Sustaining Breath Meditation
Preparation. Adopt a position which combines alertness with relaxation, eyes closed or with a gently unfocused downward gaze, back straight but not stiff, arms and hands supported (in lap, on thighs or arms of chair).
Having established a helpful posture become aware of the physical sensations of sitting, including contact with what supports you, clothing on the body, air on the skin, the space around your body.
Now allow the attention to move inwards to the experience of breathing, taking a few slightly deeper breaths then allowing the ebb and flow of the breath to settle without seeking to control it.
Locate the sensation of breathing in a particular area of the body such as the tip of the nose, the throat/chest area, or movement of the lower chest/belly. Allow this awareness to be an anchor for your attention which you can return to whenever your mind wanders, which it will!
First Stage, Breath out/Releasing Without pushing become aware of letting the breath go, the sense of recycling energy to be absorbed and used elsewhere. Allow this awareness of the outward breath to absorb your attention. Focus on the sense of release in both body and mind without strain. Stay with this for a few minutes before you move to the next stage.
Second stage, Breathing in/Absorbing Without exaggerating the breath in turn your attention toward it; becoming aware of this process of renewal and re-energising, the movement of fresh energy throughout the blood stream, into every organ and cell in the body. Allow this awareness of the inward breath to absorb your attention as best you can. Stay with this for a few minutes before you move to the next stage
Third Stage, Balancing Becoming equally aware of the breath out and the breath in, each complementing the other, allowing your awareness to be poised within this natural balance of body and mind; enjoying the sense of resting and renewing within this and without any effort. Stay with this for a few minutes.
Fourth Stage, Letting go of all effort to focus on any particular aspect of the body and breath; staying within a wider awareness of the space within and shape of the body as a whole. Again staying with this for a few minutes.
Ending by taking a few gentle and deeper breaths in and out, expanding awareness from within the body to the touch of your cloths, the air on the skin, the atmosphere in the space you occupy. Then become aware of the light in the room and any sounds as you expand your attention to what is outside the body itself.Opening your eyes and remain with a soft downward gaze before you stretch and move. Taking your time before you move to the next part of the day.
Once you have become accustomed to the stages within this practice it may be useful to use a timer that indicates when to move to the next stage. One useful free ‘app’ that allows you to set up your own timings is ‘Insight timer’ (click to go to link).
Standing or sitting with a gentle dignity
Closing your eyes if that feels right , or maintain a soft downward gaze.
Then picture a mountain
It may be one you know, or have seen a picture of,
or maybe one which you are imagining.
Notice its shape, size, the way it is embedded in the earth and supports other hills, connects the valleys.
Feel its solidity and endurance, its calmness, its openness to all the elements.
In your mind’s eye, see the space and the clarity of view all around.
Absorb these feelings, physical and mental, into your own body and mind. Breath into and out from these feelings as you settle and open
Discover what balance is available to you at this moment.
Now repeat these phrases, connecting to the breath as you do so:
‘With Body like the mountain Heart like the ocean Mind like the clear blue sky I sit (or ‘stand’)
Then letting go of the practise, settle for a few moments before you slowly return awareness to the space you are sitting or standing in.
The Breathing Space
Become acquainted with this simple and versatile practice by deciding to practice it 2 or three times each day.
It may take 3 minutes, it may take 10.
Use a particular time of day, or a particular event, as an opportunity to settle your awareness to whatever is going on for you – whether that initially seems pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
The trigger event can be something very ordinary; when you sit down to eat a meal; put the keys into the cars ignition; or are sitting on the bus on the way to work ———————— Where-ever/when ever you choose, play with it!
Start by gently forming the intention to become aware of what already is, without seeking to change anything.
Approaching your experience with curiosity and kindness, as best you can.
Step one – Acknowledging this moment
Step out of expectations and fully into this moment as it actually is
Recognise and acknowledge current experience by asking yourself
“What is going on with me at the moment?”
In the body, perhaps doing a brief, light body-scan, starting at the feet and working up
In the mind, with emotions, simply acknowledge they are there with becoming absorbed.
Also with any thoughts or images, acknowledge these too but without holding onto, or analysing them.
Step two – Gathering
Bringing attention to the sensations of the breath in a particular place in the body (belly/chest/tip of nose); Gently direct your full awareness into the breath `breathing in…..breathing out` Absorbing the qualities of the breath as you find them, not seeking to change anything
Experiencing the sensation of the body breathing itself at your chosen place in the body.
Step Three – Expanding awareness
Expanding awareness into the body as a whole us.
Moving out from the chosen focus point in the body.
Connecting as widely as seems natural throughout the body.
Then allowing your awareness to move out into the immediate space around you,
Not rushing, allowing this wider experience to gently emerge.
Opening your eyes if they are closed.
When you are ready, move gently and purposefully into the next part of your day.