Riding Your Breath Home
All of the meditation techniques around the world use concentration as an entry point to a meditative state. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali describes concentration as 'fixing the consciousness on one point or region" and meditation as "the steady, continuous flow of concentration". Concentration serves meditation by grounding our awareness in the present moment, a gift that is cultivated in the stillness of meditation and brought out into our daily lives.
Find a comfortable posture for meditation (seated on cushion or blanket, in a chair or against a wall). Place your palms facing up in jnana mudra (forefinger and thumb touching) with your palms facing up to open your awareness or facing down to calm the mind. Scan your body and relax any tension. Let your spine rise from the ground of the pelvis. Draw your chin slightly down and let the back of your neck lengthen.
With your eyes gently closed, begin to bring your awareness to the tidal rhythms of your breath. Focusing on either the base of your throat or belly, feel your breath passing through you—the rising and falling of the inhalation and exhalation. Let your awareness heighten and yet at the same time stay relaxed. Feel the quality of your breath: Is it coarse, jagged, smooth, quiet? Is your breath stronger on the inhalation or exhalation, at the beginning of each breath or the end?
Once your awareness settles on your breath, begin the concentration part of this meditation. Without expectation, count the duration of your next inhalation (1,2,3, etc. or 1 om, 2 om, 3 om, etc). Then see if you can syncopate your exhalation with the rhythm of your inhalation (if you inhale for 5, exhale for 5 counts). If your breath lengthens naturally, then follow that. Let go of any fixed idea of how long your inhalation or exhalation should be. Just be with the rhythm of your breath until you feel an even, gentle ebb and flow. If a thought (vritti) arises, come back to the rhythm of your breath. Ride that rhythm into a state of total presence. Let your mind quiet like a calm lake in the morning.
In the beginning, it may be helpful to set an external timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes so you are not distracted. When you are finished, bring your hands together in anjali mudra (prayer position) and close with a moment of gratitude, reflection, or prayer to soak up the energy of your meditation into your being and life.
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