Sunday Meditation: Breath Awareness
I begin each yoga class with the phrase “rest your awareness on the breath…” This simple line holds so much meaning. Our breath is a constant and involuntary function. As such, it is often overlooked in our daily lives. Resting our attention on the movement of the breath turns this automatic action into a moving meditation.
As a practitioner of Ashtanga yoga, I use the breath as a vehicle for meditation regularly on my yoga mat. Flowing with the breath, moving with each inhale and exhale, I flow from one posture to the next. The breath is a means toward moving the attention inward. In the same way, seated meditation can use the breath as a focal point.
Begin in a comfortable seated position. I enjoy sitting on a cushion or blanket to elevate my hips above my knees or in my aerial hammock. Find what works best for you. Keep your spine straight and your shoulders relaxed. Closing the eyes may help to minimize distractions. Turning off the television, cell phone, or any other device may help, too.
On the inhale, think “I am.” With each exhale, think “enough.” Inhale, I am. Exhale, enough. Match the words to the breath. This simple mantra flows with the breath, directing your attention to the action of inhale and exhale. When you become distracted or your mind wanders, simply begin again. Let it go, as distraction is a normal part of meditation. I am. Enough. Breathing slowly, reciting the mantra slowly, you can allow the breath to deepen and the rib cage to expand. I am. Enough.
Sit and breathe and repeat the mantra for as long as you would like. You could begin with just five minutes and work up to longer periods. Just as you wouldn’t run a marathon without training shorter runs, you needn’t sit to meditate for a long period at first. Though we breathe every day without noticing the body’s effort, focusing on the task can be a challenge. Using a timer may be helpful in lengthening your stay in a seated meditation. You could add one minute each week, or however long seems appropriate for your practice.
The breath is a miraculous aspect of the human body. It is a requirement for life and can flow without any thought from us. And then, it can become the focal point for a deeper practice of stilling the mind and body, bringing awareness, relaxation, and restoration. Rest your awareness on the breath…