In this article: Discover the 2 best breathing meditation techniques for beginners, perfect for relaxing the mind and finding peace and happiness.
Let’s be completely honest about this. The average person doesn’t have much Zen. The average person isn’t at peace. The average person is like a bull.
The bull sees red and so it runs. It runs mindlessly. It runs until it’s exhausted. Then it collapses, until it finds the energy to charge once more. The cycle repeats until the bull is completely worn out, at which point the bull is tragically and inhumaley killed. It’s a hideous practice we are fighting to stop. But it’s also a practice that reflects the way a lot of people live their lives.
Why am I talking to you about a bull?
Because a lot of people are precisely the same way.
Too many people live like the bull. They charge through their lives, wanting more and more and more, working harder and harder and harder, until they are all but worn out. Then they get to retirement. They look back and realise that their lives flashed them by in the blink of an eye, that they were mindless, that they never stopped to take in the scenery, that they never took life by the reigns but instead, like the bull, were constantly led from one target to the next until they’re all but spent.
This is what happened to my father. He worked his so hard that he became ill with stress. That led him to become an alcoholic. He got to retirement. But life had got to him by then. He died only a couple of years after retiring. It’s a tragedy. My father deserved better. And it’s he who inspires me to help other people to find their inner Zen.
So how do you stop that kinda craziness? Living in the moment.
If only we could all stop for one moment and see things clearly, we’d be so much wiser and so much happier.
But how do you make your mind stop racing when there’s so much going on and so much to do?
A lot of people feel that they are busy all the time. So how can they possibly stop?
The best answer I’ve ever found to that question is breathing meditations,. These are perfect meditations for beginners. They’re easy to do but powerful.
Breathing Meditations allow your mind to come to rest, to settle.
Like the ocean, the mind is constantly tossing back and forth, waves crashing about, preventing you from seeing beneath the surface. But then one day the waves dissipate. The ocean becomes still. Suddenly the surface is clear and you can see within.
Breathing meditations are like that.
Breathing meditations allow you to stop and to see what’s happening within. In fact, that is why in many practices breathing meditations are practiced before insight meditations. Breathing meditations let you slow down and see what is going on inside yourself. But it starts with breathing meditations.
When you practice some easy breathing meditations you will calm your mind so you can see beneath the surface and within.
The first time I used breathing meditation /anapanasati meditation, I realised something I had never realised before: That I was dedicating myself to ending suffering.
It was a strange realisation at the time, because I hadn’t applied to be a doctor or even a counselor. I’d been a singer and was then an actor. But yet I knew that it was true. I knew that all those times I took to the stage to entertain people, I did it because I wanted people to stop worrying, to stop stressing, to let go of everything that was on their minds, and to simply enjoy the moment. I wanted to make them laugh, sing, and be joyful for just a couple of hours, because that couple of hours was a fantastic catharsis. That’s why every time I finished a show an the cast went right back to their changing rooms, I would peek out back and watched the audience members, to see how their faces lit-up after a good show.
And that was why I got into meditation–and I myself started with beginners breathing meditations–and why I’m now a meditation teacher, because I want to stop suffering, to help people to connect with the present moment and to find happiness and health. That’s why I spend so long on my email, Twitter, and Facebook pages answering people’s questions to help them, because I want to stop the suffering. But I only ever realised that the first time I meditated.
But the same is true for others, and possibly for you too.
Most people, the first time they practice breathing meditation they experience a true moment of inner clarity and they realise something. They see inside themselves for the first time and they discover something about themselves. What precisely? Well that depends on the person. But I am pretty confident that if you have never meditate before then when you try the meditations I will share with you in a sec, you will see something about yourself you have never seen before. And I would love to know what it is (so leave a comment).
The basic breathing meditation techniques I’ll be sharing in this article will open your eyes.
The meditations I’m about to share have been real eye-openers for my students.
- One woman I taught to breathing meditation to realised that she’d sabotaged all her relationships because she was afraid of abandonment (her father had left her when she was young). By teaching her breathing meditation I helped her to overcome that sense of abandonment so she could have healthy relationships. She’s now engaged to be married to the man she’s been with for eight years.
- A fifty year old guy I taught realised that he was in completely the wrong business (law). He entered law just because he wanted to make more money than his brother. What he really wanted to be doing was fitness instruction. I helped him overcome his unhealthy competition with his brother so he could start on the fitness business he was passionate about. The owner of his own business, he is making more money now than he ever did before, and is making more than his brother, though he’s no longer concerned about his sibling rivalry.
- Another male student of mine suddenly realised that he’d spent 30 years chasing after a dream and in so doing had never really lived the true moments of his life. He’s now all about the “power of now”. He tells me he’s done more living in the past year than he did in the 30 years he spent chasing his dream.
These are just a few of the many people who have seen within themselves using breathing meditation techniques.
How To Do Breathing Meditations: The Basics
If you have never meditated before, stop.
You are about to do something new. Something that is going to make a major difference. Something you will continue for years.
So you want to get it right.
And I’m going to help you.
I’m about to tell you how to used meditation successfully. Lend me five minutes of your time. And take a look at the following resources.
Read these before you start:
- The basics of meditation. This will lay the ground work for your meditations. Your Zen temple needs a ground floor. This is it. Take a look at that link.
- Risks of meditation: Look, I want you succeed. And I’m your Zen-friend. So I need to level with you. There are some risks of mediation. So read that link so you’re enlightened about it.
- Intro To Meditation Techniques: Get up to speed with the different types of meditation in 5 minutes. That one is a cultural awakening.
- Anapanasati Meditation Guide: anapanasati is the Buddhist term for breathing meditations. In this article I share the traditional approach to Buddhist breathing meditaiton.
Excellent. Now we are ready to being our breathing meditations.
Breathing Meditations: And Introduction
Because the breath is the most ever-present function of both the body and the mind, it is the best place to begin meditation.
Thich Nhat Hanh said it best: “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
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“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
By practicing breathing meditation we will give our minds an anchor, a way to remain earthed, a way to stay in the now instead of getting carried off in our thoughts and feelings.
So, grasshopper, what are we aiming for with these breathing meditations?
We’re aiming for:
- Mental focus
Those are the three foundations. Remember, we’re building the ground floor of the temple here. And those three factors make a good foundation. So let’s do this.
Begin with Breath Awareness Meditation.
Breath awareness is a simple but powerful breathing meditation technique that puts the mind back into contact with the breath. It will make you more aware of our body and your physical being, and it will give you a focused, relaxed mind.
Breathing Meditation Technique 1: Breath Awareness
How To do Breath Awareness Meditation
1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Give yourself a few moments to become comfortable and to relax. Focus your attention on the present moment—on sights, sounds and sensations. You’ll notice that your mind slips between thoughts, “What’s for dinner? Did I send that email?” etc. Ask these thoughts to slow down so you can begin to see clearly.
2. Focus your attention on your breath. Observe your breath moving smoothly in and out of your body. Do not try to force your breath. The key is not to control but simply to observe. Be the person sitting on the shore of the ocean watching the waves coming and going. There is peace and tranquility in simply observing.
3. At times your mind will wander. You may momentarily forget to focus on your breath. You may start to process thoughts, thinking about what you have to do next. Simply bring your mind back to the moment, back to the breath. Be like the buoy that bobs up and down on the waves but remains fixed by its anchor.
4. Let go of thoughts and feelings. Allow yourself to observe your thoughts and feelings but do not attach to them. Attaching to a thought is essentially seeing it as you. For instance, when thinking I have to make dinner we tend to associate with the I and we tend to believe that we really do have to get up and put the stove on. Non-attachment is observing from a distance. We see the fact that there is a thought, but we don’t allow it to affect us. We simply say “That is a thought, and nothing more”.
5. Continue like this. Over time you will observe many things about yourself and about your mind, including the three states of impermanence (anicca), dissatisfaction (dukkha), and non-self (anattā)—the states we discussed in our introduction to different types of meditation. When you discover something about your mind, simply observe it. Don’t dwell on thoughts, don’t argue with them, don’t reject them, simply observe them.
Breathe awareness meditation is easy. Simply relax, breathe, focus, and let go.
When most people first practice breathing meditation techniques they are amazed by how difficult it can be just to focus the mind.
The average person spends most of their days in a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings.
It can feel quite unnatural, at first, to halt that whirlwind and to sit in silence. But you’ll find that as soon as you do sit in silence your mind relaxes, your body lets go of tension, your spine elongates, and your posture improves. These are physiological signs that meditation is working. You may also notice that you yawn and that your brain suddenly feels very “open”. These are all good signs.
When practicing breath awareness meditation, the mind flaps like the wings of a beautiful bird. We breathe in, moving the wings up, then out, moving the wings down. By focusing on the up and down of our breath you will become grounded. But throughout this breathing meditation the mind is always moving.
What’s better than moving is to exist in stillness, to be outwardly active but inwardly still, like the flight of the common swift.
The swift hovers in the air without moving its wings. Likewise, the mind can hover on the present moment, existing in a state of stillness, an effortless presence.
When the mind is completely still and calm you will be relaxed and have inner Zen.
The swift flies by holding its wings still and drifting on the wind. It can even sleep while floating on the wind. The mind can do likewise. The mind can be completely still, drifting along on the moment, never moving, simply soaring as though on the wind.
To achieve this state of stillness in motion that allows the mind to float, we practice the art of Stillness Breathing Meditation. This ancient technique produces mental stillness by focusing the mind on the moments between breaths. There is not up or down. There is just stillness.
Breathing Meditation Technique 2: Stillness Breathing Meditation
Follow these simple steps.
- Begin in the same fashion as you did with the Breath Awareness Meditation—sitting comfortably, permitting yourself a few moments to relax, and then beginning to focus your attention on your breath.
- Begin to observe the moment between inhalation and exhalation, and vice versa. Observe what you find between breaths–a stillness; a settling point. When the mind rests on this stillness it becomes like the wings of the swift: stillness in motion.
- Continue to meditate on the stillness between breaths. Remember to release thoughts, feelings and sensations as you did with the Breath Awareness meditation.
- Aim to achieve complete mental stillness, the mind drifting effortlessly, as the swift floats on the wind.
- Continue for 20 minutes (use our free online meditation timer).
Breath Awareness Meditation is easy to do. To practice breath awareness meditation just relax, breathe, focus between breaths, and find stillness.
If you are new to meditation, you will find that practicing these techniques once a day for twenty minutes will give you a great sense of inner peace and relaxation. They will help you to live in the moment. And the will help you to stop thinking too much.
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