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Day eight – the breath

When you bring yourself back to the present moment, what are your options?

There are just physical sensations in your body and sounds coming in through your ears. Of the sensations and sounds you can focus on, the breath is superior for at least five reasons.

The first reason is that it does not create the opportunity for your imagination to fire up. If you are resting your awareness on say a sound, after a certain amount of time the sound is likely to stop. When the noise stops, your mind will want to fill that space with something. The mind will fill that space with plans for the future or memories of the past. Whereas the breath never stops, it’s always there.

The second reason the breath is superior is that it is always changing, which means it’s still interesting. If you are watching the sensation of your feet resting on the floor, there isn’t going to be much change in that sensation over the next 10 seconds. Whereas the breath is going to go in and out maybe two or three times with many different sensations throughout the whole process.

The third reason is that the breath is different on different days. Depending on the time of day, what you have been up to and how you’re feeling, there can be quite a lot of difference in how you’re breathing.

Fourth, there is a lot of flexibility for you to use a broad scope of awareness on how your whole breath feels. Or you can look at different sections of it or even at a particular point such as the tip of the nostrils.

Fifth, the breath changes during your meditation. Your breathing slows down as you become more relaxed, compared with when you first sit down. The sensation of a full breath in and out at the start of your meditation will be different from how your breathing is ten minutes into your meditation.

Daily exercise:

Sitting comfortably either with or without a timer, with your eyes closed, notice what your mind and feelings are doing today.

When you notice your mind engaging with thoughts about the past or the future, let the thoughts go and guide your awareness back to something in the present moment. When you are looking around at what is happening in the present moment, notice the sensations and sounds associated with your breathing. There is the sound of the air moving past your nostrils or mouth and the back of your throat. Physical sensations are coming from your abdomen/chest as you exhale and inhale.

Your mind will probably then get attracted to another thought which will take it off on some adventure into the past or the future. Sometimes it can be a few minutes until you realise, “Hey, I am sitting here trying to meditate. I am supposed to be looking at something in the present moment.” Bring your mind back to the present moment again. Have a look at the different sensations coming from your breath, so that your mind has some freedom to move around to different parts of your experience with your breath.

Repeat the process of coming back to the breath each time your mind jumps off onto something else, for as long as you feel comfortable. As soon as you have had enough or your body is starting to get sore, you can get up and do something else.