Episode #9 of the course 10 easy meditations to bring calm to your everyday life by John Robin
Welcome to Day 9 of the course!
We’ve now explored eight types of meditation:
The four types of passive meditation:
• directed awareness (focus on one specific object)
• open awareness (focus on your attention and label its experience)
• metta (“May I be safe. May I be healthy …”)
• transcendental (“I am here now in this”)
The four types of active meditation:
• eating (the act of eating is your directed awareness object)
• walking (the act of walking is your directed awareness object)
• talking (the act of a single conversation is your directed awareness object)
• working (the act of working is your directed awareness object)
Today, we will explore one of two synergies that combine both. This is discovered in another activity that surrounds you every day: breathing.
It’s More Than Just Breath
You are breathing every few seconds of your life. You are breathing right now. Breathing is never out of your reach, no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing.
Breathing meditation involves taking the activity of breathing as an object of directed awareness meditation. Note the word activity in this definition. This is not the same as directed awareness meditation that uses breath as a focus.
Let’s do an exercise to see why:
1. Set a timer for two minutes.
2. Focus your attention on breathing. You are going to deliberately breathe in deep. Hold in each breath before exhaling long and slow. Blow out more than you usually do. Pause before you inhale.
3. Pay attention to this action. Put all your attention on this act of breathing. In, deep. Hold, wait. Out, strong. Out deeper, pause with empty lungs. Wait. Now in again.
4. Repeat this. If your mind wanders to anything other than attention on this action, return it to the action of breathing. In, deep. Hold, wait. Out, strong. Out deeper, lungs all the way empty. Pause. Repeat.
5. When the timer finishes, return your focus to the present.
Stop reading and do this meditation now.
Do you see how this is different than a regular directed awareness meditation? In directed awareness using breath, you are simply breathing, paying attention to that natural process.
In breathing meditation, you are approaching breathing as an activity. You are engaging in the activity of breathing and focusing your attention on that.
This kind of meditation is a synergy of active and passive meditation.
• It’s passive because you don’t have to arrange anything special to do it. You can do it right now and no one will know you’re doing it. You don’t even have to get out of your chair or change position.
• It’s active because you’re leaning into the act of breathing more than you typically do.
Be creative! Have fun with it! Try using only your nose. Try alternating, nose in, mouth out, or vice versa. Try just your mouth. Try quiet breaths. Try loud ones. Make noises, if you’re in the privacy of your home. Try quick breaths. Try slow ones. Laugh with your exhales.
The possibilities are endless!
There are several ways you can practice breathing. See the link at the end of the course for suggestions. However, breathing meditation is not about sticking to any particular recipe. When you treat breathing as an activity, you can approach it just like you did with working, talking, eating, and walking: Focus on doing, and appreciate the meditative thoughts that percolate around it. Your attention is on the activity. Your mindful thoughts follow suit.
I have a great recipe for you, now that we have breathing meditation in our toolkit:
Those moments of anxiety or worry? Now you have three kinds of meditation to try:
You’ve probably heard the advice to take slow, deep breaths when you’re stressed. Now, you can practice breathing meditation instead and know that you’re not only relaxing but also developing your mindfulness regimen!
Breathing meditation uses the activity of breathing as an object of directed awareness to deepen mindfulness. It is not the same as directed awareness meditation with the breath as a focus. Breathing meditation involves engaging in active breathing and the natural mindful thoughts that arise as a result of that.
Your homework is to practice this. Give yourself bonus points if you practice it when you catch yourself fretting or feeling the rush of stress in your belly or chest.
Tomorrow, we’ll finish up the course with another synergy. I promise I’ve saved the best until last. You might say I’ve visualized this from the start (hint, hint).
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