There are many mindful meditations that we can practise based on the breath. Mindful breathing meditations are practised across the world each day by millions of people. These practices are very accessible as we do not need any particular belief to get started and make progress. All we are doing is noting the natural process that sustains our life: the breath. In our culture, we are aware of the power of our breathing to pacify the mind. We say: ‘Take a breather.’ ‘I need some breathing space.’ ‘Count ten breaths.’ Emergency services are instructed to draw the attention of those whom they help to the sensation of their breath.
Already in this book, we have indirectly engaged in breathing practices. Listening to the breath, mindful listening, and mindful hands practice, all incorporate the breath. In this training, we are not directly drawing our attention to the breathing; we are easing our way into the flow of the breath. In mindful listening, we are merely attentive to the sounds around us and then inside us. The breath may be one of them.
When we place our hands on the stomach in the mindful hands practice, we are observing their rising and falling in time with the breath. We are not directly watching the breath; however, we will indirectly experience all the benefits of breathing meditation.
The reason I introduce the practices in this manner is that, when we first approach breathing meditation, our ego can be too intimately involved. When we are first instructed to bring our attention to the breath, it is natural to try and control it immediately. We almost try to make our breath happen.
Many times, when I introduce mindful breathing practices in live classes, new practitioners tend to exaggerate their breathing. We do not need to make ourselves breathe. It happens naturally. When we wake in the morning there is no need to jumpstart its process, it is just there, rising and falling naturally.
When we start to focus on mindful breathing, we try to follow its natural flow, a skill that we can cultivate and enjoy. It will then allow us to step back from the ego-driven mind that pushes, controls, and feels that we need to force things to happen if we want them to arise in our life. The breath occurs naturally, all we need to do is focus on it.
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