Try these directions for mindfulness of breathing, a basic concentration practice: When you’re ready to meditate, close your eyes and bring your attention to the motion of your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Keep your focus at the nostrils, noting the full passage of each in-breath and out-breath from beginning to end. Don’t follow the breath into your lungs or out into the air; just watch its flow in and out of the nostrils. If you can, notice the subtle sensations of the breath as it comes and goes. Be aware of each in-breath and out-breath as it passes by the nostrils, just as the doorman watches each person who comes and goes through a door.
Attend to the feeling of the breath. Don’t try to imagine it or visualize it. Note the sensation of the breath just as it is, exactly as you feel it. You may feel the breath at the rim of the nostrils, or just inside the nose, or on the upper lip beneath the nose. The sensations you feel will change – you may sometimes feel the breath like the light touch of a feather, like a dull throb, or as an intense point of pressure on your lip, or in countless other ways. There is no “right” way for the breath to feel; just be aware of what it is. Each time you notice your mind has wandered to other thoughts, or is caught by background noises, bring your attention back to the easy, natural rhythm of your breathing.
Don’t try to control your breath. Simply watch it. Fast or slow, shallow or deep, the nature of the breath does not matter. Your full attention to it is what counts. If you have trouble keeping your mind on the breath, count each one up to ten, then start over again at one. Or, to anchor your mind on your breath, you can occasionally make a strong, deliberate inhalation and exhalation. Then let your breath return to its normal rate.
Whenever you realize you’re thinking about something else, return your awareness to your breath. Don’t try to fight off thoughts. Just let them go.
If sounds distract you, do the same: Let them be and simply start watching your breath again. If aches or itches bother you, slowly move or shift to ease them if you must. But keep your mind on breathing while you do it.
Your mind will wander, and when you first start to meditate you may be acutely aware of how active it is. Don’t worry about it. Just keep returning your attention to your breath, letting go of whatever the mind wanders to. This is the essence of meditation: Letting go of your thoughts.
– Ram Dass
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