When it comes to meditation, most people say to me they cannot sit still and do nothing, because their thoughts begin to interrupt. Some clients say that they begin to think about lunch or dinner, or what they will buy online after they finish their sit practice.
In a sense, all this is fine. The thing is – in our modern life, we have expectations of obtaining goals. We rarely look at an activity without hoping for an outcome (lose fat, gain flexibility, lower blood sugar) because our activities usually are all outcome-based (consider how we have been put into this thought pattern from the time we hit school).
There is no KPI to meditation.
Yoga movement and sitting practices have no KPIs. Do not consider what you see on social media as the outcome you get from moving on the mat. And do not believe that calm will be ushered in as soon as you sit to meditate.
During meditation, of course our mind may wander. Of course, we may suddenly discover an itch that wasn’t there before we sat down. Of course, we may find our stomach growling in anticipation of the next meal. Meditation was not made for robots.
Meditation is a distinctly human activity!Me
So don’t beat yourself up if you sit down to meditate and don’t emerge a saint, a yogi, a monk after your practice. You emerge more you, and that is the basis of the practice.
Nobody remains undisturbed and stoic during meditation – definitely not for every singe time they sit to meditate. Disturbances are there for you to practise your meditation.
- Can I remain still while I have this itch?
- Can I move by to my focus (mantra, breath, candle gaze) despite my neighbours having a domestic downstairs?
- Can I welcome this disturbance with love (eg. cuddle your kid or your pet while remaining in contemplation)?
Ask yourself these questions as and when a disturbance comes.
If and when you feel rough or worse than you did before your meditation, spend some time reflecting on why. Sometimes when we sit with focus, emotions or thoughts arise that are buried deep in our subconscious.
The feelings we have may not attach to a tangible occurrence or situation. We may just feel bad or feel angry. Sometimes we may need to spend years in reflection to peel the onion. All this is fine, we aren’t perfect, and remember – meditation was not made for robots. We don’t need to be perfect (and yet we already are!).
Read more about pain management and the breath!
I talk about my experience with the breath that helped me in a very painful situation on Elephant Journal below.
Here is a meditation practice based on breath-focus. Whenever a thought arises that is not breath-related (eg. breakfast, lunch, dinner, arguments, gossip, workload etc.), bring your awareness back to the breath.
- Begin by finding a comfortable – preferably disturbance-free airy space – in which you can sit or lie down comfortably (if lying, a hard surface – like a yoga mat on the floor – is better than a soft, downy mattress)
- If you are living with family or other people, just tell them you need 10 mins to half an hour (or however long it is) for meditation and avoid disturbing you
- Switch off your phone or put it into airplane mode / silent (non-vibrate)
- Check that you are comfortably attired
- Check that the temperature is suitable
Then you may begin.
- Begin by noticing the body, just checking the “what’s” of the body (what is the temperature; what is sensation of sit bones etc.)
- Then move your awareness to your breath – like the body – just checking the “what’s” of the breath (what is the temperature; what is sensation as you feel lungs expanding etc.)
- As you become more aware of the breath, begin counting the breath. Start at one and when you reach ten, begin at one again.
- After a duration of your choosing, begin noticing your exhales only. At this juncture, you may lengthen your exhalation
- Then, after a duration of your choice, let go of focus on exhales, and bring your awareness to your inhalations only. At this juncture, you may lengthen your inhales
- After a similar period of time, move back to breath focus (both inhales and exhales) or just be.
And that’s it!
- Keep bringing your awareness back to your breath
- If you forget where you are (whether in counting or exhales or inhales etc, just start wherever you like – this is a guide and there is no special surprise if you follow everything step-by-step)
- The important thing is you keep to the practice, for at least five minutes a day when you begin. The duration can lengthen to as long as you like!
Now you know how to focus on the breath as you meditate. I wish you all the best as you move forward in your journey towards calm, clarity and confidence.
Do email me if you have any queries, or comment below!
Breathing Meditation Practice.
Pranayama can help to decrease stress, improve sleep, improve lung function, and enhance cognitive function. Listen to this breath practice on the Insight Timer app. We will get the inhales and exhales to an equal length. Then later in the practice, we create patterns by inserting a breath retention of the same length.
Other posts you may want to check out:
If you want to start on yoga movement and meditation but are not sure how to begin, check out the mini course below: