We use the breath as a vehicle or conduit for our attention. It is a key tool in practicing mindfulness. These simple breathing exercises are a great way for beginner's to start practicing meditation and mindfulness.
The breath is a powerful object to focus on for a number of reasons:
- It is always with us.
- It is always changing. This makes it more interesting and easier to give it our attention.
- It reflects our state of mind and body, so a great source of feedback on how we are at any one time.
- It is easy to feel its physical manifestation as it enters and leaves the body (you can place a hand on the belly or chest to help with this).
The breath can act as an anchor—a place to come back to when our attention wanders. Since it is always changing, when we pay attention to it, we are immediately brought into the present moment.
Watching the Breath is a core meditation Practice. It can be done informally, sitting in the office or in the car or on a train, or more formally, at home or in a quiet place, for a longer period of time. The more often we can watch the breath, the more familiar we become with it (and what is “normal” for us) and the more practiced we become at harnessing its power.
First, become aware of the breath in your chest, feeling the sensations of breathing… and then expand your attention outward, maintaining an awareness of the breath in the chest but also experiencing the feet on the floor, the buttocks on the seat, and perhaps the sensation of the chair at your back. Play with expanding your attention as far outward as you can (like a radar rippling out) and then slowly bring it back in, to focus solely on the breath. Play with this, repeating it several times.
Clench your fist really hard for a minute or two. What do you notice?
Relax the fist and flex your fingers.
Clench the fist again, but this time imagine you are breathing in and out of the fist.
What do you notice this time?
People often report that when they clench their fist in the normal way, they notice other parts of the body tensing up as well and that they are holding their breath. This is what happens to us every time we tense up in our daily life. When we intentionally direct the breath into the clenched fist, there is an overall softening—in the fist and other parts of the body. The breath continues to flow easily. The fist is still clenched but it is not so tight—there is some space in it—and there is less tension elsewhere.