When we meditate we are intending to bring attention to something. When I teach meditation I initially ask clients and students to bring detailed attention to the sensations they find present as they breathe. Growth in mindfulness practice often comes when we experience this type of present-focused attention. Concurrently, skillful management of distractions when focusing on the breath can become blueprint for responding effectively to disordered anxiety, chronic pain, and many related problems in living.
Over the last 20+ years, building a practice of mindfulness and yogic meditation focused on the breath has transformed numerous such problems in living for me.
The breath is an elemental, subjective phenomenon to which we can bring our awareness. As I understand physics’ observer effect, I can change the nature of my breath if I can effectively pay attention to it. Shallow, anxious or labored breathing can become more relaxed or at least neutral simply by virtue of the fact that I have observed it without judgment. If I learn to skillfully control or direct the breath, as I have found in yoga’s pranayama, I can create an environment conducive to healing, expansion, relaxation, excitation, compassion…a growing list representing or a greater range of responses than I had previously.
Frequently meditate-on: the breath.
We can come to understand our way of being with its diversity of sensations, conditions, and effects. We can be more intimately conscious of breathing’s powerful role in accessing life force (prana). Non-judgmentally engaging and re-engaging with our breath is a skill that can become greatly beneficial especially if generalized to other phenomena. If we are to expand our mindfulness practice beyond the breath alone we are to understand the breath as simply one of many phenomena we can observe.
We can decide to focus on difficult truths as have the Tibetan Buddhists with the nature of living and dying. We can focus on a mantra. On a therapeutic sound or smell. On an upcoming performance. On feeding your demons or intentional kindness towards yourself.
Coinciding with any future day I might find myself breathing, I will in this space share and explore some of my most meaningful focal points for meditation as prompts for yours.
meditate-on: the breath