#Meditation Basics: Counting Breaths

meditation pranayama“Simply close your eyes, and count your breaths,” That sounds simple! “Don’t think about anything else . Just concentrate on your breathing.” That is easier said than done!

There are many mental obstacles to this seemingly simple task. Our minds wander naturally, and if we try to focus on anything for more than a few seconds, random thoughts creep in. And how can you concentrate on something so mundane as breathing, when there are so many interesting thoughts and images popping into your head?

The good news is, pranayama meditation does get easier with practice. But it can still be a challenge even for experienced meditators, especially if there is some turmoil in your life. But there are some specific techniques you can practice to help you focus, and eliminate the frustration in your pranayama meditation practice. These methods are, don’t control, be an observer, be compassionate, and enjoy yourself.

Number one, do not force or try to control your breathing. Many beginning meditators consciously, or unconsciously, alter their breathing patterns in an effort to focus on it. The only result is an exaggerated and irregular breathing pattern, which can actually hinder your meditation, rather than help it. You simply need to “watch” your breathing, you don’t need to exert any additional effort. If you just observe, you will breathe. If you find yourself attempting to control your breaths, gently remind yourself it’s not necessary, and then wait for the next breath to come naturally.

The next tip is compassion for yourself, during your meditation practice. It’s important for you to not criticize yourself when your mind wanders, or when you catch yourself attempting to control your breathing. It is best to simply and softly redirect your attention back to your meditation, as soon as you notice it. Do not begin to tell yourself, “I can’t do this. This is never going to work.” Negative thoughts do nothing to help your meditation practice. Be compassionate with yourself, simply brush away the thoughts, and return to your meditation.

Another way to look at wandering thoughts is to acknowledge they are an important part of your progression in your meditation practice. Meditation is a skill, and like all skills, meditation requires practice. In your meditation practice, your mind will wander in the beginning. Don’t give up. It will get easier. You will still have challenges from time to time, but you will also have more success, with your meditation practice.

The last tip is to find enjoyment in your meditation practice. Even though it might be difficult at times, meditation can really enhance the quality of your life. Don’t judge yourself, and expect to progress to a particular level within a particular time frame. Mediation is a life long practice. Remember, this is your personal time, let it be your sanctuary, not a chore. Meditation can be your time to escape. Breathe in, breathe out, then forget about the problems around you. Even when you’re preoccupied with a problem, you can find ten or fifteen minutes to be alone with your breath, and enjoy it.

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