This is Session 1 of a 10-Week Pause program that we have developed.
Mindfulness practitioners have several definitions of mindfulness. The one I use is about waking up (paying attention) to the present moment with the attitude of gentleness (kindness) and curiosity (beginner’s mind), and intention of right effort, the Goldilocks effort (not tight concentration, not zoning out).
So the foundation of mindfulness is becoming conscious of what’s going on, be it internally and externally, and placing our attention where we want it to be and where we think is most helpful for our wellbeing.
In this session, we practice becoming conscious of breathing.
This practice is about waking up to the present moment and building up our capacity to steady the mind.
Each time a thought comes to the mind, an opinion, an idea, image, or a distraction surfacing, we would be re-directing the mind back to the activity of breathing.
Why the breath?
Because it gives us life. It is an activity closest, most intimate and up, close to us.
If during the practice you are finding it difficult to breathe properly, perhaps you have a cold; or paying attention to the breath is usually uncomfortable, you could play with a few possibilities.
Meditation guidance (transcript)
When you’re ready, coming to sit, with a posture as upright as possible without tensing, without being too relaxed.
You may be sitting on a chair with both feet on the floor, or seated cross-legged, in a position that is comfortable for you right this moment.
You may also sit on a mat on the floor.
Having your eyes closed is fine, or keeping them open.
The intention is directing the attention to breathing at a pace that feels right for you in the moment, with consciousness and care.
If it’s easier breathing through the mouth, that’s fine to do so.
The mind will wonder, and that is ok.
Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction says: “If the mind wanders a thousand times your only job is to bring it back a thousand times.”
Now noticing the breath coming in.
Is it cool or warm breath?
Noticing how the air fills the nose or mouth.
How the chest moves to take in and process the air.
How the stomach is expanding.
And when we are exhaling, the belly collapsing, the chest processing the air, and out it is going through the nose or mouth.
Breathe at a pace and depth that is gentle for you right this moment.
If you feel like breathing deeply, that is fine.
If you feel like doing long exhales, that is ok too.
If you’re finding it difficult to breathe properly due to a cold or sinus issues, just do the best you can with gentleness.
As best as you can, just staying with the breath even if it’s very rapid, shallow breathing.
Shifting your posture if need be and becoming conscious of the decision and action to move.
Whenever the mind is travelling, bringing it back to the breath with care.
Noticing the full motion of breathing – starting from the point of contact between air and the nose or mouth.
Down to the belly.
And then exhaling with consciousness.
Mind wandering is normal. Distraction is also common.
Just firmly and kindly escorting the attention back to the breath.
And as best as you can, staying with breathing.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable or sleepy, perhaps experimenting with shifting your posture or opening your eyes.
If the mind is persistently distracted by something, noticing with conscious what that is, and how you are responding to it.
Here is a poetry for you.
The Breath is Life’s Teacher, by Donna Martin
Observe me, says the Breath, and learn to live effortlessly in the Present Moment.
Feel me, says the Breath, and feel the Ebb and Flow of Life.
Allow me, says the Breath, and I’ll sustain and nourish you, filling you with energy and cleansing you of tension and fatigue.
Move with me, says the Breath, and I’ll invite your soul to dance.
Make sounds with me and I shall teach your soul to sing.
Follow me, says the Breath, and I’ll lead you out to the farthest reaches of the Universe, and inward to the deepest parts of your inner world.
And we come to a close of this practice of Consciousness of Breathing.
If you wish to continue sitting, by all means do so.
You may also replay this recording to practice anywhere, any time.
Thank you and look out for Session 2’s recording next Wednesday.
Guide: Noelle Lim
Image credit: Motoki Tonn, Unsplash