Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Counting Your Breath Meditation

Counting your breath is a good practice to calm yourself and center yourself.  Simply count one to ten and then start over again.  Count each breath.  I do this while I meditate in the morning for ten minutes. I'm surprised how often my mind has drifted and I've lost track of counting.  As soon as I do, I simply start counting my breath again.

We often think meditation needs to be a formal activity where we sit down on a cushion and meditate, but we're not sure what "meditate" means.  I believe it means sitting still for an extended period of time, and in the process trying to get your mind to sit still.  This is difficult.  We tend to think.  Even in meditation our mind thinks. It wanders to the past, present, and future. We plan, we remember.

But when you count your breath, then your mind has a different task that requires concentration.

Sometimes instead of sitting on the cushion and doing formal meditation, I sit on the couch and meditate more informally.  I set a timer, usually for ten or thirty minutes.  Sometimes I just sit; sometimes I drink a cup of tea.  I am not leaving the couch to do something.  I am not reading or writing or looking around.  I remain still and even if I'm drinking the tea, I minimize the movement by keeping the tea on my lap.   I count my breath during this time.  

I encourage you to try this informal meditation.  As I mentioned earlier, counting your breath is a helpful way to prevent your mind from wandering because you are concentrating on counting your breath.  You notice the living room, you notice the sounds. That is being mindful of your surroundings.  But you just notice them. You don't judge them. You don't think about them.  You don't tell a story about them.  Why? Because you also know that the next thought is the next number of your breath, and if you don't pay attention to the breath and the number, then you forget and lose track. If you do lose track, no big deal; just start at one and start over again.  You might start over many times. That's OK.  It's simply an indicator that my mind is a bit distracted. Don't judge yourself. Don't judge your meditation. Don't say "good meditation" or "bad meditation."  Just say "meditation."

Give it a try.

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