If You Can Breathe You Can Meditate
Often times when I hear that someone is struggling with meditation I tell the story of the Buddhist monk who could meditate all day. It didn’t matter if he was walking down the street, eating his food or sitting in silence, all day long he would be in a constant state of meditation.
For me, the struggle of meditation involves maintaining a consistent practice, I’ll have months whereby I get up every morning, a little earlier than normal and I spend those first 20-30 minutes of the day lying on my back in silence. What has consistently disrupted my practice is having a few days off, followed closely by a couple of months off and then before I know it the practice has completely left me. How I often pick it back up again is by doing what the monk did. The monk believed that he could meditate all day long by simply observing his breath. To me this has been one of the easiest methods of meditation I have found. Time and time again I’ve gone back to this and so I want to share how you can explore this simple meditation in 3 slightly different ways.
1. Observe Where You Feel Your Breath
Do you feel it in your chest, does it make your belly rise, do you feel it move your nostril hairs or is it scratchy as it goes down your throat. All of these are separate sensations which allow you place your attention on your breath at the exclusivity of all other things. Thoughts will rise but if you have the sensation to go back to, you can practice maintaining a singular focus which, in time, can take your mediation to great places. Try to watch the inhale and the exhale in their entirety and for many, this exercise will show how the monkey mind is able to rule your thoughts.
2. Observe the Pause Between Breaths
This one might take a little more focus or a little more practice, but for some people, that still point can be everything. The point where we are no longer breathing has been described by many great mystics as a mini death, the point where your body reaches absolute stillness. Ones practice can deepen if we learn to lengthen this still point between breaths and not just by holding our breath but through becoming more present in the stillness, leading many to question the relative nature of time itself.
3. Watch the Space When an Inhale Becomes an Exhale or an Exhale Becomes an Inhale
I like to imagine an image of a circle in my mind when I picture this technique, whereby the two halves of the circle represent the two stages of breathing; inhalation and the exhalation. What this technique emphasizes is paying particular attention to the point where the two halves of the circle meet, the precise point where an inhale becomes and exhale and visa versa. Again although this is just a fleeting moment it represents a moment of stillness and by paying close attention to it, it can lead to a deeper meditative state.