This is probably the most popular mindfulness exercise.It is called
mindfulness of breath or mindful breathing. Sometimes it’s also called sitting meditation or breath meditation. Here’s the instructions:
You can do mindfulness of breath either sitting up with your back relatively straight so you are relaxed but not slouching, or lying down on your bed, carpet or mat. If either of those postures are unsuitable, then any posture that feels right for you, which including standing or even walking slowly. You can either close your eyes or have your eyes half open. If you are feeling sleepy, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open. Keep your arms and hands anywhere they feel comfortable – you may want to rest your hands on a cushion to prevent your arms dragging down your shoulders, but that’s not essential by any means.
1. Gently turn your attention to your own natural breathing. You can feel your breath in your nose, throat, chest or down in your belly, your lower abdomen.
2. To help you to focus you can quietly say to yourself ‘in’ or ‘inbreath’ as you breathe in, and ‘out’ or ‘outbreath’ as you naturally breathe out. Alternatively you can count your breaths from 1 to 10 in any way you prefer. For example you can say ‘one’ as you breathe out your first breath, and ‘two’ as you breathe out your second breath and so on. If you don’t find this labelling helpful, you can just leave it – it is designed to help you to focus, but if it’s a distraction for you, it’s better if you don’t use labels.
3. Almost immediately you’ll find that your mind gets caught up in thoughts, sensations, day dreams, worries, concerns and more. That’s completely normal and very much part of the process. As soon as you notice that your mind has taken your attention away from you breath, notice that you are now actually back in the here and now – the present moment. Then, without self-criticism or judgement or thinking that you can’t do this, simply and as kindly as you can, turn your attention back on to the breathing.
4. Repeat step 3 again and again. Your mind may wonder off thousands of times. That’s perfectly okay. No need to criticise or judge, simply notice and bring the attention back. Each time you do this, you strengthen your inner capacity for mindfulness. In the long run this has many benefits. The key is lots of patience and self-compassion.
5. After 10 minutes or so you can bring the exercise to a close. Notice how you feel and give your full mindful attention to whatever your next task is. The first time you practise you may feel worst rather than better – that’s quite normal too. Whenever you try something new, the experience is unusual and bring up uncomfortable feelings. With regular practice you will understand that emotions will always come and go and don’t affect the mindfulness as such – they are very much a part of the process.
Download a free guided audiotrack of this mindfulness meditation now by going to mindfulnessbreathing.com