Awareness of Breath – or mindful breathing is an essential practice in the MBSR curriculum.
It is a calm, non-judging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them.
Intention – To practice waking up to automatic pilot and coming to our senses.
Attention – The breath, the body, the senses
Attitude – Non-striving, allowing the experience to be as it is, with curiosity towards our experience in the present moment
Guided Meditation: Awareness of Breath
Settling into a comfortable sitting position, either on a chair or on the floor with the bottom supported by a cushion, on a low stool or meditation bench. If using a chair, practicing sitting away from the chair’s back so that the spine is self-supporting.
Taking time to experiment with the posture to find a place of comfort.
When you are ready, gently closing the eyes if that feels right for you today.
If not, softening the gaze to fall unfocused on the floor a short distance in front.
Feeling the sitting bones on the chair or cushion, tuning into the sensations of the body.
Perhaps feeling a lightness or expansion in the spine – the head balanced on the top.
If sitting on a chair, having the feet flat on the floor with legs uncrossed.
Awareness of the sense of touch.
Maybe feeling the legs on the floor or chair – the clothes on the skin.
Moving to the sense of hearing – noticing sounds outside of the room.
Practising not identifying the sounds – just moving from sound to sound – awareness of hearing.
Moving to sounds inside the room – the sound of my voice.
Allowing sounds to come and go as they please.
Making a choice to allow ourselves to be exactly as we are in this moment.
Practising awareness of thoughts and emotions as they come and go.
Awareness of the sense of touch.
Paying particular attention to the awareness of sensations in the body as we encounter them.
(Timeline 3-4 minutes for a 20-minute meditation)
When it feels right, gently noticing the movement of the breath.
Practising awareness of breath.
It’s such a constant feature of life that it’s easy to ignore.
So taking time with it now – actually feeling the sensations as we breathe.
As it rolls in – and rolls out.
Allowing it to move through its cycle of in-breath and out-breath without controlling.
Perhaps sensing the rise and fall of the belly – or the feeling of the air in the nostrils or upper lip.
If you care to, placing the hands on the belly – feeling the movement of the breath, the rhythm
Just letting the breath roll in – and roll out.
This breath – and then this breath.
Riding the waves of the breath from moment to moment.
As we practice this meditation
if at any time sensations in the body become too uncomfortable,
thoughts carry us away to the past, or the future,
emotions arise that are too difficult.
that it is always possible to return to the rhythm of the breath as a refuge.
Practising coming back
and being with the breath or the feet on the floor as an anchor
until ready to venture again into the meditation
just tuning in and listening to the sound of my voice – once again.
What is the experience at this moment?
Moving awareness to the level of physical sensations in the body – investigating the experience of an alive body.
How is this aliveness known through the senses?
What is the experience in the body?
And now – perhaps becoming aware of sensations of touch, contact,
pressure in the body where it makes contact with the floor and with whatever you are sitting on
exploring these sensations.
Bringing awareness to the breath in the body,
to the changing patterns of physical sensations.
The expansion on the in-breath and coming back on the out-breath.
Where do we feel the breath most vividly today?
Perhaps the nostrils – the top of the lip – the throat – the chest or belly.
Maybe imagining that there is a balloon in the belly.
Every time we breathe in, noticing that the balloon inflates.
Every time we breathe out, noticing that the balloon deflates.
Whenever we notice that our attention has drifted off and is becoming caught up in sensations – thoughts or emotions – simply noticing that the attention has drifted – and then coming back to the breathing.
It’s okay and natural for thoughts to enter into our awareness and for our attention to follow them.
No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.
We are practising flexing our mindfulness muscle.
As best we can, staying in touch with the changing physical sensations in the belly
for the full duration of the in-breath
and the full duration of the out-breath
is there is a slight pause between an in-breath and the following out-breath?
and between an out-breath and the following in-breath?
(Timeline 10 minutes for a 20-minute meditation)
There is no need to try to control the breathing in any way.
Simply letting the body breathe by itself.
As best we can, bringing a freshness, a beginners mind to exploring the body as we breathe.
There is nothing that needs to be fixed and no particular state to be achieved.
Simply surrendering to the experience as it is.
Without requiring that it be any different.
At one moment, we may be aware of the senses – or physical sensations.
And in another of the rise and fall of emotions.
Practising letting go and gently coming back to the anchor of the breath.
The sensations of the bottom on the chair – feet on the floor.
What is our experience?
When thoughts come into the mind – which they will do as that’s what minds do.
Simply watching with a gentle curiosity – noticing if we get caught up in them – what would it feel like to
let them go?
We don’t have to follow those thoughts or feelings or analyse them in any way.
Softening any judgements about having them.
Just noticing thoughts and letting them drift on by.
Choosing to come back to the body – back to the anchor of the breath or feet on the floor.
(Timeline 17 minutes for a 20-minute meditation)
And when you are ready, expanding the attention to include the entire body from the soles of the feet to the top of the head.
Being present to the totality of the experience of sitting here at this moment.
Gathering onto the sensations of the breath.
Noticing how it has been a constant companion – how it brings the whole body together.
Feeling the earth beneath us – the sense of sitting here in this present moment.
The breath rolling in
and rolling out down into the ground.
and breathing out down into the earth.
And when you are ready, gently turning our awareness to sounds outside of us – in the room
the sounds outside of the room
Maybe starting to move and stretch in any way that feels good right now.
Wiggling the fingers and toes.
Gently opening the eyes.
The awareness of breath meditation is now complete.
There is no rush. Taking a few moments to notice what sensations are present in your body right now.