One with the Breath: A Guided Meditation
As explained in a previous article, meditation has many benefits, and there are various styles and methods of meditating. Part of the journey of discovering the right meditation method involves some trial and error—actually experimenting with different forms as you search for one that is comfortable and meets your current needs.
You will be guided through what is known as breath meditation or using the breath as an anchor for your wandering thoughts and arising feelings. Before beginning, it’s helpful to have a conceptual understanding of the technique.
originates from practices of Zen Buddhism that emphasizes direct experience over written scriptures or oral teachings. Meditation, or zazen, is the main practice in Zen. However, practicing breath meditation does not involve embracing any
particular beliefs or religious notions. It just requires an open mind and the willingness to engage.
One fundamental of breath meditation is the importance of posture. Breath meditation can be practiced sitting at the edge of a chair, sitting with legs-crossed on the floor or preferably sitting on cushion. Focus on keeping the back straight, not tensing it but remaining fairly erect, where you can feel the bottom of your spine begin to curve in. You can also imagine an invisible wire coming from the top of your head, pulling you upward. The chin is slightly tucked in. The hands are placed on the lap, left hand over the right, with the thumbs touching lightly. The eyes can be slightly open and cast down or kept closed if one wants to experience more of an inward, bodily experience.
Zen master Julian Daizan Skinner writes that you are in the proper place physically when you feel a combination of relaxation and balance and poise. All this being said at the end of the day you need to do whats right for you and your body. Some people aren’t able to even sit up straight and thats ok! Nothing can truly impede the progress of your inner development.
There are many breath meditations outside of Zen and all can be beneficial as I said earlier you’ll need to experiment and find which one is best for you. I’ve been meditating for 18 years and I have never used one and and only one specific meditation. I have a variety that spring forth in the moment. Trust yourself.
For this meditation don’t manipulate the breath, just “watch it” go in and out with no pause on the inhalation or exhalation. Naturally, you will experience thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations when meditating. When this happens, you simply return your attention to the breath. You don’t tense up or get annoyed about the thoughts, simply observe them, let it happen, then return to the breathing, seeing it as an anchor. At first, you might experience a constant stream of thoughts and a constantly distracted mind. However, overtime and with practice, your ability to gently remain focused during meditation will improve. Meditation teachers use the analogy of the monkey and the ox when addressing the handling of thoughts. The mind is naturally like a monkey, jumping around and constantly moving. An anchor, such as the breath, is needed to calm this monkey, to serve as a banana if you will. Eventually, the goal is to train the mind to resemble more of an ox, steady and grounded. Be kind with the wandering mind and always come back to the breath.
A Ten-Step Guided Meditation
With a conceptual understanding in place, let’s meditate:
1. Find a quiet place, where you won’t likely be disturbed. Some noise is okay since you can treat it just like thoughts, gently coming back to the breath.
2. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Use pillows if needed.
3. Keep the spine straight. Hands on the lap.
4. Close the eyes or keep them slightly open, cast downward.
5. Do nothing. Just sit there for 30 seconds or so, noticing the sensations in your body.
6. Place your attention on your breathing.
7. Don’t manipulate the breath, just notice when you are breathing in and out. It might help to place the attention on the lower stomach, noticing how your belly rises and falls with each breath. You might notice that your breaths becoming deeper or longer and the body begins to relax.
8. When you become distracted by thoughts, let them come, sit with them, then gently return to the breath. Do this whenever you become distracted. Also, if you find yourself slouching, easily and slowly straighten.
9. After the designed time, stop focusing on the breath. Take a minute or so to just be with the eyes closed. Getting up too fast can be disorienting. You want to create a smooth transition between meditating and activity. You can also stretch your legs or move slowly before rising.
10. Open the eyes, stretch out the body and gently “re-enter the day”
If you practice this simple meditation, you may find yourself feeling calmer, more focused, and enjoy a sense of well-being. The key is to remain consistent with your meditation. You might think of it like exercising, you must maintain your regime to enjoy the benefits.