Best-selling author Michael Bunting asks some important questions which will help with your breathing meditation.
Mindfulness of breathing has been a popular meditation technique for millennia because of its typical accessibility and effectiveness. We are always breathing; no special posture, place or set of conditions is needed to breathe.
Another reason it has remained popular is that it’s an effective way to develop calm, clarity and concentration.
Remember that mindful meditation is a practical activity and you should always consider what works, for you, today.
It’s also important to remember that by ‘breathing’ we mean the movements and sensations within the body that are directly associated with inhalation and exhalation—the experience of breathing, not what we think it signifies.
Refining Breathing Meditation
What follows are a series of questions about the nature of breathing. As I further explain in my book, A Practical Guide to Mindful Meditation, these questions will help you to develop precision in your experience of breathing meditation, and can serve as a guide to your breathing meditation session.
Play with these questions and use those that pique your interest or give you something on which to ground your awareness.
1. Where do you breathe?
Begin by opening your awareness to the whole body. Now look for the movements within the body that are associated with inhalation and exhalation. Where are these movements clearest and most obvious to you? Do you find them in the belly? In the midriff? In the chest? In the throat, shoulders or head? Focus wherever these movements are clearest and most obvious to you.
2. Where does your breathing go?
If there are movements, they must be travelling in some direction. In what directions do these movements associated with inhalation and exhalation travel? Are they vertical? Are they horizontal? Are they curved? Do they expand and contract? What shapes do they form?
3.How long is your breathing?
Let’s assume there are two movements, one associated with inhalation and one associated with exhalation. Is the movement associated with inhalation longer or shorter than the movement associated with exhalation? Or are they equal in length?
4. How clear is your breathing?
Is the movement associated with inhalation clearer or less clear than the movement associated with exhalation? Are they both equal? Or both equally obscure?
5. Where are the boundaries of your breathing?
Can you see the beginning and the end of the movement associated with each movement? Or are you missing parts? If so, which parts are you missing?
6. Are you interfering with your breathing?
As you try to be precise and detailed in your awareness, do you feel any sense of mental strain? Do you feel any tension in the body? Do you find yourself interfering in any way with your breathing? If any of this is happening, step back from the details of breathing and relax. Watch the movements; don’t do the movements. If you realise you can’t help but interfere with them, then watch the mind that is interfering. Make your relationship to these movements your interest.
Breathing meditation can be a richly rewarding practice and these questions will deepen your awareness and increase your present-ness. Experiment with the questions and use the ones you find most effective in enriching your meditation experience.