Focusing On Breathing (FOB)

Focusing on breathing is the foundation practice, easily understood and practiced even by children. It calms the mind and relaxes the body. It helps a determined person practice meditation regularly.  

Don’t try to regulate the breathing
This breathing is not ‘deep breathing’ nor related to Yoga breathing. We don’t try to change the breathing pattern. We focus on the in-breaths and out-breaths ‘passively’, accepting them as they happen: short, long, deep or shallow and changing time to time. It is like watching the waves in the sea sitting on the beach, not making the waves. Exception is the sparingly used ‘911 mode’.

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 eyes open. The variations of the basic modes are at (1).

Counting mode
During the in-breath feel the coolness inside the nostrils. During the out-breath, say the number one silently and slowly, as ‘ooone…’, like a chant, keeping its sound alive as long as you are exhaling. When your lungs run out of air stop the sound. During the next in-breath, feel the coolness in the nostrils again. During the out-breath say ‘twooo…’ like a chant. During the next in-breath feel the coolness inside the nostrils. During the out-breath say ‘threeee…’, like a  chant. 

For the next breath don’t count the next higher number. 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….’. 

Every time your mind wanders and you lose track of the breaths, quietly resume counting the breaths, starting from ‘ooone… ‘. 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 when suggested in the following modes. 

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.

Feeling mode
Don’t use fingers. Don’t count. During the in-breath, feel the coolness inside the nostrils. 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.

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.

(1) Variations of the modes

Related pages: Benefits: De-addiction to Will power 

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