Sit at a quiet place with no disturbance or distractions. Sit with your back upright without leaning on the back of the chair. Gently close your eyes and bring your attention inwards. Observe all the feelings and sensations and become aware of the sitting posture. You can bring your mind’s eye to the sole of your feet, observe the sensations there, slowly bring your mind along one leg up to your waist, and repeat the same with the other, observe the touch sensation of your thighs, the buttocks, how the muscles feel at the bottom and tension on the muscles of your back. Take your attention to the palms and see how they touch your thighs or each other, the heat and the touch sensations and slowly bring your attention along both arms one after the other up to the neck. Observe the feelings that are there along the neck and slowly try to observe all the other feelings that are there in your body. Any movements, tensions or any such feeling.
See whether you notice you breath. Try to observe where exactly you feel the process of breathing. Watch the rising and falling of your chest, and abdomen. Feel the touch sensation of the breath at the tip of your nostrils. Don’t force your breath – let it be natural. If you really find it difficult to observe the feeling of breathing take a few deep breaths and see where the sensation are best felt.
Once you notice the movement of breath inhaling and exhaling try to be with it observing the whole movement as if you are breathing for the first time.
If you find it difficult you may want to label the parts of the breath as “inhaling” “exhaling” but it is better if you can stop verbalizing as early as possible.
As you keep doing this for some time you might begin to observe the gap between the in breath and the out breath and when you do this you will feel your breath becoming finer and subtler. (Don’t worry you are still breathing!)
When you do this for a few more minutes you might even feel a silence that was not experienced before, and become aware of that.
If you continue to sit for some more time you will begin to hear the sounds around you and might even notice different sensations in your body. Gently become aware of them and come back to the breath. Anything that come to your mind just become aware and gently come back to the breath. Breath becomes your base.
Perhaps you will notice that you were thinking of something else instead of watching the breath. The moment you notice that, slowly come back to your breath. The mind is used to going all over like a child in a carnival, from one attraction to another. Don’t force the mind to be still or be with the breath. Don’t force. Then it behaves like a child. Instead allow the mind to be free but keep watching using the breath as your point of reference.
You can practice this for about twenty minutes every day and you will slowly pick up the art. No hurry – let it happen.
If you notice that many thoughts come in and the inner chatter that goes on nonstop, just start watching without getting involved. Have a state of the mind that is similar to what you would observe when you are watching a magician perform wanting to see what happens next.
If you focus on your mind wanting to see the rising of thoughts after a few minutes you will realize that the new thoughts tend to shy away. The trick is not getting involved. When you feel that the inner chatter has subsided, slowly come back to the breath.
Keep doing this Practice as long as you can. Better if you can do it regularly for a few minutes every day at the same time until it becomes a habit.
(There is a saying that if you want to inculcate a habit you need to practice it for at least 21 days.)
Breath is a natural activity that happens throughout the day until we die. Therefore, it is a very good base to develop mindfulness, since it is a constant object we can focus our mind on. We can neither watch the breath that has come and gone nor the breath to come – the next breath. Only the current breath can be observed. That too is constantly on the move.
Breath is available all the time and if you begin to notice you will observe breath changes according to our state of being. Well the easiest to observe is when we are excited. Then we tend to breathe fast. The breath is also short then. When we are relaxed we tend to breathe slowly and and the breath is long.
By learning to observe our breath, we develop the skill of coming back to the present moment very fast. This is the main ability of mindfulness, being able to notice the present moment where everything happens.
For instance, at moments when you are agitated, angry, excited, or anxious, observe the breath for a few minutes. You can do this even during a meeting. The few breaths you observe will calm your mind bringing you back to the present moment. There is a space that is created through this awareness and in that state you will be able to see the situation with a more balanced and alert mind.
Through the Practice you will begin to realize how the mind works and that thoughts come one after the other.
See the sequence:-
You get annoyed
You become aware that you are annoyed and now the thought you have is that of “knowing you are angry.”
You observe your breath and now you have thoughts of becoming aware of the breath- not the thoughts of anger.
Few breaths later you are less agitated.
In that controlled state of mind you can Respond to the situation rather than React.
Though this sounds so simple, it may not happen in the first instance. But it is like learning to drive. Once you are an experienced driver you can control the vehicle even at very high speeds in an emergency.
Let me share with you a personal experience of mine that happened about 30 years ago. I had just started to develop this skill of mindfulness. One day I got into a bus where I saw a man smoking. (At that time ‘no smoking rule was not so strictly observed.) Being a young idealistic person I went up to him and asked him very politely not to smoke. He made a sarcastic smile at me and continued to smoke. I knew I was getting annoyed and the next split second I pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and threw it out of the window. Then only did I realize the gravity of what I did. By that time the man was shocked as much as I was and both of us laughed.
Once you are familiar with the art of observing the in- breath and the out-breath you can find many moments in the day amidst everything else to bring your mind back to it.
Next time when you are stuck in a traffic jam or at the red light, relax and observe the breath for a few minutes.
Try it out while waiting for a lift, waiting for a meeting to start, when the speech at the seminar is not relevant, before starting an important meeting, before joining an important telephone call, in between tasks while at your desk, or any time you want some peace of mind. All you need is turning your mind inwards. The breath is there ready to help you come back to the present moment.
Take a glass of water into your hand. You will notice the movement of water. What is the best way to make water still? Leaving it on a surface for a few minutes”
Watching the breath is just like that. When you are stressed, tired and agitated watch the breath for a few seconds you will find calmness in your mind.