HMC Day 6: Breath Awareness

Holiday Meditation Challenge Day 6

Breath awareness is a building block of most meditation practices — partly because it’s so simple. As long as we’re alive, we’re breathing, and so our breath is always an available anchor. It’s a reliable source of calmness, stability and grounding when used intentionally.

Breath awareness meditation is about noticing your in-breaths and out-breaths. Some people like to choose some facet of the breathing process to focus on, like the rising and falling of the chest, or the coolness of the air as it enters through the nostrils. Others simply mark the in-breath by thinking, “in” or “breathing in,” and the out-breath by thinking “out” or “breathing out.” You don’t have to breathe with any specific pattern, rhythm or pace.

And… that’s about it! Here’s the catch: Your mind WILL wander away from the breath. Often. Even if you’re sitting for just 5 minutes, your mind could easily drift into daydreaming, planning or worrying dozens of times during that period. You might notice feelings of irritation or boredom.

The key is to return your attention to your breath over and over, without judgment. Don’t beat yourself up or debate whether you’re cut out to meditate (or if you do, notice what you’re doing, and drop it so that you can refocus on your breath). Rest assured that it’s the process of redirecting our attention that constitutes the heart of meditation. The skill is the noticing and the gentle shifting back to our original focus.

Assignment:

Sit in silence and focus on your breath for 5 minutes. If this is your first time meditating without a recording, you may notice more feelings of anxiety or restlessness during the practice, and that’s OK. Whatever occurs to you — whatever the thoughts and feelings may be — accept them all, and drop them in favor of focusing on your breath.

>> If you’re a more experienced meditator, increase the time to at least 10 minutes.