All too often I hear from people that they tried meditation but failed.
I hate the idea that people are left with a feeling of failure. Or that meditation becomes one more thing on the list of things they feel they should be doing.
After all, these are natural states that you’re tuning into. You’re just learning to use them and tune into them in more profound ways that deepen and optimize your life experience.
At least that’s how it should be.
That brings me to a discussion of Meditation on the Breath.
Meditation on the Breath is thousands of years old. As I’ve heard it, it was a meditation given to young monks. They were told to go and practice it and, possibly, after many lifetimes, they might achieve enlightenment.
Today, it’s probably the most common meditation associated with corporate mindfulness.
But there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of.
Meditation on the Breath can be a very mental practice. That may have worked well for the young monks. They didn’t have years and years of western education that made them left brain dominant.
While Meditation on the Breath can help you learn to keep your mind focused, it can also, depending on how it’s practiced, keep you in your head.
Most people turn to meditation as an antidote to wanting to get out of their heads.
Tips for Anxiety or a Churning Mind
If you’re feeling anxious or as though your thoughts are too wound up, then you may struggle to relax during Meditation on the Breath. That doesn’t mean that you’re failing at meditation. That means that you might have a more valuable experience using a different form that would better help you with what you’re dealing with in the moment.
If you’re anxious or too wound up, what you need is a practice that gets you back in your body versus being in your head.
Instead of watching your breath with your mind, you can notice how you experience it in your body. Where do you feel it? How do you experience it? Do you feel your lungs or your belly fill with air? Do you feel the soft brush of air passing by your nostrils?
Dropping into your experience of the breath can deepen your meditation and get you out of your head.
Shallow Breathing = Stress
Although the idea of Meditation on the Breath is to notice the breath without changing it, if you’re breathing into your chest and not more deeply into your diaphragm or belly, you’ll find it difficult to relax because that shallow breathing signals the body that you’re under stress. So, as you begin, you may want to take a few deep breaths into your belly or diaphragm and then let the breath go.
Besides Meditation on the Breath being challenging when thoughts and emotions are swirling high, this meditation may not take you into a deep brain state.
Most often, you’ll be in alpha brain state while doing Meditation on the Breath, at least until you’re quite practiced. If you’re interested in a deeper meditation, then look for something that gets you into theta brain state. This is the state that feels deeply restful to the brain and what many people associate with a deep meditative state.
Meditation is an umbrella term for a bunch of different practices. Find the ones that suit you and create the outcomes you’re seeking. It should feel so good that you miss it if you don’t do it, rather then it being something else on your to-do list.