Breathing meditation has become very popular during the past few decades. It teaches you a simple technique to be aware of the incoming breath and outgoing breath.
This meditation can be done at any moment because the object of meditation is the breath.
Let us understand what is breathing meditation, its benefits, and how to get started.
- What is the origin of breathing meditation?
- What are the benefits of breathing meditation?
- How to get started?
- What is the next stage in breathing meditation?
What is the origin of breathing meditation?
In Buddhism, it is called “Ānāpānasati.”The outgoing breath is called āna and the incoming breath is called āpana. Sati means mindfulness. The combined meaning of those words is mindfulness in incoming and outgoing breath.
What are the benefits of breathing meditation?
Concerning its benefits, health experts recommend a few minutes of breathing meditation every day. Some of the benefits are;
- it has the power of calming an agitated mind
- reduces insomnia, anxiety, and depression
- gives peace of mind
- makes the comprehension clear
- the meditator feels relaxed during and after meditation
Who can practice breathing meditation?
Anyone can practice breathing meditation, because it is simple and easy to understand.
Mindfulness in breathing gives you the opportunity to connect with your body and mind while making the mind calm. If you are a student, a busy professional, or a senior member, you can immensely benefit from practicing this meditation technique.
How to get started?
- Different traditions take different approaches in breathing meditation. What is described below is the technique practiced in Buddhism.
- Breathing meditation can be best practiced in an environment where there are no distractions. Digital media, noise, people can tempt you not to meditate. So make sure to find a proper place to practice breathing meditation
- Keep away all your digitals well before you start meditation
- As a beginner, you can use an alarm clock to keep a track of time
- Sit in a comfortable posture. Sitting cross-legged is the recommended way of sitting for breathing meditation. If you have any difficulty in sitting cross-legged on the floor, use some floor cushions or a chair
- Keep the body straight and relaxed
- Keep your eyes closed and hands clasped in the lap or on knees
- Take a few intentional breaths to relax yourself
How to focus on breath?
- Keep your attention in the area below nostrils or on upper lip
- Pay attention to the natural soft breathing
- Do not try to control your breath
- Let the mind be aware and concentrate on the breath
- As the breath comes in notice, breathing-in
- As the breath goes out notice, breathing-out
- Do not notice whether the breath is long or short or deep or shallow at the beginning
- No need to notice any sensations such as soft breath, hard breath, moist, heat initially
Always focus on natural breath because, if the breath is controlled, the meditator will be exhausted soon. You can practice this method for a few minutes at the initial level.
Should you follow your breath?
According to the profound meditation teacher, Most Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadaw, it is not necessary to follow the breath. Awareness of the breath below the nostrils or on the upper lip is enough. If you follow the breath you cannot develop concentration.
Let the breathing happen naturally and just observe it.
How to keep your attention?
The most difficult part of any type of concentration meditation is to keep the mind focused on the meditation object. After a few minutes, you will notice the mind has wandered away. Simply bring the attention back to breath. Do not feel agitated or worry.
Remember, wandering is the natural habit pattern of the mind. Breathing meditation is a way to train your mind.
Therefore, be here, now.
What if the mind does not get concentrated?
According to the book, Path of Purification, a meditator who cannot concentrate can start the counting method.
After every breath you can count in-out 1, in-out 2, in-out 3 and so on.
The meditator can count any number between 5 through 10.
This way, the mind will get concentrated easily
How long should you practice?
If you are a beginner, you can practice for a few minutes. As you get deep in the practice, you will be able to practice as long as you wish.
What are the challenges in the practice?
The beginning is always difficult. You may come up with different challenges initially. It is good to know what are the difficulties one can expect on this path so that one can get prepared beforehand.
- Difficulty of focusing
- Repetitive thoughts
- The difficulty of sitting still
- Painful sensations of the body
The above are some of the challenges faced by a beginner. If you continue to practice without giving up, you will come across the following results.
- Duration of meditation will increase
- The mind will wander away in a lesser frequency
- As it wanders away, you will be aware of it
- Feel relaxed during and after meditation
Consequently, you will feel more and more moments of peace during your session. You may also come across pleasant sensations time to time. Therefore, you should practice with persistent effort to see a progress.
What is the next stage in breathing meditation?
Once the meditation gets progressed, you can move on to the next stage. That is observing the length of the breath. When your mind is agitated, it is natural to take short breaths. When the mind is calm, it tends to take long breaths. If the mind is fully aware and concentrated on breath, you can observe the duration of it.
Likewise, there are different stages that a meditator experiences in breathing meditation technique. If you are practicing this to develop your mind, it is recommended to get advice from an experienced teacher.
Also to take down this technique properly, you can go for a breathing meditation retreat. Once you return from the retreat, you can build your own practice at home.
Breathing meditation can be practiced until the meditator gains insight wisdom. It is a life-long practice that should be maintained with persistent effort and comprehension.
Photo by Dingzeyu Li on Unsplash