A Guided Breathing Meditation to Cultivate Awareness

This practice is a breathing meditation. We focus on breathing not because there’s anything special about it but because that physical sensation of breathing is always there. Throughout the practice, you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds—wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath. If you’re distracted the entire time and come back just once, that’s perfect.

1) Sit comfortably, finding a stable position you can maintain for a while, either on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes if you like, or leave them open and gaze downward toward the floor.

2) Draw attention to the physical sensation of breathing, perhaps noticing the always-present rising and falling of your abdomen or chest, or perhaps the air moving in and out through your nose or mouth. With each breath, bring attention to these sensations. If you like, mentally note, “Breathing in… Breathing out.”

3) Many times over, you’ll get distracted by thoughts or feelings. You may feel distracted more often than not. That’s normal. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking or anything else. Without giving yourself a hard time or expecting anything different, when you discover that your attention has wandered, notice whatever has distracted you and then come back to the breath.

4) Practice pausing before making any physical adjustments, such as moving your body or scratching an itch. With intention, shift at a moment you choose, allowing space between what you experience and what you choose to do.

5) You may find your mind wandering constantly, caught up in a whirlwind—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts as much, practice observing, noting wherever your attention has been, and then returning to the physical sensation of breathing. 

6) Let go of any sense of trying to make something happen. For these few minutes, create an opportunity to not plan or fix or whatever else is your habit. Exert enough effort to sustain this practice, but without causing yourself mental strain. Seek balance in this way; if you find yourself mostly daydreaming and off in fantasy, devote a little extra effort to maintaining your focus.

7) Breathing in and breathing out, return your attention to the breath each time it wanders elsewhere.

8) Continue to practice observing without needing to react. Just sit and pay attention as best as you are able. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all that there is. Come back over and over again, without judgement or expectation.

9) When you’re ready, gently open your eyes. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions. Pausing for a moment, decide how you’d like to continue on with your day.

Reprinted with permission: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Copyright © 2015 by Mark Bertin, from Mindful Parenting for ADHD

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