“Mindfulness of Breathing” Meditation


Hello, I have a problem concerning my meditation.

I'm doing mindfulness of breathing meditation where I must focus on my breathing without consciously manipulating, following it in its natural flow. However, I find that when I'm not forcing the breathing, I'm unable to focus or find the breathing located in my nostrils. Also, it feels that when I'm aware of my breathing through my stomach, that I have to actively move it to keep breathing.

How can I discern my breathing without forcing any input on??

—Micheal, America


Dear Micheal,

Your meditation practice is a good one, and very universal: observing the natural flow of the breath. It brings many benefits, but it’s not always easy.

Here is a strategy for you:

The first step is to learn to observe the physical movements of the breath without manipulating it, just observing it. To learn that, it would be good for you to work on familiarizing yourself with the breath. A good way is to lie down, and practice the Full Yogic Breathing: as you inhale, expand abdomen, ribcage, chest, one after the other. As you exhale, relax them in inverse order: chest, rib-cage, abdomen. Feel your body moving with the breath. You may also put a cushion on your stomach and feel it moving up and down as you breath deeply. After some time make your breaths less deep, and still observe the body moving. Finally breathe naturally without control (like in meditation), and try to observe the breath as it still moves the body. You may feel the cushion still slightly moving.

Then, before meditation, practice “Even-breathing.” Inhale for a count of 6, hold for 6, exhale for 6. (Or longer, if it’s comfortable). Concentrate again on the movement of the body. After 12 cycles start your meditation practice, observing your breath, again feeling the movement of the body (again now it’s more subtle, as you only watch the natural breath). Locate where in the body you can most easily feel the breath, and observe it right there. The more you concentrate, the more you will feel it.

It is a training of awareness. It will come.

Here are further steps for the future:

– Once you easily feel the physical movements of your breath in the lower body, try observing it in the chest.

– Once that’s easy, watch its flow in the nose.

– Once that is natural, try to observe the breath in the upper nose, in the naval cavity, close to the spiritual eye.

– As your awareness deepens over time, try to concentrate not on the body breathing, but on the air itself.

I hope this strategy works for you.

With meditative friendship, jayadev