When most people think of meditation, they visualize an old man in diaphanous robe with a long white beard and dark, leathery skin. This imaginary man sits alone in a full lotus position, on top of a mountain in Tibet or some other exotic location. He is in a deep trance, engaged in a mystical communication with a higher being. Seated at his feet is a disciple who, after making the long, arduous climb to the mountaintop, seeks the true meaning of life.
In truth, most people who meditate are average folks like you and me. Some are young, others are old. Most do not have long, flowing beards, and very few are interested in sitting on top of high mountains for extended periods of time. There is nothing mystical or magical about meditation at all.
Meditation is about paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. When you practice meditation you deepen your attention and awareness by focusing on one thing for an extended period of time.
Breath meditation is a form of focused meditation where you use a focal point to direct your attention. During focused meditation you direct all of your attention to a focal point, and when distractions occur, you merely note the distraction mentally and then redirect your attention to the focal point. The focal point of breath meditation is your breathing. Breath meditation involves directing your full attention to the experience of existing in the present moment by focusing on your breathing. Breath meditation does not involve thinking about your breath or trying to figure out or whether you are doing it right. Instead, breath meditation involves simply noticing and paying full attention to your breath and what is going on in your diaphragm, lungs, and chest as you breathe in and out.
When you practice breath meditation it helps to visualize the passage of air as it enters and leaves your body. “Watching” the air travel in, around, and out of your nose, throat, and lungs makes it easier to stay focused and use your breath as the focal point in your meditation. After you can visualize the body parts used in your breathing, close your eyes when you breathe, use your imagination, and “watch” the flow of the air. The instructions for breath meditation are very similar to those for diaphragmatic breathing. To use your breathing for meditation you simply redirect your focus back on your breathing when you get distracted and continue the activity for at least 20 minutes.
Breath Meditation Instructions:
1. Prepare to spend 20 minutes of uninterrupted activity.
2. Wear comfortable clothing such as a sweat suit with a nonbinding waistband.
3. Remove your shoes or sneakers.
4. Sit comfortably on a straight-backed chair or on the floor. If you sit on a chair keep your legs uncrossed with your feet resting comfortably on the floor and your hands resting gently in your lap. If you sit on the floor you should sit on a cushion that raises your buttocks off the ground slightly while your legs are crossed comfortably and rest on the floor.
5. Fold your hands comfortably on your lap or let each hand rest on a knee, palms facing up.
6. Sit up straight with your head, neck, and back in alignment.
7. Focus your attention on your current breathing pattern.
8. Make a mental note of the depth, pace, and regularity of your breathing.
9. Visualize a picture of your lungs and your diaphragm.
10. Slowly breathe in through your nose.
11. Notice the feeling in your nose as the air passes through it and enters your lungs.
12. Feel your belly move out as your diaphragm pushes down against it.
13. As you breathe in through your nose, visualize your lungs inflating completely, starting from the bottom (the part closest to your diaphragm) and moving upward.
14. Let your ribs expand and shoulders gently rise as your lungs inflate.
15. Notice the feeling in the muscles of your rib and shoulders cage as you fill your lungs slowly and completely.
16. When you have filled your lungs, pause for a couple of seconds and notice what that feels like.
17. Slowly exhale through your nose as you feel your belly push back and your diaphragm rise back into place.
18. Notice the feeling in the muscles of your rib and shoulders cage as you empty your lungs slowly and completely.
19. Visualize your lungs emptying completely as your lungs deflate.
20. As you continue to breathe in and out this way, pay attention to your thoughts. Try to keep your thoughts focused on your breathing. You might find that saying “in” as you inhale and “out” as you exhale makes it easier to keep your focus on your breathing. Some people find that counting the seconds it takes to inhale and exhale helps keeps them focused on their breathing.
21. When your thoughts stray from your breathing do not get upset at yourself. Simply note that this happened and refocus on your breathing and the words “in” and “out” or your counting.
22. Continue breathing this way for at least 20 minutes.
23. At the end of the 20 minutes slowly stretch, open your eyes, and return to the present moment relaxed and refreshed.
With a few months’ practice you will find that you can slow your breathing down and stay focused on it for most of your session.
Author Bio: For over 25 years Dr. Richard Blonna has been helping people just like you conquer their stress and live values-based lives filled with passion and purpose. As a nationally-certified coach (CPC), counselor (NCC), and health education specialist (CHES), Dr. Rich has a been able to take the best from each of these helping professions and mold them into a unique approach to stress management. In addition to his coaching practice, Dr Rich is a full-time tenured university professor and is a well known stress management and sex expert. For information about Dr Rich and to sign up for his free monthly newsletter go to his website; http://www.drrichblonna.com
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