Awareness of your breath can serve as a steady basis for awareness in all you do. This probably sounds like a good thing — but finding the time and place to fit a self-care practice into your life can be challenging. Practicing meditation every day (or even just most days) can help to quiet your mind, relax your body, and feel happier and healthier overall.
1. First select a suitable place for your regular meditation. It can be wherever you can sit easily with minimal disturbance: a corner of your bedroom or any other quiet spot in your home. Place a cushion or chair there to use. Arrange what is around so that you are reminded of your meditative purpose, so that it feels like a peaceful space. Let yourself enjoy creating this small space for yourself.
2. Then select a regular time for practice that suits your schedule and temperament. If you are a morning person, experiment with a short meditation before breakfast. If evening fits your temperament or schedule better, try that first. Begin with sitting just a few minutes at a time. Later you can sit longer or more frequently. Daily meditation can become like bathing or toothbrushing. It can bring a regular cleansing and calming to your heart and mind.
3. Find a posture on the chair or cushion in which you can easily sit erect without being rigid. Let your body be firmly planted on the earth, your hands resting easily, your heart soft, your eyes closed gently. At first feel your body and consciously soften any obvious tension. Let go of any habitual thoughts or plans.
4. Bring your attention to feel the sensations of your breathing. Take a few deep breaths to sense where you can feel the breath most easily, as coolness or tingling in the nostrils or throat, as movement of the chest, or rise and fall of the belly. Then let your breath be natural. Feel the sensations of your natural breathing very carefully, relaxing into each breath as you feel it, noticing how the soft sensations of breathing come and go with the changing breath.
5. After a few breaths your mind will probably wander. You may notice an itch or an ache somewhere in your body, or be distracted by a sound somewhere nearby — or start thinking about all the things you need to do or accomplish. When you notice this, no matter how long or short a time you have been away from your meditation, simply come back to the next breath. Before you return, you can mindfully acknowledge where you have gone with a soft word in the back of your mind, such as “thinking,” “wandering,” “hearing,” or “itching.” After softly and silently naming to yourself where your attention has been, gently and directly return to feel your next breath, and focus on it as you breathe in... and then out.
6. As you sit, let the breath change rhythms naturally, allowing it to be short, long, fast, slow, rough, or easy. Calm yourself by relaxing into your breath, whatever it is like. When your breath becomes soft, let your attention become gentle and careful, as soft as the breath itself.
Like training a puppy, gently bring yourself back to your practice a thousand times, after every itch, thought, and distraction. Over weeks and months of this practice you will gradually learn to calm and center yourself using your breath. There will be many cycles in this process, stormy days alternating with clear days. Just stay with it. As you do, listening deeply, you will find that mindfulness developed on the breath helps to connect with and quiet your whole body and mind.