Learn the Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation Practice

This page, and those following it, will help you to learn mindfulness of breathing meditation.

The most common form of meditation practice is one in which we pay attention to the physical sensations of our breathing. We don’t visualize the breathing. We don’t think about the breathing. We notice the physical sensations of the breathing, including the movements of the rib cage, the movements of muscles in the abdomen, the movements of the skin against our clothing, and of course the touch of air inside the body’s airways.

Often we spend a lot of time immersed in compulsive thinking, much of it driven by anxiety, annoyance, painful longings, self-doubt, and so on. The negative emotional quality of those kinds of thinking diminishes the quality of our lives.

Paying attention to the present-moment sensory reality of the body’s sensations as it breaths trains us to develop the quality of “mindfulness” — which is where we are able to observe our experience rather than being immersed in it.

When we are mindful those unhelpful kinds of thinking still arise, but we are able to observe them, stand back from them, and choose not to get lost in them.

There are many different varieties of mindfulness of breathing practice. The one I teach here officially has four stages, which are described below. But settling in to our meditation practice is an art in itself, and so I regard this process as “Stage Zero.” You can read more about that on this page, where you’ll also find links to the other stages of the practice.

Jump to a section:

Guided Meditation Recording 1

The YouTube video below will guide you through a three-minute meditation. The point is to show that a meditative attitude can be brought into even small gaps in your schedule, such as pausing at a red light, waiting in line at the supermarket, or taking a short break from work.

Guided Meditation Recording 2

This YouTube video offers you a 27-minute guide to the full four stages of the meditation practice being taught here. Please make sure that you have half an hour or so of uninterrupted time so that you can give this your full attention.

Guided Meditation Recording 3

This live 32-minute recording of the mindfulness of breathing practice was recorded on a retreat in 2014. It includes all four stages of the practice, but without any counting.

Guided Meditation Recording 4

Another live meditation, also recorded on a retreat in 2014.

(There are also shorter forms of the practice in the rest of this structured guide to meditation.)

Overview of the Practice

The Mindfulness of Breathing practice is in four official stages, plus some important preparatory and concluding work, which I call “Stage Zero” and “Stage Omega.”

  • Stage Zero: After settling in to your meditation posture (you may find our posture guidelines helpful here), become aware of the physical sensations of your breath. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath. (Information about Stage Zero can be found below.)
  • Stage One: Settle into being aware of the sensations of the breathing, and silently begin counting your out-breaths, placing the number after each exhalation. Count ten out-breaths, and then start counting the next ten out-breaths. Repeat for a few minutes. Any time you get distracted and lose your place, reconnect with the breathing and start counting again from one. Learn more about Stage One here.
  • Stage Two: Do the same as in the first stage — counting cycles of ten breaths — but this time count your in-breaths, silently placing the number just before each in-breath. Learn more about Stage Two here.
  • Stage Three: Drop the counting, and just follow the breath as it flows in and out. Observe the in-breaths seamlessly turning into out-breaths, and the out-breaths seamlessly turning into in-breaths. Notice that the breathing is a continuous experience, and that there is no time when there is no sensation. Learn about Stage Three here.
  • Stage Four: Out of all the many sensations of the breathing, gradually begin to pick the vivid and delicate sensations of the breath flowing over the rims of your nostrils. You can let those sensations be a lightly held focal point among all the other sensations in the body, or you can allow your attention to move closer to this focal point and let other sensations fade away into the background. Learn more about Stage Four here.
  • Stage Omega: Gradually broaden your awareness so that you’re first aware of the whole of the breathing process, then of the whole body, then your thoughts and feelings, and finally your environment. And then, when you feel ready, open your eyes. (Information about Stage Omega is found in the Stage Four instructions.)

Each of these stages is a kind of mini-meditation in its own right. Each is a tool for achieving a different aim. Each has a slightly different purpose, and together they form a progressive series that can help us to develop states of deep calm and joy. At first it’s good to stick to the stages as you first learn mindfulness of breathing meditation, but as you learn more about them and how they work, you can make the practice your own and whichever of the “tools” are most appropriate to your situation.

You can use the links above (or in the sidebar) to help you explore each of the stages in turn.

To learn more about Stage Zero, continue reading below.

“Stage Zero” – the Importance of Preparation

flowers are often placed on an altar as we meditate

With any meditation practice, it’s important to do a certain amount of preparation in order to help things go well. But all too often, this preparation is seen as an optional extra and is not done thoroughly, or at all. That’s a bad idea.

Imagine you’re baking a cake, and you want it fast. You want results. You want to get straight to the eating stage with as little time spent on fussing around with ingredients as possible. So you throw some flour and eggs and sugar into a cake tin (Hey! Who’s got time for measuring!) and slam it in the oven. Oh, the gas isn’t lit. Okay, let’s just turn it up full now so that it cooks faster. Yum! Looking forward to your cake? I thought not.

If you want to get certain results (whether a delicious cake or a calmer, clearer mind) you have to set up the right conditions for that to happen. This is an important Buddhist principle called “conditionality,” which states, in part, that if you want something to arise, you have to provide the conditions that allow that thing to arise. There are no short cuts.

The preparation that we do as we learn the mindfulness of breathing meditation (or any other meditation) is the stage of setting up our postures, deepening our awareness of our bodies, and relaxing as deeply as we can. This preparation is essential if we want to provide the conditions for the arising of a calmer, clearer, less stressed, more peaceful mind.

I call this preparation “Stage Zero” to emphasize that it’s not an optional extra. Setting up the right conditions for your meditation practice to go well is an essential and integral part of your meditation practice.

In a way it would be much better if we called Stage Zero “Stage One” instead. That way there would be less of a tendency to think that you can drop the preparation and just plunge into the practice. Unfortunately, that would be rather confusing, since the stage of counting after the out breath is universally known as Stage One.

“Stage Zero” as a Practice

standing meditation

You can practice Stage Zero as a practice in its own right, spending anywhere from five to twenty minutes on this exercise, or you can go straight into Stage 1 after working through the material below.

Start with adjusting your posture

As you learn the mindfulness of breathing meditation practice, it’s important that you find ways to sit comfortably so that you won’t be distracted by physical pain.

We have a guide to meditation posture on this site that you might find useful, but here are a few pointers:

  • Adjust your seat height so that your back is relatively straight, and also relaxed
  • Make sure that your hands are supported
  • Relax your shoulders, letting them roll back in order to open your chest
  • Adjust the angle of your head, so that the back of your neck is relaxed, long and
    open, and your chin is slightly tucked in
  • Let your eyes close

You’re now ready to begin working on body awareness and relaxation.

Take your awareness through your body, from your feet to your head, becoming aware of every muscle, and relaxing it as much as you can. If your awareness wanders, just come back to your body. Once you’ve scanned through your entire body from your feet to your head, then be aware of your body as a whole, continuing to make sure your posture is open and upright, and that you are continuing to relax.

Then notice the sensations of your breathing — right in the center of your experience. Let your awareness fill your breathing, and let your breathing fill your awareness. Just keep on bringing your awareness back into your breathing, and let the relaxed rhythmic movements of your breathing have a calming effect on your mind.

You can continue doing this for several minutes, or you can go onto Stage 1 of the practice, which involves counting your exhalations.

“Stage Zero” – the Importance Intention

walking meditation

One thing that you can add to your preparation for meditation in stage zero is a sense of purpose or intention. As you go through your body, relaxing, and as you become aware of what you are bring into your meditation practice, you might become aware that there are certain things that you particularly need to work on in your session of practice.

You might notice, for example, that there is a lack of joy and inspiration in your experience. Maybe you have a tendency to get annoyed right now. Maybe you’re tired. Or perhaps it’s just that your mind is a little restless and needs to be calmed down. It’s good to develop a clear intention of what you want to achieve in such circumstances. Your intention might be not to take yourself too seriously, to stay with every moment of the breathing, to let yourself enjoy the meditation, or to make sure that you maintain a good posture thoughout your session.

You can take this awareness of purpose into the other stages of your practice, monitoring from time to time what progress you’ve made in maintaining your intention. Perhaps the first approach you take doesn’t seem to be working, and you need to try another method. Or perhaps what you are doing works very well – perhaps even too well! You may try to calm your restless mind and be so successful that your mind becomes rather dull and sleepy. At that point you may wish to change your purpose for a more suitable one – in this case perhaps you could adopt the goal of balancing relaxation and energy.

Having intentions like these can revolutionize your meditation practice as you learn the mindfulness of breathing meditation. It’s all too easy for our practice to become stale and mechanical, as we unmindfully use some technique that was once appropriate but isn’t now.

Having clear goals is another way of bringing more mindfulness into our practice. It helps us to become not only aware of what emotional, mental, and physical states are present in any given moment, but keeps us alive to where we are going and, very importantly, whether what we are doing is taking us to where we want to go.

What’s Next?

what's the next step as you learn the mindfulness of breathing meditation practice

Having settled in, the next step is for us to let the mind settle on the breathing and for us to begin counting our breaths. You can learn more about this by following this link to our guidelines for stage one of the mindfulness of breathing practice.

You can also learn more about this meditation practice in the following books:

95 Comments. Leave new

  • I am in Atlanta, Ga. And I am a beginner. Can you suggest any individuals or centers in the Atlanta area?

  • Can you suggest an example of a sense of purpose for a beginner such as myself?

    I thought of just following the breath to learn to do just that one thing… any nothing else.

  • Hi Jeff,

    Sorry about this reply being so late, but I was in Ethiopia when you posted and didn’t notice that you’d asked a question.

    I think our sense of purpose in meditation is very individual and emerges as we seem to learn from our experience.

    So if you found, for example, that you’d been craving results in your meditation practice then a good aim would be to simply accept your experience as it is, perhaps repeating a phrase like “accepting what is” every time you notice that hunger for results emerging.

    Or if you’d noticed that you’re a bit hard on yourself then your purpose could be to keep coming back to the heart and to keep a sense of kindness in your experience.

    Or if you have a tendency to daydream then your goal could be to develop and then maintain a clear sense of the object of meditation.

    These are just examples, of course. As I suggested, I think that our goals should come out of our experience — they shouldn’t be things we pick at randoml!

    I hope this is useful. I love that the website now allows for this kind of exchange.

  • A quick search of Google showed that many kinds of Buddhist meditation are available in Atlanta. I’d suggest finding an Insight meditation or Zen group, but it all depends on what kind of meditation most interests you. There’s an online meditation meetup group that you may find helpful.

  • Is it safe to say that Buddhists believe in libertarian free will? More specifically, do Buddhists believe in free will that is incompatible with determinism?

  • Hi Rob,

    I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “libertarian” free will, but I’ll give my understanding. Buddhism is definitely not deterministic. It accepts the effects that social conditioning, genes, etc have on us, but insists that that conditioning influences rather than determines how we act.

    At the same time Buddhism doesn’t have a naive view of free will. We can’t just decide to be happy, for example, and expect our emotions to suddenly comply with our desires. We can’t “control” ourselves totally. Just as genes and social conditioning influence rather than determine how we act, so too our will only influences, but can’t determine, how we act. Another way of putting this is to say that our will is only partly free.

    At any given moment we have a limited power to influence what we do, but the important thing is to act on that limited power. In doing so we find that we have greater power to exercise our will — our will becomes more free and we find that it becomes easier to be what we want to be and do what we want to do.

    Enlightenment could be described, perhaps, as point where we have the ultimate amount of free will available to us, resulting in a great degree of freedom from suffering.

    I hope this helps. Remember that I’m not a philosopher but just a practitioner, so please don’t take this as an authoritative statement on Buddhist doctrine. This is just my understanding of how things work.

    All the best,

  • I started this meditation recently, but I was searching for detailed meditation guide on Anapanasati technique.
    Thanks for elaborated mediattion guide.

  • I literally make cake that way. :P

  • Interesting!

  • Hello there,
    I am an unexperienced beginner who is using your (now maybe quite old, but fantastic) book “Wildmind” for introduction to meditation. On page 65, you made reference to an AudioFile (mob_0) which offered guidance for a simple form (stage 0) of the Mindfulness of Breathing.
    I could not find it on the site, though. Is there any way I can get it? I will understand if it has been permanently removed.
    Thank you anyway for your wonderful books and spectacular site! :)


  • Hi Luca,

    I thought we’d put up redirects to all the new locations, but that was one we missed when we redesigned the site. The new location is https://www.wildmind.org/posture/bodyawareness.

    And many thanks for the kind comments on the book and the site.

    With metta,

  • I have a real problem with getting the right posture and I am constantly fidgetting in my meditation which is really distracting. Actually I have particularly bad posture on my shoulders and I have even been seeing a specialist. The thing is that to get my shoulders to roll back and my chest to open (which is also correct posture in physiotherapy) takes a constant and conscious effort which actually causes some discomfort (aching) in my back (since the muscles are working in a way which is healthy but not habitual to them). The alternative of slouching obviously is not a good position for meditation since it means my chest is closes, and it also leads to aching but in a different place (since its a habitual, but not healthy position).

    Is there any way I can over come this? I’m doing physio excersises etc but its a slow process since my whole back/shoudlers/hips are all tight and loose in the wrong places.

    It seems silly to think I have to wait till my body is in perfect shape to enjoy meditation.

    I would really appreciate any advice. This problem is what has kept me doing meditation only in bits and pieces here and there.


  • Hi Matt,

    I’m generally stiff and I tend to put it down to genetics since the rest of my family have very tight muscles as well. My shoulders can be a real problem when doing lots of sitting. What I find very helpful is to have a scarf wrapped around my waist, tied behind my back, and to keep my hands tucked into it. Having the hands supported above the level of the navel is almost essential for us tight-muscled types. This really takes the weight off of the shoulders.

    You might need rather a long scarf, and you need to make sure it’s going to be tight enough that it gives real support while not being so tight that it causes discomfort. I’ve included a picture below to illustrate:

    A blanket can also work, although in the summer heat it can be impractical to have that much fabric wrapped around you.

  • Hi Bodhipaksa, I read about this somewhere on your site and I’ve been doing it, but I wasn’t doing it like in this picture. That’s really helpful. I will try it like this today. Thanks :)

  • What if the fantasies that perpetually occupy my mind are fun, entertaining?
    I know this sort of hyper and consistent mental activity is a distraction and a hindrance to awareness – but within this state it is possible to create an alternative existence to ‘real’ life – to exist in the mental world – creating for oneself a satisfying and addictive place to escape. Less healthy, less blissful than states of pure conscious awareness, yes – but a seductive and perhaps common place for the distracted mind to occupy.

  • Hi Elli,

    Distractedness can be creative and fun — no doubt about it. There’s a state where we have sufficient distractedness to let the mind explore and sufficient mindfulness to prevent the mind from wandering away from what we’re thinking about, and in that state we can be very creative. I often allow myself to go into that state when I’m preparing a talk or thinking about some writing I’m going to be doing. Here’s a link to an article about research on daydreaming. I think you’ll find it interesting.

    All the best,

  • But what if I feel that I don`t want any part of my life to be thought as a purpose, at any stage. My life should flow into the direction of awarness (I want that, but I`m still dissatisfied with a result). I don`t want to bond my thoughts to be thought in a specific way, but let everything happen freely but with part of being alert of it. Is that right path? I feel that I`m a different person every second(because of bonding to thoughts) and I am not sure if thinking about a purpose in my meditating is again, repeating patern of my `thoughtful`life. Please tell me, how can I accept goals(ways of directing my thoughts) in this situation? Wish You all best! Janusz

  • Hi Janusz,

    You said, “I don`t want to bond my thoughts to be thought in a specific way, but let everything happen freely but with part of being alert of it.”

    So it sounds like that’s your purpose.

    All the best,

  • Yeah:)you`re actually right about that thanks a lot and again, all the best!!

  • Annica Rosén
    April 10, 2010 5:05 am

    Hello, to meditate gives me so much but …..
    I have to start again at “Stage Zero” and what ever my life have for me I will not let go of the meditation again. Could you please give me some advaice, how to think when I have to meditate lying down. I have problems with my back, a slipped disc. It´s not the same feeling, when I sit down I reach something else , I can´t explain the big different but I think you know what I mean.

    If you have any advice I would appreciate that.
    I hope you can read my english even if the spelling is not so good.

  • Hi, Annica.

    I’ve sometimes had to lie down myself in order to meditate. I don’t have anything as serious as a slipped disc, but sometimes I’ve had injuries or pain that has come and gone. It’s hard to stay awake at times, and I never feel I’m quite as clear as I am when I’m sitting upright.

    I find, when I’m focusing on my breathing, that it helps to stay focused on the sensations in the upper chest and in the head. If I focus on the belly I’m certain to feel sleepy.

    Apart from that, I’m afraid I don’t have much advice to offer. I haven’t had to lie down for a long time now, and I don’t think I ever really got the hang of it anyway!

  • Annica Rosén
    April 12, 2010 4:38 am

    Thank you so much, this can not be for ever and I feel it is better to do the best than don´t meditate at all.

    I just thought when you wrote abut focus in the upper chest or the head that I will try to make “a picture” in my head of me sitting in position.

    • Hi Annica,

      Oh, one of my favorite sayings is “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” Meditation is so worthwhile that it’s still very much worth doing even if we’re not able to do it perfectly. Think of it as being like taking up running, but where you’re only allowed to run uphill for some reason. It’ll be very hard to do, and you’ll be exhausted every time you go out for a run, and you’ll wonder if it’s worth doing. But you’re really building up muscle, and when you are able to run on a flat road you’ll find it so very, very easy. It’s like that when you have to meditate lying down. It’s much harder to pay attention, but you’re having to make an extra effort to remain mindful, and that extra effort will help you develop stronger “mindfulness muscles.” When you’re able to meditate sitting up, you’ll notice the benefits from the practice you’re doing now.

  • Annica Rosén
    April 13, 2010 3:14 am

    Thank you for your this, this will help me not only with my meditation it will help me with everything in my life in situations you really don´t want to have but you can´t take them away.

    Reading this was like a sunrise, a beautiful sunrise

  • Glenn Spencer
    June 28, 2010 2:28 am

    The page “coming back to the breath, over and over” Seems to have a dead image link after the paragraph “Regaining Awareness”

  • Bodhipaska,

    I’ve started meditating recently and at first I thought it was just a good thing to do for my health and wellbeing but after doing it a little while I’ve realised as you’re saying here that I need a sense of wider purpose: What’s the goal in practising buddhism and buddhist meditation, do you think? Why do we do it? I’ve been wondering lately why I’m doing this and what the ultimate goal of all this cultivation is… Do you have any insight to offer?


    Ashley. :)

    Your site is lovely, by the way. Very helpful, with grounded and clear articles.

  • Hi, Ashley.

    Funny you should ask, but I just noticed an excellent article by Mathieu Ricard today, in which he says the following:

    Why meditate? Sometimes I wonder why we need to ask this question. Nobody who admires a talented artist, or pianist and would like to become one would say, “Why should I train? Why don’t I just go on stage and play Mozart?” However, when it comes to the basic human qualities that we might admire and hope to acquire—altruism, inner strength, inner freedom to deal with whatever comes our way, emotional balance, not being swayed by hatred and craving and jealousy— we think that they come up just because we want them to, without any training. Or we think that they are fixed, permanent, and that we can’t change them. It is absurd to think that we do not need training to nourish these kinds of positive qualities.

    We have the potential to be more kind, to practice mindfulness, and to experience well-being, but we only use a small fraction of the potential we have. So that’s what meditation is about: to cultivate the qualities that we have the potential for but that remain dormant, latent, unused, and to develop them to the best of our own potential.

    I think Ricard puts it better than I ever could. The article’s from Tricycle, by the way.

  • And thanks for your kind comments, by the way!

  • Fabulous, thankyou! :) That really does answer my question.

    • I was just looking at Ricard’s book in Banyen Books tonight before doing a book launch. It looks really excellent.

  • You’re launching “Living as a River”? Or have you written something recently that I should know about!

    • Yes, I’m doing a tour of North America to launch Living as a River. But about two weeks from now the second edition of Wildmind is coming out. Lots of book activity going on here!

  • Thankyou, Reading about treating yourself as you would a kitten is very helpful.

  • I find quite difficult to focus on breath flowing over the rims of nostrils. I can easily concentrate on rise and fall of the abdomen but i can’t feel breath over the rims of nostrils. Will it take some practice to develop the minute sensations?

    Thank you,

  • Yes, it can take some practice. One thing you could try for a few seconds (while meditating or right now) is to place your fingertips on your nostrils so that the openings are mostly blocked. This makes the breath flow more strongly, so that you can train your mind to notice that area of the body. When you take your fingers away, you may still be able to notice the breath flowing over the rims of the nostrils, even though the breath is now back to its normal, gentle flow.

  • Hello,

    I’d like to start off by saying this website is tremendously helpful. The explanations are so clear, and I can tell a lot of effort went into it :)

    I have had allergies and asthma ever since I was a small child, and as a result I have developed two bad habits: quick, shallow breathing and mouthbreathing.

    The allergies have tapered off, and I have clear nasal pasages as of right now.

    My problem is, that even when I open my chest, I can barely feel my breaths expanding my lungs. I’ve been avoiding mouthbreathing because it dries out my throat, and instead rely on trying to feel the air flowing in and out of my nostrils.

    Could the shallow breaths be a relaxation issue? Are there any breathing exercises you could recommend?

    • Hi, David.
      Thanks for your kind comments.

      Shallow breathing can definitely be a relaxation issue, and even a major health issue. Hypopnea, as it’s technically known, can result in mood disorders, poor memory, and a variety of cardiovascular problems. It’s something I think you should seek medical advice on.

      I have to say that I’m not qualified to either diagnose any breathing problems you may have, or to recommend any specific breathing exercises. I’m really just a meditation teacher, and I don’t have any specialist medical or physical therapeutic knowledge.

      If you’re looking for exercises, I’d suggest starting with seeing a physical therapist, who can assess the degree of hypopnea you’re experiencing and who would be on hand to make sure you were doing the exercises properly. Sometimes when people have disordered breathing, the problems actually get worse when they try to exert more conscious control over the breathing process. Sometimes, in the case of physical causes, like an overly narrow palate, there can be non-invasive corrections that stretch the palate.

      I wish you all the best.

  • Patricia Hughes
    May 8, 2011 12:09 pm

    I’m wondering how I integrate “seeking” a particular goal with my meditation. I thought that meditation was partly about letting go of expectations. How do you have a goal without having expectations?

    • You might want to check out this article, Patricia. I can’t really tell you how to have goals without having expectations. That’s something you have to work out for yourself. I’m sure in fact that you do it all the time. The measure of how much expectation (or grasping) is tied up with attaining a goal is how you feel when you don’t attain the goal. If you feel disappointed, frustrated, angry, or despondent, then that indicates that you were clinging to the idea of attaining the goal. If, however, you fail to meet a goal and you simply take it in your stride, or appreciate the progress you’ve made, or simply feel that the work you’ve done toward meeting the goal was a reward in itself, then that suggests that there was no clinging or expectation.

  • I was advised not to start meditaing until any and all mind-altering meds/alcohol are out of my body for 2 weeks. I just stopped a sleep med. Would you agree or have any other advise on that issue? Also, what about coffee in the morning? That habit will die hard for me if at all but I want to meditate in the morning, of course.
    Thank you

    • There’s no inherent harm in meditating while being on sleep medication or while drinking, but your meditation might be less effective and more distracted, and this could be discouraging. But if for some reason you had to go back on the sleep meds I wouldn’t regard that as a reason for not meditating. Likewise, it would be highly counter-productive if you felt you had to stop meditating because you had a glass of wine!

      I’d suggest not worrying about the coffee for now, and see how it goes. In my experience the majority of people who meditate drink coffee, and only in the most die-hard addicts have I noticed it causing so much restlessness that their meditations were unusually distracted. Sometimes I’ve had a cup of tea of coffee before meditation in order to dispel extreme tiredness, and it’s actually been helpful!

  • Is there difference between concentrating on the breath and being aware of the breath or are they one in the same?

    • It’s the same thing, although be wary of the word “concentration.” It doesn’t mean something effortful, but essentially letting the attention rest on the breath.

  • On behalf of all of us with shoulder problems, thank you so much for the trouble to post this picture. This is really helpful!

  • Thanks great help

  • I find that when I focus on my breath, my breathing pattern changes. I’ll start taking longer and deeper breathes. How can I stop that and just focus on my breath as it is?

    • Hi, Lauri,

      It’s quite natural for your breathing to become slower and deeper as you pay attention to it. If your breathing is longer and deeper, then that is your breath “as it is.” Just go with it.

      All the best,

  • What I tried is putting a Vicks (eucalyptus menthol oil) in my nostrils so that when I inhale I can feel a cold sensation of air running through my nostrils.

  • That’s creative response, Marvin. I like mediating in cold rooms for the very reason that it’s easier to feel the breath. The only reservation I have about the Vicks method is that it may not lead to greater long-term sensitivity. Of course perhaps it will. Maybe having definite sensations to pay attention to will help your brain to strengthen the pathways that deal with noticing sensations in the nostrils. I’d be interested to hear how it works out when you’re not using Vicks — especially after a few months of practice.

  • Katerina Greece
    March 10, 2012 6:55 am

    Is this a simple seating positiion or you have to cross your legs
    as well? I mean is there a picture to recommend?

  • Do i need to completely quit my smoking and drinking habits, or is it possible to practise meditation with reduced no of cigars and occasional drinking???

    • I think you’ll find a lot of meditators enjoy the occasional drink. A lot of meditators find they’re less drawn to alcohol than they were before. Perhaps they don’t need the stress release so much, and perhaps they enjoy the clarity.

      I don’t know so many who smoke, although that’s usually for health reasons rather than because of intoxication. If you do lovingkindness meditation it starts to seem very incongruous to do something that’s causing harm to yourself.

  • Hey Bodhipaksa, I was wondering if you knew about the Benson Relaxation technique? He calls it a relaxation response but is this a form of meditation just it not being called meditation? I’ve tried the breathing technique but it can get really complicated for me. Benson’s technique does tell one to realize the breathing but says to say “one” after each breath with a relaxed body and mind. I found it quite useful but is it transcendental meditation?

    • Benson’s technique is not TM — just a simplified form of mindfulness of breathing meditation combined with a sound repeated, internally, as one would a mantra.

  • Every time I begin to focus on the breath – i start to control my breathing, can’t seem to help it. Sometmes this makes the breath feel quite uncomfortable. The more i try not to do it, the worse it seems to get. How do I let go of controlling the breath – or maybe I’m just a control freak in the making?

  • Hi, Jo.

    We have an article about letting go of controlling the breath. One other thing you might want to try is to only pay attention to the out-breath. I’d be interested to hear how you get on.

  • Hi there,

    before asking, let me tell you höw much I appreciate your wonderful site, which is both the most thorough and down-to-earth on this topic I know of.
    My question: On a site about vipassana meditation I came across a recommendation – or, rather, a rule – that in order to gain any results, the “absolute minimum” of time spent sitting each day should be 2 hours . Now I feel rather uneasy about such claims and don’t find them very helpful because to determine if your meditation is “good”/worthwhile or not so good should be based rather on its quality than the time spent on the floor. – What do you make of statements like these? Is there a minimum of time for daily practice that you would recommend?

    All the best,

    • Thanks for the appreciative comment.

      Reasearcher Sara Lazar has seen long-term changes in the brain in people who meditate for approximately 45 minutes a day. Bethany Kok found that people doing lovingkindness for an average of 10 minutes a day were move loving. Basically, any amount of meditation you do is going to have an effect. Doing two hours will have a different (probably better) effect than doing two minutes, but doing no meditation because two hours is an unattainable goal isn’t going to have any effect :)

      I think most people can manage at least 20 to 40 minutes a day.

  • Hi B.,

    thanks very much for your helpful answer. (45 to 60 minutes a day, devided into two sessions, seems like a sensible and not too unrealistic goal for me.)

    Now, another question: I’ve recently come to concentrate not only on my breathing, but also on my heartbeat, mostly in the spaces or pauses between the in- and out-breath. Since I’ve always felt my heartbeat fairly strongly and it is always “there”, it seems like a good anchor for concentration, too.
    Do you happen to know of any tradition that uses heartbeat as a focus?

    Many thanks in advance,

    • I don’t. Obviously, people notice their heartbeat while meditating, but I don’t know of any traditions that use it as a focus.

  • […] his book that’s almost identical to one I devised for my own teaching twenty years ago, and use on this site. He referenced this to researcher Philippe Goldin, who used the diagram in a lecture he gave at […]

  • I am researching begining meditation and I am glad I found this wesite. I have tried counting my beathing to 100, my arms tingled and i would drift from thoughts back to counting my breaths and I felt very relaxed and clearer minded afterwords. Should I count quietly or silently?

    • It’s best to count inwardly, and it’s also more useful to count your breaths in 10s to stop the counting becoming too automatic.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Explore the benefits of becoming a supporter.