Secrets To Meditation
Meditation Basics: Counting Breaths is Not Like Counting Sheep
Published on November 2, 2013 – 9:31 am

How simple can it be? “Don’t think about anything else though. Just concentrate on your breathing.” Well, anyone who has tried this “simple” meditation knows that it just isn’t that easy.

There are many obstacles to this seemingly effortless task. Our minds tend to wander naturally. If we try to completely focus on anything for more than a few seconds, random thoughts take over. And breathing is boring; let’s face it. How can you concentrate on something so mundane when there are much more interesting things racing around in your head?

A typical session might go like this: I close my eyes, sit comfortably, and begin counting. Inhale one, inhale two, inhale… “Am I doing this right? I guess so, I’m already on… oh three.” Inhale four… “Now, am I supposed to start over at one or just keep going?” Inhale one, inhale two, inhale three, inhale four. “Wow, I’m really getting the hang of this. Oops.” Inhale one, inhale two… “Did I remember to pay the phone bill? I’m sure I did. I’m really good at staying on top of my bills. Not like Susan, she’s always… Darn, I did it again.” Inhale one, inhale two…

The good news is it does get better with practice. The bad news is it can still be a struggle for experienced meditators, especially during busy or turbulent periods in one’s life. Luckily, there is more good news. There are some specific things you can do to help you focus and reduce the frustration in your meditation practice. In this article, I would like to offer three tips to help you with your practice. They are: Observe don’t control, be compassionate, and enjoy yourself.

First, don’t force or try to control your breathing. This is a mistake that a lot of beginners make.

Many inexperienced meditators consciously or unconsciously alter their breathing in an effort to focus on it. What results is an exaggerated and often irregular breathing pattern. This can actually inhibit your meditation rather than help it.

What you want to do is just “watch” your breathing. You don’t have to exert any additional effort at all. If you just wait and observe, you will breathe. Then, you can count. Of course, we all know this but many people still find themselves forcing it. If you catch yourself controlling your breaths, just gently remind yourself that it’s not necessary and then wait for the next breath to come naturally.

This brings me to the next tip, compassion. In this case I mean for yourself in your meditation practice. As we’ve been discussing, it’s not an easy thing to do to concentrate on one’s breath. It’s very important not to scold yourself when your mind wanders or you catch yourself controlling your breathing.

 

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