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Breath Meditation

Jump to the following topics:

  1. What is breath meditation?
  2. The techniques.  

What is breath meditation? It is any type of meditation in which we focus our attention on our breathing.

The techniques.

  1. We can practice mindfulness of the breath. We do not control the breath; instead, we allow it to occur in its natural cadence and depth. While breathing, we can focus on:
    • The flow of air (as it goes past the tips of the nostrils, or the insides of the nostrils, or the throat, or the lungs).
    • The abdomen's motion (inward and outward).
    • The sound of the breath.
    • The state during the pause after each exhalation. This is a state of silence, with no thoughts.
    • The quality of the air (perhaps its coolness or its scent).
    • The spontaneous rhythm of the exhalations and inhalations.
    • The uniqueness of each breath (the speed and depth and other characteristics).
    • The various sensations throughout the torso as the lungs expand and contract.
    • Our unity with the breath process. We might feel that we are "being breathed" (instead of being a separate witness of the process).
  2. We can count each breath. We can try these variations:
    • We count the number of beats for the inhalations, exhalations, and pauses. For example, we might count 1-2-3-4 during the inhalation; then 1-2-3-4-5 during the exhalation; then 1-2-3 during the pause. We are not controlling the breath; we allow it to proceed at its natural pace while we count.
    • We can count "one" for the first inhalation; "two" for the next inhalation; "three" for the next inhalation; etc. (We do not count the exhalations.) Or we can count only the exhalations, without counting the inhalations.
    • We can count "one" for the inhalation; "two" for the exhalation. Then we repeat "one" for the next inhalation, and "two" for the next exhalation. etc. (We do not count beyond the number "two.")
  3. We can "note" the breath. In noting meditation, we say a word which names our action; this practice helps us to concentrate on the action. For example:
    • We think the word the word, "inhale," when we inhale; we think the word, "exhale." as we exhale.
    • If we are concentrating on the corresponding movement of the abdomen, the words would be "rising" and "falling," or "out" and "in."
    • We can simply think the word, "breathing," during each inhalation, or during each exhalation, or during both the inhalation and exhalation.
  4. We can think particular words while inhaling. Those words can be a mantra, any phrase, or a self-talk statement. While exhaling, we can:
    • Think the mantra or phrase again.
    • Say the mantra, phrase, or statement aloud.
    • Ponder the meaning of the sentence, phrase, or statement.
  5. We can visualize our breath.
    • During each inhalation, we can visualize energy or light something coming into us. As we exhale, we can visualize something passing from us -- something "negative" (e.g., stress, physical pain, emotional disturbances, or other unwanted conditions) or something "positive" (e.g., blessings or love which we are giving to the world).
    • As we inhale, we can visualize life-energy entering our lungs. In each subsequent inhalation, we visualize a larger amount of life-energy coming into us.
    • As we inhale, we can visualize life-energy travelling to a particular part of our body, e.g., our brain, or our heart, or our painful ankle. As we exhale, we see the tension or pain leaving that part.
    • As we inhale, we visualize life-energy coming into us from a source other than the air; this source might be the sun, or the earth, or another source.
    • We can visualize our entire body participating in the respiratory process. Every cell is exchanging its carbon dioxide for life-enhancing oxygen.
  6. We can have our eyes open slightly, so that some light can enter. As we inhale, we feel the energy of this light coming into our body. As we exhale, we feel the energy circulating throughout our body.
  7. We can gaze at an object -- physical or visualized -- which symbolizes beauty or peace or another quality which we want to develop. As we inhale, we feel the quality of that object coming into us; as we exhale, we respond by sending that same quality back to the object. Eventually, our attention might transcend this duality of ourselves and the object; instead, we become more aware of the quality itself and the empty space in which that quality exists.

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