We are born from our mother’s womb, and our breathing starts as we cry. Our life starts with a breath. We all know that ‘breathing’ is essential to our survival. But not many of us know to breathe consciously and practice mindfulness of breathing. Conscious breathing opens up new levels of consciousness that helps us go beyond the story of our everyday life, the story that we experience as the physical reality of our waking state. The way we breathe has a lot to do with our feelings and our physical, mental and emotional well being.
Need for Mindful Living
Thich Nhat Hahn, the noted Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Master was once travelling in New York. The cab driver, he was travelling with, was not happy and peaceful. “He was not in the present moment.” He noted. “There was no peace or joy in him, no capacity of being alive while doing the work of driving. And he expressed it in the way he drove.” Most of us do the same thing, as we cruise through our lives. We rush about doing this or that, but our minds are seldom at peace with what we are doing. Our body is at one place, while our mind is somewhere else, weaving dreams of anger, frustration, or hopes and expectations. We seldom live in touch with the reality. This way of living can never bring peace in to our lives.
Breathing:A Powerful Tool
Our breathing is a wonderful thing that can help us live mindfully. From ancient times, mindful breathing has been practiced as one of the most powerful, effective, and natural methods of centering ourselves within our being. Breath supports our body, mind and spirit.
The Buddha himself practiced a breathing awareness meditation at the time of his enlightenment. The Hindu Yogis, Islamic Sufis and even the Christian Desert Fathers are known to practice various techniques of breathing awareness. Since breathing is a thing that always goes on within us, we can practice breathing awareness at any time. Mindfulness of breathing can be practiced by various means. You may focus on the sensations in your nostrils, or the rise and fall of your abdomen with each breathing cycle.
The abdominal region offers relatively large movements. It rises when you breathe in, and falls when you breathe out. This physical sensation is relatively easy to follow for the beginners. You can take a ten minutes break any time of the day to practice the following mindfulness meditation.
The Technique of Mindful Meditation
Step1. Take a slow deep breath, so that your belly expands completely. (Just like the Laughing Buddha!). Put your attention in the region just two inches (four finger-widths) below the navel.
Step2. Continue to breathe in so that after your belly is full of air, the chest area is also completely filled with air. (Initially it may be helpful for you to visualize your body, the torso part, as an empty vessel or a balloon that you fill up with air.)
Step-3: Now exhale slowly and completely. Exhale until you are sure that you have breathed out all of the excess air out of your lungs and abdomen.
Step4. Repeat step1 to step3. Breathe in and out slowly in the same way as discussed above.
You will notice more alive and energized even if you do this just for three minutes. You can take such small breaks during the day for feeling rejuvenated. However if you continue to practice this mindful breathing meditation for ten minutes, two times a day, you will notice many benefits in the long run. You will feel an abundance of energy. You will be in touch with what you are doing. You will feel more alive and positive.
You can use it anytime you feel stressed, afraid, anxious or worried. Anytime you feel stiff and closed within yourself, you can use this simple mindful-breathing meditation to open yourself. Breath is our ally to live open, alive and energetic. Breath is the door to be opened up to the unifying essence that we are made of.