This whole meditation is focused on the breath. It might seem boring, but as you progress, you will see that there are slight differences between each inhale and exhale. Every day that you do this exercise you also feel different and breathe differently.
3. It’s not that easy…
- As you are focusing on the breath, inevitably thoughts will arise in your head (planning, worrying, regretting, daydreaming, conversing, etc.). Remember that the aim of meditation is NOT to leave your mind blank. This is not only a myth, it is impossible until you have developed your practice for years. Everyone experiences mental chatter. The name of the game here is to become aware each time this is happening, name it, and then gently return your focus to the breath. The breath is always there for us to return to. You may realize in the moment or after a few minutes that your mind has wandered off. This is all normal, and can be received with non-judging and an open, observing nature. Just say to yourself – “thinking” and gently return to your breath. Sometimes you hear the timer go off and you realize that you just spent 90% of the meditation ruminating about some problem. This happens to everyone.
- You might also notice physical sensations or emotions. You can handle them in the same way. Just label it for what it is and return to the breath. Perhaps you feel angry or anxious. Just say to yourself, “feeling angry” and then go back to the breath. You can always go back later and think about this anger and where it comes from, but now remain in the breath. It is quite common at the beginning to feel bored. This is another emotion, and trick your mind is playing on you to get you to stop meditating. Just observe your boredom and return to the breath.
- If the emotion or physical sensation is too much, then shift your attention and focus to that sensation or emotion and stay with it for a while. Try breathing into it. This will often calm the sensation and create space. Try to adopt an air of curiosity about the discomfort and observe it as if it were a discovery. What are you feeling? Where is it in your body? Don’t get into the why, just observe the sensations as the arise. The why of it would mean thinking, and that’s not where we want to go. When you can, gently return to the breath.
**Note: Know the difference between discomfort and real pain. If you are experiencing any real physical pain (for example, perhaps you have too much pressure on your knee due to your posture, or you feel truly ill) tend to this by either adjusting your posture (this can be a mini-meditation within your meditation, as you observe the movement you make to find comfort) or stopping the meditation completely.
Some final thoughts…
The repetition of becoming aware of thoughts, emotions or physical sensations, and then returning to the breath will hone your conscious awareness. Little by little, without effort, there will be less mental activity and it will be easier to concentrate on your breath. This comes again, without effort.
Keep in mind that there is no final goal here. In other words, it is not a contest, or something you are training to achieve. The very nature of meditation is non-judgmental and effortless. You don’t “try” to meditate, or push out thoughts. You let it all happen and remain an observer, yet with the gentle intention of focusing on the object of your meditation, in this case, the breath.
When the bell sounds at the end of your meditation, slowly exit the posture and move your body as you need to. Stretch or wiggle your hands, arms, legs and feet, stretch your back or just sit back and mentally come out of the meditation at your own pace.
Feel gratitude for this experience!