“Just close your eyes and count your breaths,” they said.
How simple can it be?
“Don’t think about anything else though. Just concentrate on your breathing.”
Well, anyone who has tried this “simple” meditation knows that it just isn’t that easy.
Counting breaths is not like counting sheep
As I learned from my own experiences, there are many obstacles to this seemingly effortless task.
Our minds tend to wander naturally.
If we try to completely focus on anything for more than a few seconds, random thoughts take over.
And let’s face it, breathing is boring.
How can you concentrate on something so mundane when there are much more interesting things
racing around in your head?
A typical session might go like this:
“I close my eyes, sit comfortably, and begin counting. Inhale one, inhale two, inhale…
‘Am I doing this right? I guess so, I’m already on… oh three.’
Inhale four… ‘Now, am I supposed to start over at one or just keep going?’
Inhale one, inhale two, inhale three, inhale four. ‘Wow, I’m really getting the hang of this. Oops.’
Inhale one, inhale two… ‘Did I remember to pay the phone bill? I’m sure I did. I’m really good at
staying on top of my bills. Not like Susan, she’s always… Darn, I did it again.’
Inhale one, inhale two…”
The good news is it does get better with practice.
The bad news is it can still be a struggle for experienced meditators, especially
during busy or turbulent periods in one’s life.
Luckily, there is more good news.
There are some specific things you can do to help you focus and reduce the
frustration in your meditation practice.
Three Tips to Help You with Your Practice
Observe don’t control.
First, don’t force or try to control your breathing.
This is a mistake that a lot of beginners make.
Many inexperienced meditators consciously or unconsciously alter their breathing
in an effort to focus on it.
What results is an exaggerated and often irregular breathing pattern.
This can actually inhibit your meditation rather than help it.
What you want to do is just “watch” your breathing.
You don’t have to exert any additional effort at all.
If you just wait and observe, you will breathe.
Then, you can count. Of course, we all know this but many people still find themselves forcing it.
If you catch yourself controlling your breaths, just gently remind yourself that it’s not necessary
and then wait for the next breath to come naturally.
The final tip is to find enjoyment in your practice.
Even though it may be tough at times, daily meditation can greatly enhance your life.
Don’t rate yourself and expect to progress or improve to a particular degree or within a particular
Unlike baseball, mediation is a life-long experience.
Remember, this is your time.
Let it be your oasis not a chore.
No matter what else is going on in your life, your meditation time can be your escape.
As a Zen master once said,
“It’s just you and your breath and then it’s just your breath.
‘ Breathe in, breathe out, and forget about the world around you.
Even when you’re busy or preoccupied with some problem,
even if you can only find ten or fifteen minutes to be
alone with your breath, enjoy it.”
I hope these tips will help you to enhance your meditation experience or to consider
giving meditation a try.
These basics have proven to be invaluable to many practices over the years.
Of course, many still struggle from time to time with the very same issues we’ve discussed here.
But through observing rather than controlling, being compassionate to yourself when you falter,
and enjoying your special time alone, you may make your life fuller and happier.
Take Three Minutes
How often have you heard people say “I’d love to meditate because of my anxiety and stress
levels, but I have absolutely no time…”
If you have next to no time–many don’t and sometimes I don’t–however you’d really
love to begin meditating because you believe there are benefits for doing so, consider this:
“Three minutes is:
a passing conversation with a
colleague at the elevator door,
flicking through a magazine
at the bookstore or news stand,
or admiring a merchandise display
outside your favorite store window.
In this brief amount of time you could do a:
-three minute breath meditation
-three minute journal writing
-three minute focus on an object
-or even take a three minute walk.”
See! In next to no time at all you could be meditating and accessing your own well of inner peace!
Meditation could bring about profound changes for you too, as well as achieve overall wellbeing,
peacefulness, clarity and balance, and connection to spirit and yourself.
If you’ve never tried it before why not try it sometime soon, you might just get to thoroughly
enjoy the benefits it can bring.
Need Help Getting the Hang of It?
Some of these techniques are very simple, so you can learn them from a book or an article.
Others require guidance by a qualified meditation teacher.
You can usually find group meditation classes in most communities.
In the meantime, the infographic below covers the key benefits and the basics of mediation.
Try it, you just might like it.