Focusing On Breathing (FOB)

Focusing on breathing is the foundation practice. It calms the mind and relaxes the body. It is easily understood and practiced even by children. It can help an ambitious person practice meditation regularly.  

Don’t try to regulate the breathing
This breathing is not related to Yoga. We don’t try to change its pattern. We simply focus on the in-breaths and out-breaths ‘passively’. We accept them as they happen at the moment: short, long, deep or shallow and their pattern may change during the practice. We watch them like we watch the short and tall waves in the sea. Exception is the sparingly used ‘911 mode’ in which we change the breathing.

Basic modes
Six basic modes of ‘Focusing on breathing’ are described below. Try each mode with the eyes closed, for one to two minutes except for the ‘staring mode’. After some practice, try with open eyes.

Variations
These are described in the second part. Try them after experiencing the basic modes for some time.

Basic modes

How to Count breaths? 
Breathing in, feel the coolness inside the nose. During the out-breath, say the number one silently and slowly, as ‘ooone…’, like a chant, keeping its sound going as long as you are exhaling. Stop saying when your lungs run out of air and let the in-breath start. Breathe in second time feeling the coolness in the nose. Breathing out, say ‘twooo…’ like a chant. Breathe in third time feeling the coolness in the nose. Breathing out, say ‘threeee…’, like a  chant. After completing three breaths, don’t count the next higher number for the next breath. Instead, restart counting from ‘ooone…’.  Continue counting the breaths in the same manner, as long as you like. As the out-breath naturally becomes longer, you may have to count each number two times. ‘Ooone….’ may become ‘ooone….ooone….’. When the out-breath becomes even longer, it may become ”ooone….ooone….ooone….’. 

This is not deep breathing. Breathe easily and comfortably. There are no other guidelines for this simple practice. Feel free to adapt the practice to feel calm and relaxed. Follow this pattern of ‘counting breaths’ in the following modes. 

Folding mode
Start with any one hand, say the left hand. Gently flex the little finger.  Count three breaths as explained above. Release the little finger. Repeat counting three breaths, at each of the other four fingers, flexing one finger at a time. Then switch to the right hand and repeat the practice at each of its fingers. Continue practicing, switching the hands. See link to video demo (5).

Tip mode
Start with any one hand, say the left hand. Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. Count three breaths as explained. Repeat the practice at each of the next 3 fingers – ring, middle and index fingers. When at the thumb, place the tip of the index finger at the base of the thumb and count three breaths. Then switch to the right hand and repeat the practice. Continue practicing switching the hands. 

Segment mode
Every finger has two cross lines, dividing it into three parts, called segments. Start with any one hand, say the left hand. Place the tip of the thumb at the top segment of the little finger. Count three breaths as explained above. Move the thumb to the middle segment and count three breaths. Move to the bottom segment and count three breaths. Release the little finger. Repeat these steps at the next three fingers – ring, middle and index fingers. At the thumb, place the tip of the index finger on its segments and repeat the steps. Then, switch to the other hand and repeat the above steps. Continue practicing switching the hands.

Counting mode
Don’t use fingers. Count three breaths as explained. Every time your mind wanders and you lose track of the breaths, quietly resume counting the breaths, starting from ‘ooone… ‘.

Feeling mode
Don’t use fingers. Don’t count. During the in-breath, feel the coolness inside the nose. During the out-breath, feel the warm or neutral sensation. You can also place a hand on your abdomen and focus on its slight outward movement as you breathe in and inward movement as you breathe out. Every time your mind wanders and you lose track of the breaths, quietly resume the practice by focusing on the coolness during the in-breath.

Staring mode
Keep your eyes open. Stare at a small but prominently visible spot, mark, object or part of an object at your eye level or below. Without letting your eyes wander, practice any of the above four breathing modes.  More at (2)

911  Mode
This is not passive but active breathing. Keep your eyes closed for better impact. Breathe in through the nose or mouth quickly. Keep your lips almost closed with just a small  opening, as if you are holding a straw between the lips. Blow air through the lips. Focus on the sensation at the lips. The outgoing breath will be slow and long.

Repeat this practice, till you feel some relief from acute stress of any kind, mental or physical. More at (3)

Variations

We can develop our own variations of the above basic modes. These are some variations I use  – ‘Engaging the idle hand’, ‘Visualizing mode’ and ‘Dynamic modes’. More at (4).

(1) Why repeat the number being counted?
(2) Staring mode
(3) 911 mode
(4) Variations of the modes
(5) Video of Folding mode

Related pages: Benefits: De-addiction to Will power 

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