Cahaba River Sangha

Mindfulness Breathing Techniques

You have an appointment with life, an appointment that is in the here and now. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Meditation can be described in three words; Simply begin again.

Whenever you catch your mind wandering away from your breath in meditation, resit the urge to get frustrated with yourself and simply begin again. It is in the “catching” of our minds wandering and coming back to the present moment that strengthens our meditation practice.

Anything in meditation (and in our lives) that is life changing or transforming will come from one place only. The present moment. When you are connected to your breath you are in the present moment… the only true moment, the moment where everything in the entire cosmos happens.

Nothing happens in the future because once you get there, it will be the present moment. Nothing has happened in the past because, at that point in time, when it happened, it was the present moment. The only moment that matters is the present… and your breath is your anchor to it.

Our body and breath will always be in the present moment but our minds will run every which way like an excited little monkey. When you become aware of your breath, you are showing the monkey a banana, and your monkey mind will be focused… for maybe just one or two bites. But one or two breaths are enough to bring you back to the present moment.

Instead of describing sitting meditation as the practice of concentration, looking deeply, and getting insight, I like to describe sitting as enjoying doing nothing. – Thich Nhat Hanh “How to Sit,” p.17

Doing nothing can only happen in the present moment. We can achieve doing nothing by focusing on our breath which is our anchor to the present moment.

Here are 7 different techniques to help your monkey mind focus on your breath:

  1. Awareness of breath:

    When you breathe, say to yourself, “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out. Breathing in, breathing out. In, out.”

    When you catch your mind wandering, simply begin again.

  2. Befriending your breath:

    Find a new relationship with your breath. When you breathe, say to yourself, “Breathing in, I befriend my in breath. Breathing out, I befriend my out breath. In breath, out breath.”

    When you catch your mind wandering, simply begin again.

  3. Counting breaths:

    When you breathe, say to yourself, “Breathing in, breathing out, one. Breathing in, breathing out, two… and so on.”

    When you catch your mind wandering, simply begin again.

  4. Feeling your breath:

    Feel the breath moving through your body. Try to pinpoint the exact place where you feel it. It may be your nostrils, your lungs, your diaphragm, your belly rising a falling. Focus on that place. Say to yourself, “I am breathing in I am breathing out. Breathing in. Breathing out. In. Out.”

    When you catch your mind wandering, simply begin again.

  5. Following your breath:

    As you continue to be aware of your breath, follow the journey of the breath. Let’s try focusing following the in breath from your nostrils all the way down into your lungs until they are full. Then as you exhale, follow the breath from your lungs until it exits your nose. You may use your imagination to watch your breath enter your nose, travel down you trachea, and into your lungs. Imagine your lungs filling with air. Watch the oxygen as it absorbs into your lungs and travels through your body. Then, watch your abdomen push your lungs to exhale and observe the air traveling up and out through your nose.

    When you catch your mind wandering, simply begin again.

  6. Breathing with your entire body:

    Similarly, imagine breathing with your entire body. As you breathe in, imagine your breath entering through the top of your head and filling your body all the way down to your toes. When you exhale, imagine your breath completely leaving your body starting from your feet and exiting through the top of your head.

    When you catch your mind wandering, simply begin again.

  7. Turn-around breathing:

    Focus on the turn around part of your breath. See if you can become aware of the point where your in breath turns around to become your out breath, and where your out breath turns around to start your in breath.

    When you catch your mind wandering, simply begin again.

Use these mindfulness techniques throughout your day when you “catch yourself” being distracted from the present moment. If you have the Mindfulness Bell reminder set up in the Plum Village mobile app, try using a different technique every time the bell chimes.

Do you have another breathing technique? If so, please share in the comments below.

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