Mindful Breathing Meditation
Before anything else, I want to remind you that I'm just a lay, secular Buddhist practitioner. I'm also pretty new to all this. My experience is of about 1 year meditating daily, so I'm by no means an expert.
Still, I wanted to share with you the few, simple tips that have helped me stay constant.
- Start small, only 5 minutes or so, to build the habit. For many of us, this will already be a huge improvement in our lives.
- Do not compare yourself with anyone. Any amount of time is valid. Any practice is virtuous in its intent. Any time meditating is worth it, if you can learn and grow from it.
- Do not hold expectations over yourself. Do not meditate for any specific reason, meditate only for the shake of meditation, for the moment. Benefits will come, but do not expect them.
- Establish a routine. Use meditation as your foundation, first thing in the morning, before anything else.
- Enjoy it. If you are not enjoying it, reduce the time as necessary, adjust your environment, but do not force yourself. Meditation should never get to be something that you hate.
That's the more general framework, now for the way I meditate. I do a form of Mindful Breathing Meditation:
- Sit comfortably, but in an active position. The classical lotus posture (Padmasana) is only viable for a few lucky ones, so look for a posture that keeps you comfortable but doesn't let you fall asleep. I usually do the burmese posture (Muktasana), with a cushion to keep my hips higher. Use a chair or back support if needed.
- Close you eyes, and focus on your breathing. Try to keep your awareness in your nostrils, in how the air goes in and out.
- Do not try to control the breathing, just observe it.
- Let go any thoughts. This is the biggest misconception: it's almost impossible to avoid the arisal of thoughts. It will happen, is part of the natural flow of meditation, and it doesn't "invalidate" your practice.
- What we do, instead, is acknowledging them, and letting them go. A pretty useful exercise is to visualize yourself next to a river. Any thoughts that appear are part of the flow of the water: they pass close to you, but if you acknowledge them without engaging, they will soon pass and leave you quiet again.
That's pretty much it. You can time yourself (I'm a fan of singing bowls meditation timer videos, but there are also a lot of apps) or just do it for as long as feels alright. Keep doing it, and you will find that the ability to calm the mind is just invaluable.
I hope that all this helps any of you, or at the very least, encourages you to try.