The Breath

This is a classic meditation used throughout the world. The breath is used as an object of focus because it is with us all the time. Using this meditation helps each of us come back to ourself, and, paradoxically, it also helps each of us to connect with all beings on the planet who share this air.

How to Practice

Sit or lie down comfortably with your eyes closed. If you think you may fall asleep, sit rather than lying down. Relax.

Take a moment to be clear that this next little while is to be spent in meditation and that this is where you want to be. If you have any worries or concerns, tell yourself that you are putting them aside for now and that you can get back to them later if you need to.

Take a deep breath and let it out, feeling yourself relax further as you do. The intention here is to be comfortable and relaxed, to have a posture that supports the joy of this quiet time.

Then rest your attention on your breathing - the rhythm of it, the sensations in your nose or your chest or your belly. Don't confuse imagining your breathing or visualizing it with feeling it. Pick a spot in your body and just notice the sensation of your breath there. Maybe the coolness at your nostrils or the rise and fall of your belly.

Whatever your breath is like, long or short, deep or shallow is just fine. This is not about changing it, just being aware of it.

When you catch your attention wandering, remind yourself that you are paying attention to the breath. This will happen again and again. This is normal, even for long-time meditators. Just kindly and gently and easily go back to the breath.

You're not blocking out the sounds or sensations of yourself in the world, you're just practising bring your attention back to the breath. Try not dwell on them or get caught up in their stories, and they will soon pass. It is their nature. If you do get caught up in them, and eventually remember that you were watching your breath, remember that is normal, too, and go back to your breath. Easily and gently. 

After ten minutes or longer, open your eyes, stretch your body to loosen any kinks and when you are ready, move back into your daily life.


When you begin a meditation practice like this for the first time, the need to jump up and do something before the allotted time is up can be almost overwhelming. If you can, notice how strong the urge is to get away from your seat, be curious about the power of the urge. Then reassure yourself that you will be free to jump up after the allotted time. The process is not about getting it right, it's about paying attention. If the urge to bolt is too overwhelming, next time dial it back from 5 minutes to 4 and see how that works.

If you start thinking about things that need to be done and are afraid you won't remember afterwards, set a small pencil and paper beside you. Jot it down, then go back to your breath.

Some people find 5 minutes enough, some 10. Some find they enjoy 20 minutes, 30 or even an hour or more. Whatever length of time you can spare, as with any kind of practice, it's better to do a shorter amount of time every day than a longer amount of time once a week or so. 

If you find you are checking the clock too often to see if your time is up or if you are afraid you'll become so lost in the meditation that you'll forget to pick up the kids from soccer, set an egg timer so you don't have to worry about it. Try suggesting to yourself that you will rouse from the meditation a minute before the timer goes off. 

It can take a few tries to find the best, most comfortable position that will support you while not lulling you to sleep. Try something a bit different each time until you see what you need. Some people kneel and rest their bottoms on small benches. Some sit on cushions that gently tilt towards the front so that their pelvis is open and the vertebrae stack up in a way that doesn't tire the back. Some sit on small benches or chairs. Whatever works for you is best.

Find joy in it. This is your time. Not to escape, not to sleep, not to achieve great spiritual perfection. Just to get back into you. That's where you'll find your joy.