Sitting During Meditation
You can meditate anywhere. Sit comfortably in a chair, on the floor, or on a mat. Avoid meditating in bed, which sends a “I’m getting ready to sleep” message to the brain, rather than a “Be alert” message. Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation are about directing the mind, with an attentive awareness to the task at hand, to be fully present with whatever is happening. It is not about zoning out, becoming a blank slate or eliminating thoughts.
Meditating and 3 Techniques
In these meditations, we want to observe and notice and stay attentive to the breath. When the mind drifts off or is distracted, we simply notice the distraction as a distraction (“Ah, I’m thinking.” or “Oops.”) and, without judgment, we remember to return to observing the breath with attentive awareness. That’s the key. Follow one of the breathing patterns below, and as you notice yourself beginning to think about something else, gently bring your focus back to the breath. Because it can be hard to find and follow our natural breath, various techniques have been developed to keep us focused on our breath, such as counting or reciting a few words with the inhales and exhales or observing certain parts of the breath. Each breath type is explained in detail in the sections that follow. In the beginning, spend a few sessions trying each of the different breathing types until you find one that is more comfortable for you.
Four Point Counting
This is a classic, ancient method of counting that helps us stay with the breath by counting up to 4 on the inhale and back down to 1 on the exhale. Long breaths coordinate the respiratory and pulmonary systems, reducing stress and anxiety to help bring us to calmness. Relax and just begin to watch your breath. Notice when you are inhaling. Notice when you are exhaling. Observe the inhalation as an in-breath; the exhalation as an out-breath. Begin counting: count 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 while you inhale, count 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 while you exhale. Continue counting each inhalation 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 and each exhalation 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 for the prescribed time. When you notice your mind has become distracted, gently and nonjudgmentally return to counting. Pickup where you think you were on the last count, or just start over with the next inhale or exhale.
Short Breath / Long Breath Meditation
In this meditation we observe ourselves taking three natural breaths and then one deliberately elongated breath, repeating the pattern of 3 and 1 for the designated time. What we call a “short breath” is a normal breath, whatever is natural, at the time of the breath. This will change from breath to breath, but whatever comes naturally is a “short breath.” A long breath is a breath that is considerably longer and deeper than your short breath; say about 25 to 50 percent longer and deeper. You should feel your body rise as your lungs inflate with the long breath and slowly sink as you exhale. Observe yourself taking three short breathes and then take one deliberately elongated breath. Notice the different characteristics of each breath, staying aware of the 3-and-1 cycle. Remember to return to this pattern of breathing whenever you notice you have been distracted. Pickup where you think you were on the last count, or just start over with the next inhale or exhale. Repeat three short breaths and one long breath for the prescribed time. Pattern: short – short – short – long, short – short- short – long
1-2-3 / 1-2-3 / 1-2-3 Meditation In this meditation we count the inhalation 1-2-3, hold the breath for a count of 1-2-3, then exhale to a count of 1-2-3. In, hold, out; that’s the U. Doing this requires a great deal of effort and concentration, so it is ideal when the mind is very stressed or distracted. Inhale to a slow count of 1-2-3, lengthening the inhale as needed. Hold the breath for the same 1-2-3 count. Exhale to a 1-2-3 count (you will have to slow the count as the exhalation will be longer than the inhalation). Repeat. It is best to make this flow, not to tighten the windpipe when holding the breath, but just to coast for the 3-count from the inhale to the exhale. Just let the windpipe be still, rather than constricted and locked up. Repeat this pattern, remembering to return to the breath if you become distracted, for the allotted time.
Like anything, meditation takes practice. These are techniques to help us get comfortable with meditating. Carl recommends this schedule for people getting started: Week 1 – 3 mins once a day (1st bell) Week 2 – 3 mins twice a day (1st bell) Week 3 – 5 mins once a day (2nd bell) Week 4 – 10 mins once a day (3rd bell) Week 5+ – 20 mins once a day (3 bells at end) You can access Carl's daily meditations below.