mindfulness basics: a beginner’s meditation

Here’s a quick, beginner’s meditation that you can try in bed tonight. It’s not so different from the childhood trick of counting sheep. In this case, we’ll be counting breaths.

While you read this paragraph try and count each inhale without consciously taking over your breath. Breath is used in meditation so often for a variety of reasons, some of which I have discussed here. Put simply, if we could control our heartbeat, we would, but since that isn’t possible breath is the most primal cyclical body function we can concentrate on and so the closest we can get to not concentrating on anything (as beginners). Eventually, it is possible to let the breath go and focus on nothing. This is very advanced meditation practice that goes beyond mindfulness. Until then, focusing with the breath is the closest we can get.

How did you do on counting breaths? Not so easy, right? You probably either lost count or consciously took over your breathing so it wasn’t the way you naturally breathe.

Here’s a dead simple breathing meditation you can try tonight before you go to bed. Seriously, dead simple.

A First Meditation

  1. Get comfy. Since this will be in bed, I suggest that you lie on your back if possible. This is a more centered position than some others you could use. It will also allow for easy deep breaths.
  2. Take 3 deep breaths. Try and breathe in and out slowly and through your nose.
  3. Now stop. Wait for a count of 5.
  4. Now breathe in deeply like you were before, and exhale just as slowly. This counts as your first breath. Remember you are only counting inhalations. Technically the inhale and exhale count as one breath, but it’s easier to count on the inhale.
  5. Count your breaths up to 25. If at any point you are not absolutely certain of which breath you are on, start over at 1.
  6. Once you’ve gotten to 25, you’re done. Congratulations. Roll over and go to sleep, or start another cycle of 25.

Doesn’t sound too hard, right? In fact it isn’t, but many people will have a hard time focusing on such a mundane task when there are a zillion things to think about. It is often people’s trouble with something this simple that proves to them that their mind is going absolutely crazy and they need to get under control.

Some tips: I like to visualize the numbers sometimes when I’m counting breaths. Other times I focus on sensation in a localized part of my body, usually the space between my eyes. More on THAT later. Another common tip is to focus on the area just under the nostrils where you can feel the breath.

This is often more to focus on than a person needs. If you just manage to count all 25 breaths, you’re doing alright.

One final note: no, you are not allowed to use your fingers, toes, or anything other than your mind to help you count. No cheating!

Related posts:

  1. why breath is used in mindfulness exercises
  2. mindfulness basics: sitting
  3. mindfulness basics: dealing with distractions
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  • Suryanarayana Chennapragada

    ‘Focusing on breathing’ changed my life. After practicing it in my meditation for the last 10 years, I feel like I have a new mind and body. I started with counting breaths without any upper limit. Realized that I was  my counting was going on sub consciously and my thinking was also going on consciously. Then I switched to counting only up to three breaths.This totally prevented my mind from wandering. Many others with whom I shared this reported similar success. 

    In the beginning,  I counted during the in-breath and over time, switched to just feeling the coolness inside the nostrils during the in-breath and counting during the out-breath.  This way I got trained in focusing on a distinct body sensation preparing myself for the next stage of body scanning.

    When I tried to train children five years in this technique I saw that they had a tough time in retaining their focus on breathing and counting. Then I experimented with them using the finger tips as described below. 

    **** TIP MODE: Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. Breathe in and out three times, counting in the mind, every time you breathe out. During the first out breath count ‘one’, second out breath ‘two’ and during the third out breath ‘three’. Repeat the same steps at each of the next three finger tips. When you are at the thumb, place the tip of the index finger at the base of the thumb and breathe three times. Then switch to the other hand and repeat the same process. Continue practicing, switching the hands. You will feel its calming effect, by the time you complete 4 to 6 hands, which takes 2 to 3 minutes. ****. 

    The children found this mode very easy to grasp and practiced on their own creatively at bed time when angry etc. Even adult beginners find it easy to do this. 

    Practitioners can try a range of options, like – segment mode, feeling mode and staring mode and 911 mode described in this page http://countingbreaths.com/fob/relax/how-can-i-do-it/. 

    The benefits of FOB for mind and body are immense.