This is quite possibly the simplest meditation method there is, but it is the foundation of many meditation practices around the world. Well proven and effective.
Just because it’s simple, it does not mean that it’s easy
The basic premise behind this meditation is that the breath is always present whether we are paying attention to it or not. So whenever our mind pulls us away from concentrating on the breath, inevitably we will notice at some point, and are able to easily come back to it.
Breathing is the only function of the human body that spans the conscious and subconscious mind. We can control the speed and depth of our breathing if we give it our attention. But at the same time, our subconscious mind will take over control if we are not paying attention or if we try to do something that will harm the body, such as holding our breath for too long.
Focusing on the breath is a simple and effective way to entertain the monkey mind.
There are also a few options for where you can observe the breath in the body. So hopefully you will find one that works well for you.
The technique for this meditation is so simple, you just need to determine where you want to watch / follow the breath. Here are a few options;
Nose – when the breath enters the body, you can feel a cool burn in the bridge of the nose. This is a really good place to start. It is a little more difficult to feel the out-breath though as the air is closer to your body temperature when it exits the body.
Throat – if you constrict your throat slightly, you can feel the rush of air in both directions. You can often hear it too if your environment is really quiet. As you progress deeper into the meditation, you can slowly release the tension you have in your throat until it is fully relaxed.
Belly – if you are breathing properly, your belly should gently rise and fall. You’ll feel your organs gently being squeezed or the skin of your abdomen gently stretching and relaxing. You can sometimes feel the movement of your clothing too.
There are other places to observe the breath, but these are the easiest and most common. Choose one and stick to it for a few meditations. Avoid the temptation to switch back and forth if the technique doesn’t seem to be working.
If you haven’t already checked out the Meditation Boot Camp, I highly recommend starting there first to avoid some of the many pitfalls. This meditation assumes you already know how to set up your space, remove distractions, relax your body and get the fundamentals right.
- Set up your environment
- Sit in your favorite meditation posture
- Close your eyes
- Relax your body
- Take a few deep breaths in and out to signal to your body that you’re about to start
- Relax into a slow and natural breathing pattern
- When you’re ready, focus very clearly on the breath at your chosen location (nose / throat / belly)
- Do this for as long as you like (15-20 minutes recommended)
- When you find your mind has wandered, gently bring it back to focusing on the breath
- When you are finished, slowly open your eyes and become aware of your surroundings
That’s it. It literally doesn’t get any easier than that. You don’t need anything special. You always have your breathing with you. If you don’t, you’ve got bigger problems.
Tips and Things to Look For
Be Gentle – Always be gentle with yourself when you realize you have followed a thought. Your mind has been distracting you for a very long time and is really good at taking you on a journey.
Repetition – Stick with the same method for at least a week before you decide to try another.
Focus Intensely – Following the breath is one of the simplest and most effective ways to focus the mind, but in some ways that makes it one of the most difficult too. To make it work properly, you have to focus on every sensation of the air moving with great intensity.
There was an episode of “Dr. Who”, the popular BBC sci-fi show, where there were statues that moved whenever you looked away from them. Even if you blinked they would get closer. So watch your breath with that same level of intensity. Like if you stopped looking, it might pounce on you.
Look for the stillness – at the top of every in-breath there is a stillness when the airflow changes direction. Stare at that stillness. Hold your body as still as you can and sink into that stillness. Don’t hold your breath though, but just notice that calm each time.
Have fun and enjoy.
Leave comments below if you have any questions.