First, set up your posture, using our posture guidelines, then come back and read what’s next…
Okay, now we’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin.
Before we can start on Stage 1, we need to do some essential preparation — what I call “Stage Zero”. Stage 0 involves setting up your meditation posture, then taking your awareness through your body relaxing as much as you can. You might find it beneficial to read a fuller description of the background and practice of this important stage before beginning Stage One.
This meditation is not a breathing exercise, and we don’t control the breath in any way, simply letting it flow naturally in and out. Generally we inhale and exhale through the nose, unless perhaps the nose is blocked.
It’s natural for there to be a slight pause between the end of the in breath and the start of the exhalation, and a slightly longer pause between the end of the out breath and the start of the in breath. Again, we allow the breath to flow naturally, and there’s no question of deliberately holding the breath or controlling it in any way.
Sometimes it can be beneficial to take a few deep, long, breaths, or to breath more fully using the abdomen. This is done to encourage the body and mind to slow down. But if this is done it’s just for a few breaths, after which we let the breathing return to a natural rhythm.
Stage 1 – Counting the Breath
Once you’ve taken a tour of your whole body, begin to focus on the physical sensations of your breath. Let yourself become absorbed in the sensations of the breath flowing in and out of your body. Notice how the sensations are always changing.
Then begin counting (internally) after every out-breath:
Breathe in – breathe out – 1
Breathe in – breathe out – 2
Breathe in – breathe out – 3
Breathe in – breathe out – 4
Breathe in – breathe out – 5
… and so on until you reach ten. Once you get to ten, start again at one.
Keep following the breath, and counting, for at least five minutes.
If your mind wanders, just come back to experiencing the physical sensations of the breath, and begin counting again.
Really notice the qualities of the out-breath. Notice the sense of letting go, the downward movement in the body, the feeling of relaxation as your body releases, and perhaps even a sense of mental calming.
Bring as much patience into the process as possible. It’s normal for a lot of thoughts to arise, and from time to time you’ll completely forget you’re supposed to be following your breath. Distraction is a normal part of the meditation process.
You can listen to an MP3 guided meditation that will lead you through the First Stage of the practice by clicking on the player below:
More on Stage 1
Just tried the first stage of the Mindfulness of Breathing?
Kinda anxious about getting on to stage two?
Okay. Why not consolidate what you’ve already learned, rather than rushing on to do the whole practice as quickly as possible? Heck, the chances are you want to learn to meditate because life is so rushed and hectic, so why not start to relax. What’s the rush? Hang loose!
Try doing the first stage of the practice for a few days. Maybe even try to do it more than once every day. Why not take a few minutes now to plan exactly when you’re going to do it?
We suggest you try five to ten minutes in the morning, and the same in the evening, just before you go to bed. Or maybe a few minutes on your lunch-break? There’s no right or wrong time to meditate, so see what suits you.
So try that for maybe three days, and then come back and learn the second stage. Give that a few days (doing both stages) and then come back again. And so on.
You can also think about touching base with your breathing at various times throughout the day. This could be as simple as taking one full, mindful breath in between activities. Or you might stay in touch with your breathing while you’re having a conversation or listening to a presentation. Instead of sitting on the train or bus, letting your mind wander, or (since we don’t like inactivity these days) checking your text messages, try just paying attention to your breathing. If you’re walking — even if it’s just from the car to the building in which you work, or from your office desk to the bathroom — pay attention to your breathing. The breathing is always there for you to notice. And noticing it will always help calm your mind, at least a little.
Play around with the out-breath. Any time you become aware of the breathing during the day, explore the qualities of the out-breath. Notice how the body lets go every time you exhale. Notice how emotions like relief and contentment relate to exhaling.
While you’re exploring stage one, you can try to answer any questions you have by exploring the site, and explore the links on this page that deal with stage one.