HOW TO MEDITATE – Awareness of Breathing

This is the technique which will be used at the group meditation sessions. There will be a guided meditation in this technique for beginners. Experienced meditators may practice their own meditation or follow the guided meditation. These sessions are a space to practice meditation in a group setting, to benefit from the energy of group meditation.

Breathing is a natural process of life for all humans, no matter what our religion, race or beliefs are. Awareness of our natural breathing process anchors us in our present moment experience. Being aware of our breathing also lets us be aware of our mind and emotions. For example, when we are angry our breathing becomes restless and we observe unpleasant sensations in our body. When we are peaceful our breathing become rhythmic and we observe pleasant sensations in the body. In this way we can practice being aware of our breathing in daily life.

This meditation technique uses our natural breathing process as an object for concentration and awareness meditation. Initially, our mind will continuously wander away from being aware of our breathing. However, with practice we train our attention to remain concentrated on the natural breathing process. This initial concentration is like a magnifying glass which lets us penetrate into the subtler aspects of what is occurring in our present moment experience.

Awareness meditation is nothing but coming back to the innate pure awareness present in each and every moment. This awareness is naturally present and aware of all experience arise and pass within itself. This awareness reflects itself within the body-mind, is aware of itself in this body-mind. This awareness is the essence of “YOU”.

We are just aware of whatever is happening in the moment, as it is. If we find ourselves reacting to certain experiences or rolling in thoughts, we just become aware that this is our current experience in this moment.

We learn to be aware of the breathing process, by being aware of the sensations breathing creates in our body.

Aware if we are experiencing an incoming or outgoing breath.

Aware if our breath is long or short.

Aware if our breathing is deep or is shallow.

Aware if we are breathing fast or slow.

Aware of any sensations we experience.

Aware if our attention moves away from the object of meditation.

Aware if we are concentrated on the object of meditation.

Aware of sensations arising and passing.

Aware of thoughts arising and passing.

Aware of feelings arising and passing.

Aware of whatever is occurring in the moment, as it is.

STEP BY STEP PROCESS

I will explain the method of this meditation technique for formal sitting meditation. This technique is also easy to apply to our everyday lives. You may sit for however long you wish to. Meditating for 15-20 minutes once or twice a day is a good way to begin.

STEP 1

Sit in a comfortable posture with fingers interlocked together.

STEP 2

You may first wish to relax your body using the smiling relaxation technique (see guidelines). If not proceed to the next step.

STEP 3

Next take an initial deep inhalation and exhalation and see where you feel the sensations of breathing the most. Focus your attention on this area and be aware of the sensations of breathing occurring. This could be the sensations of air touching the inner nostrils, tip of the nostrils or the upper lip area. Also, you may be aware of the area near the navel rise and fall with breathing. Fix your attention on a single area of the body and be watchful of your breathing process at this point.

STEP 4

Once you have chosen a place where you will place your attention, remain aware of your natural breath at that chosen area.

If you are altering your breathing, you are aware you are altering your breathing.

If you are breathing naturally, you are aware you are breathing naturally.

Breathing in, you are aware you are breathing in.

Breathing out, you are aware that you are breathing out.

Breathing a short breath, you are aware you are breathing a short breath.

Breathing a long breath, you are aware you are breathing a long breath.

If the breathing process is slow, you are aware that the breathing process is slow.

If the breathing process is fast, you are aware that the breathing process is fast.

If you are breathing in or out from your left nostril, you are aware that you are breathing in or out from your left nostril.

If you are breathing in or out from your right nostril, you are aware that you are breathing in or out from your right nostril.

If you are breathing in or out from both the nostrils, you are aware that you are breathing in or out from both the nostrils.

If your breathing is smooth and rhythmic, you are aware that your breathing process is smooth and rhythmic.

If your breathing is rough and irregular, you are aware that your breathing process is rough and irregular.

If your breathing is easily perceivable, you are aware that your breathing is easily perceivable.

If your breathing is subtle, you are aware your breathing is subtle.

If there is no breathing, you are aware there are no sensations of breathing.

If your attention has moved away from breathing, you are aware your attention has moved away from breathing.

If your attention is concentrated on breathing, you are aware your attention is concentrated on breathing.

Whatever the breath is like in the present moment, you are aware.

If you are aware of awareness itself, Awareness IS.

Awareness is the key, breath is our aid.

STEP 5

You may initially wish to count breaths, if you find it difficult to keep your attention fixed on the in and out breath. You may count breathing by, counting 1 after one inhalation and exhalation, counting 2 after the 2nd inhalation and exhalation, and so forth. Once you reach 10, restart back to 1. If your mind wanders and you lose your count, then return to 1. Once you can be aware of breathing up to 10, for a couple of cycles, you then observe breathing naturally without the aid of counting.

Initially, try to remain aware of the incoming and outgoing breaths. Once you can keep your attention on breathing, you will naturally become aware of the subtler characteristics of breathing.

STEP 6

If your attention moves away from being aware of breathing, then be aware of wherever your attention has moved to. If your attention has moved to thoughts, be aware that your attention has moved to thoughts. If your attention has moved to some bodily pain or other sensation, be aware that your attention has moved to such a sensation. Once you become aware that your attention has moved from breathing, gently relax and defocus your attention back onto your whole body. Then gently place your attention back on your chosen area and be aware of the sensations of breathing in that moment.

STEP 7

Continue being aware of breathing occurring at your chosen area of attention (the nostrils or abdomen area).

Use awareness of breathing to anchor you into the experience of the present moment.

You may also be aware of  other bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings which are arising and passing within you in this moment. If this is your present moment experience, be aware of it, seeing it as it is. If your mind is caught up in thoughts, bodily sensation, or emotions then be aware that in this moment your attention is caught up in such objects. Then return your attention back gently to the breathing process.

Keep coming back to awareness of breathing.

Keep coming back to experience the present moment as it is.

STEP 8

Finish your meditation at a set time. You can follow with an inner peace-world peace meditation if you wish.

SHORTENED STEP BY STEP PROCESS

1. Sit in a comfortable position, back straight and eyes closed.

2. Relax the body. Release all tensions in the body and mind (you may use a relaxation exercise).

3. Next take an initial deep inhalation and exhalation and see where you feel the sensations of breathing the most.

4. Focus your attention on your chosen area of the body e.g. Nostrils, navel area etc.

5. Be aware of natural breathing. Be aware of inhalation and exhalation. Be aware of any other characteristics of breath which are occurring in the moment, such as long, short, deep, shallow, fast, slow, rough, smooth, rhythmic, irregular and natural pauses in the breathing process. You may wish to initially count your breathing (see guidelines).

6.You may counts your breathing, if you find it hard to keep your attention on breathing. Count 1 for every inhalation and exhalation. Counting up to 10, and then restarting to 1. If your attention wanders while counting, start counting from 1 again. Once your concentration has increased, drop counting and be aware of natural breath as it is.

7. If your attention moves away from breathing, then be aware of where your attention has moved to. Then gently let go, relax and defocus your attention back onto your whole body. Then return your attention to awareness of breathing.

8. Finish after a set time.

GUIDELINES FOR PRACTICE

Posture

You may sit on a chair, cross legged or in whatever way you find comfortable. Keep your back straight but do not cause unnecessary strain in doing so. You could lean against a wall or on a chair if you wish. Close your eyes to stop your attention being distracted by external objects. If you need to change your posture whilst meditating, then do so slowly and aware that you are moving this leg or arm. Continually changing posture affects the build-up of concentration.

Using Relaxation Techniques

Before you start the awareness of breathing meditation, you may wish to relax your body for a couple of minutes. This will help to get rid of tensions built up over the day in your body and mind. You may do this by any relaxation technique you know.

Smiling relaxation technique is a good way to relax your body. You do this by physically smiling and then allowing your whole being to smile within you. You then move your attention from head to feet, smiling and letting go off all tensions along the way. This could be done for 2-5 minutes. This smiling practice could also be used during our meditations, when we feel tension within our minds and body. We can then use this technique for a couple of minutes, and then return to the object of our meditation.

Counting Breath

We may initially count our breathing, if we find it hard to concentrate on our natural breathing alone. Counting of breathing is to be used as a tool to help concentration. However, it shouldn’t be used once you have attained a certain degree of concentration on your object. This is because you may become concentrated on just counting and not being aware of your meditation object.

You may count breathing by, counting 1 after one inhalation and exhalation, counting 2 after the 2nd inhalation and exhalation, and so forth. Once you reach 10, restart back to 1. If your mind wanders and you lose your count, then return to 1. Once you can be aware of breathing up to 10, for a couple of cycles, you then observe breathing naturally without the aid of counting.

Sensations of breathing

In this meditational practice, we are aware of the sensations which the breathing process creates in our bodies. If we keep our attention on the nostrils area, we may feel the sensations of air touching the inner nostrils and thus we know we are breathing in. If we keep our attention on the naval area, we may feel the abdomen expand and thus we know we are breathing in. In this way we become aware that we are breathing in, out, short, long, pause etc. We may also be aware of other sensations such as the temperature of breath, the pressure of air, expansion, contraction, pain, numbness, tingling etc. Be aware with whatever sensation you experience.

If you cannot feel your breath, then put your hand on your naval area and be aware of the rise and fall of the abdomen. As your concentration increases you can observe breath at the nostrils area. You may wish to make the area of concentration smaller with practice, such as the tip or rim of the nostrils. This will increase your concentration. If you feel concentration is making you tense then defocus your attention and observe sensations on a larger area of the body.

Using natural breathing

Do not try to alter your breathing. If you find yourself altering your breathing then relax and defocus your attention onto a larger area. Then gently place your attention back at your chosen area and be aware of the natural movement of breath. You may find yourself altering breathing many times at first. Be aware that you are altering your breath, be it consciously or unconsciously. Be aware of the characteristics of unnatural breathing, such a heaviness, irregularities and agitation. With practice observe natural breathing, as it is.

Following the breath

You may wish to follow the sensations your breathing creates in the body, or you may wish to fix your attention to a fixed area of your body. Let your breathing be natural. You may take a few conscious breaths if you find it difficult to observe your natural breath. We observe the sensations of inhalation moving from the tip of the nostrils, to the inner nostrils, windpipe, expansion of the lungs, to the rise of the naval area. Then observing the sensations of exhalation from the naval, to the chest, and then to the nostril and upper lip area.  The three points of observation are the nostril, chest and naval area. You could also just observe at the nostril and/or naval area. You may choose to follow breathing in this way for some time and then return to naturally observing breathing at a fixed point or throughout the body.

This way of following the breath is helpful when you are tense from over concentrating at a fixed point. You may switch to this way of observing breathing whenever you feel like. It may not deepen your concentration as much as focusing your attention at a fixed point does. However, we continue to be aware of the natural breath and the sensations it creates in the body, in the present moment.

Wandering mind or strong emotions

Don’t become frustrated if you cannot keep your attention on your breathing. Be aware that you are experiencing frustration in this moment. Then relax your attention and defocus your attention onto the whole body. When natural breathing comes back into your awareness, you return to awareness of breath. Do the same if your attention wanders into the contents of thoughts or emotions.

If you are experiencing strong emotions or unwholesome states of mind in which you can’t observe breathing. Then just be aware of whatever state you experience by labeling the experience. If you are experiencing anger, say to yourself that anger is arising, is present, and has passed away. Label these strong emotions and states of mind, this will help you to just observe these emotions without identifying and reacting to them. You may also try relaxing your mind and body with a smiling technique or loving kindness meditation, for a short period of time. When you are ready, you may return to awareness of natural breath.

Ending with loving kindness/ inner peace – world peace meditation

Once you have finished the awareness of breathing meditation, you may end with a loving kindness/world peace meditation. You may do this for a couple of minutes, if you wish to.

Loving kindness meditation begins by remembering an act of love, kindness, peace or joy. You then hold the feeling of that experience at your heart centre (in the middle of your chest). You visualize it glowing at your heart centre and radiating outward to your whole body. Allow the feeling of love, compassion, peace and kindness spread beyond your physical body, your immediate surroundings, your city, your country, the world, the universe. Feel this love and goodwill as the innate nature of reality.

Inner peace, world peace meditation includes wishing yourself inner peace, joy, insight and wisdom and sharing this with the world. I will give further instruction of how to practice this technique later.

Daily practice

Beginners may start practicing meditation for 10-20 minutes a day. You may wish to keep a stopwatch or alarm to alert you once you have meditated for a set time.

Initially, you will find it may take some time just for your mind to settle and your attention to focus just on breathing. Only after this will your concentration intensify on its object. There are no hard rules to how long you need to practice and how often. However, you will find your concentration steadily increases with frequency of practice, even if they are of shorter periods.

Practicing formal sitting early in the morning is beneficial and also when you do not have a full stomach.

The benefits of using natural breathing as an object for meditation, is that it can be practiced at any time, and in any situation. We can be aware of our natural breathing when we are walking. We can be aware of our natural breathing when we are lying down. We can be aware of our natural breathing when we are doing some action. We can be aware of our natural breathing when we are experiencing unwholesome states of mind, such as anger, jealousy, greed, fear etc. We can be aware of our natural breathing when we are experiencing wholesome states of mind, such as joy, peace, love, compassion etc. We can be aware of our breathing in any situation, at any time. Being aware of breath, we become aware of thoughts, and feelings.

Only when we are constantly aware of our present moment experience, do we come to deeper insights into ourselves. Awareness is aware of our present experience without identification, judgment and reaction.

This leads us to our innate awareness which is naturally and effortlessly present in each and every moment. In this pure awareness, all experience comes and goes, but it itself remains naturally present.

Concentration and subtler aspects of breathing

The more we are able to be with our breathing, the more we discover the subtler aspects of our breath. First we must allow our breathing to be natural. We are aware of the natural inhalation, exhalation and pauses of our breath. Initially, we feel the gross sensations of air touching the inner nostrils or our chest and naval area rising and falling as we inhale and exhale. The more our attention becomes fixed on breathing, the more we become aware of the subtler aspects of breath. Once we can stay with the sensations of the in and out breath at a fixed area for some time, we may become aware of the other characteristics of breath. These include;

1. Aware of the entire inhalation and exhalation of the breath

2. Aware of the pauses of breath after inhalation and exhalation.

3. Aware of the length (short or long), depth (deep or shallow), Speed (fast or slow), and quality (smooth or irregular) of our breath.

4. Aware if our breath is moving from the right, left or both nostrils. Also being aware that the nostrils we predominately breathe from changes with time.

5. Aware of sensations such as pressure, temperature, expansion, contraction, and tingling sensations within the body. For example, we may feel the air that passes through our nostrils warmer on the exhalation. Also, the contraction and expansion of the body as we breathe and the pressure this creates within our body.

6. Aware of the relationship of breath and the mind we may find an irregular, fast and short breathing usually relates to tensions in the body, negative states of mind and with emotions such as anger, fear etc. We will find our body-mind relaxes with deeper, slower regular rhythmic breathing and experience positive states of mind and emotions.

7. Aware of the subtle breath and the energy body – the subtle breath is our energetic connection to the deeper aspects of ourselves and the entire existence. Our energy body is the life force of our physical body.

8. Aware of the subtle gaps between breaths – this is the pause after inhalation and the pause after exhalation. In this gap, we are still, entirely present, aware.

9. Aware of the movement of energy within our body as we breathe. We discover that we are breathing in and out energy which is linked to our energetic body.  We become aware as we breathe in and out there is a constant flow of energy between ourselves and our environment. We become aware of the circulation of this energy within our bodies and our surroundings.

10. Aware of the subtler aspects of ourselves through direct intuitive experience. We may discover many insights into the whole sphere of our gross to subtle existence.

11. Aware of our beingness/presence/aliveness/consciousness . The “I AM” in which life is experienced. The “I AM” which is within all of us. The “I Am” which is life, which is universal consciousness. The “I” that always IS.

12. Aware that we are aware of whatever experience may be occurring. Aware of our universal “I” ness or presence. Aware of that awareness itself. Just aware.

Once our concentration deepens, our body and mind relaxes and becomes one pointed on its object (breath). We will find our breathing become subtle and hard to detect. Just remain aware of whatever sensations arise. Now we may begin to feel the movement of energy within our bodies as we breathe in and out. Be aware of these sensations, if they occur in your present moment experience. We may especially feel energy collect at the naval area as we breathe. We may feel our whole body full of energy, full of vibrations. We may feel this energy move through our spine and circulate through our bodies. Whatever is your experience, just be aware. All these phenomena may naturally arise, stay for some time and pass within awareness.

You may also become aware of the natural intuitive presence/beingness consciousness within you. The “I” that just is. The “I” that cannot be labelled, which is before and beyond bodily sensations, feelings, emotions, states of mind, like and dislikes, craving and aversion, attachment and detachment. The “I”, universal consciousness, or aliveness which is the manifestation of life within everyone. You are aware of this “I-ness” also. This “I-ness” which IS. What is aware of this “I-ness” also? Who is aware?

Notice if you become identified and attached to any pleasurable states that you may experience. If they occur, just be aware they are occurring. If these states are pleasurable, just be aware that they feel pleasurable. If you are calm, joyful, ecstatic, balanced, feel oneness, or concentrated then just be aware that this is your present moment experience. Whatever you experience, just be aware, do not force it to happen or suppress it. If you become identified and cling to some experiences and suppress others, be aware you are doing so. Alert, Alive, Aware.

Awareness does not identify or react, it observes whatever appears in its field of awareness. Ultimately, there is awareness of the one who is aware.

Insight and developing Wisdom

Insight is when we come to understand some aspect of reality, through experiencing reality as it is. We gain wisdom by applying this understanding to our present moment experience and acting from this wisdom in daily life in our thoughts, speech and actions.

Through understanding of reality as it is, we don’t identify and react to our present moment experience with misguided understanding. Misguided understanding comes from unconsciously identifying and reacting with likes and dislikes, without seeing the nature of reality as it is. We create our own suffering through our own misguided understanding of reality and reacting to our present moment experiences from this unconscious understanding.

In awareness meditation we develop insight, by keeping our attention in the experience of the present moment. We remain aware of whatever the experience may be without identifying and reacting to it. We remain aware without trying to cling and hold onto any pleasant experience or have aversion to any unpleasant experience. By remaining aware of what is, we see reality as it is and gain insight into its true nature. If we become aware that we are identifying and reacting to our present moment experience, then we just remain aware of this happening in the present moment. Insight into how we create our own suffering stops this unconscious cycle, as soon as we become aware of it happening. We may become aware of our unconscious tendencies at the level of sensations, feeling, thought or emotions.

For example, we may feel some pain in our body. Our attention may be focused on these sensations. We then unconsciously label it as pain and react negatively to it because of our mental associations with such a sensation. With blind reactions of “likes” and “dislikes”, we start an endless cycle of identifying and reacting to the sensation, which creates a miserable state of mind. If we learn to see sensations as sensations, we see that every sensation is temporary in nature; it arises, stays for some time and passes away. The insight that all experience is temporary in nature, frees us from blind identification and reaction.

Everything in our experience arises, stays for some time, and eventually passes. All experience arises, stays for some time, and passes away in pure choiceless awareness.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s