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Mindfulness of Breathing

"Breathing and knowing that we are breathing is a basic practice.

No one can be truly successful in the art of meditating

without going through the door of breathing."

Thich Nhat Hanh, from the New Sangha Handbook

"Welcome to one of our most basic practices called Mindful Breathing. It is, simply put, being aware of your in-breath and out-breath. Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At first, we can be mindful of three in and three out breaths and gradually build our awareness and concentration over more breaths, and over a longer period of time. The most important thing is to enjoy and not control your breath. It’s okay if it’s short or long or deep or shallow. With time and practice it will naturally become deeper and slower.

 

Breathing and knowing that we are breathing is a basic practice. No one can be truly successful in the art of meditating without going through the door of breathing. To practice conscious breathing is to open the door to stopping and looking deeply in order to enter the domain of concentration and insight. Conscious breathing is the way into any sort of meditative concentration. Conscious breathing also leads us to the basic realization of the impermanence, emptiness, interdependent origination, selflessness and non-duality of all that is. It is true that we can practice stopping and looking deeply without using conscious breathing, but conscious breathing is the safest and surest path we can follow.

 

My breath is my favorite anchor that I turn to when I need to find my center and reestablish solidity. My breath is the most reliable tool I have when I am overwhelmed by strong emotions. Regardless of my internal weather - my thoughts, emotions and perceptions - my breathing is always there like a faithful friend. Whenever I feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, I can focus on my breathing to collect and anchor my mind.

 

Every time you feel lost, alienated, cut off from life, or from the world; every time you feel despair, anger, or instability, mindful breathing is the vehicle that you can use to go back to your true home. We don’t need to control our breath. Feel the breath as it actually is. Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life. At any time, while I am walking, gardening or driving, I can return to this peaceful source of life."

 

Try these Mindful Breathing exercises:

 

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in

Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out

Breathing in, I go back to the island within myself

Breathing out, I go back to the island within myself

 

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in

Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out

Breathing in, I calm my mind

Breathing out, I calm my mind

 

Breathing in, I calm my body

Breathing out, I smile

Dwelling in this present moment

I know this is a wonderful moment

​Thich Nhat Hanh, from the New Sangha Handbook, TNH Foundation Sangha Building Project

How to Practice Sitting Meditation

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