Do you find your own breath interesting? The OG Buddha taught ānāpānasati, which is “mindfulness of breathing,” as a fundamental meditation technique. It’s also taught by modern spiritual teacher types, with variations including where you focus your attention (e.g. tip of the nose or the whole body) to controlling breathing patterns (e.g. boxed breathing, Wim Hof method.)
Yet a lot of us have a hard time meditating on the breath because it can be quite “boring.” And given the wide variety of breath meditation methods, how does one know what is the “right” thing to do?
Here’s an analogy:
Imagine you’re hungry. You open the fridge, and see there are ingredients for you to assemble a nice meal. But you’re so hungry and don’t want to cook on an empty stomach. So you scrounge and eat the cucumber with hummus in the back of the fridge to tide you over. Now you have enough energy to keep preparing the ingredients for a proper meal.
Breath meditation practices are like different kinds of food in the fridge:
Breath work = ready-to-eat snacks
Counting breaths = leftovers
Noticing the sensations of the breath= simple meals
Silent awareness of the breath = 4 course meal
What you “eat” depends on how hungry you are.
For meditation, the “hunger/fullness level” is called “availability.”
“Availability” is a subjective measure that fluctuates depending on a number of factors like energy levels, life challenges, whether we have exercised recently, etc. I also constructed the food analogy based on subjective experience, and your mileage may vary (e.g. you may find breath sensations more captivating than counting breaths.)
So for breath meditation, gently account for your availability. I often start with breath work, followed by noticing the changing temperatures of the breath (cool in, warm out) then transition into silent awareness. However, if I find myself not being as available (e.g. discursive thinking,) I will transition back into practices like counting breaths, or associating the temperature of the breath with a mantra (cooling of concerns, warming of the heart.)
Breathing meditation is a game one plays with oneself. We gently test our availability against a technique that is less and less “attention grabbing” (in the fridge analogy, foods that take increasingly more work to prepare.) The goal is to gently transition into silent awareness and develop a base of supportive calm states, so that inner wisdom may arise.
May you have fun with your breathing.
At our last Kind Camp, we explored these breath practices together to invite inner wisdom to arise. You are invited to join us for upcoming sessions. Kind Campers report the sessions to be beneficial for epiphanies and burn out recovery.
Thank you for inspiring my dull breath ....
You have surely missed my outstanding Subtract!
Friendly regards from Nicaragua, heavily sanctioned, where I scrape by at the Gates of Hell, the Masaya Volcano, at the very bleeding heart of Central America. Hell, sweet hell, err, home. I meant home, sweet hell!
Esteemed Substacker, If you read my first two posts, you will find out about how dramatic and humble my landing here actually was. Then I started to write and post like a madman like there was no tomorrow because my real life situation seemed that way, and things have not calmed down, have not changed yet! Not only because life, in general and particular, is not a word, but a sentence, but because sometimes serving this sentence makes one feel like dropping dead any minute, I have decided to chime in with something transcendentally relevant. Enjoy it to the very last breath as I do, a soldier of Christ, fighting in the first row, breathing heavily, no matter cannon fodder you do not have to pledge anything, my efforts are always free.
Left to my own devices and salivating in the tropical scorcher, in the erupting drought season, the promised $20 bill of rights rain has not even started yet for me here on Subtract, yes, I just want to make you laugh, not cry, as I wipe a tear or two. It seems like nobody´s gold pennies can reach my flying BullShip skyhigh. Yet I stay working Job, patience is my virtue upon the rack, tried, drawn, and quartered as vice driven through the rusty nails of my faith .... until I, one-armed, cannot carry my heavy cross anymore. I keep saying this only to myself as a wounded gladiator in the public arena. Hope you all still having fun ....
Substack is my new home, like I was sort of homeless. And yes, it does get lonely in the jungle if you live alone. Substack to me now means the world, the greatest platform where I can share my massive varied writing stuff. I have quite a few posts already here with 69, whoops, subscribers and growing every day as people are finally noticing my stranded S.O.S. sign on the beach! Thank God, thanks to you good people. Thank you for noticing me, for hearing me out, for supporting me! I am truly humbled. Do not let my monumental or trivial issues grind you down! God bless you all!
PS: Please excuse my typos, grammar, etc. because I am not perfect, I am just human. I use a looking glass and my second rate English is my third yet my most beloved language.
I love food hunger analogy is great for me!