ANAPANA BREATHING MEDITATION
My meditation teacher once said that meditation should be free. It should be accessible to all people, not just certain people - it should be a tool that's available to both the householder and the servant.
One of my main goals as a teacher in the sessions I offer is to make sure my client or my student is set up with enough knowledge and a strong enough foundation to be able to meditate on their own, build their own practice and access these techniques on demand whenever is needed. It's to set people up to be able to self soothe themselves whenever they need without the dependency on a teacher, a course ($$$), an app or a guru (not to discriminate - I am highly aware the importance of some of these and how helpful they are. I rely on these all the time.)
Recently I was holding a meditation session for one of my clients and I was reminded of how I started my meditation practice and wanted to share it with you so you can confidently build on yours too.
I started my journey as a Vipassana meditator and I wanted to introduce the first step of the practice - the Anapana breathing technique. A practice I learnt from my teacher S.N Goenka and one that helped me go from a complete beginner to be able to now sustain a stable practice.
It is easy. It is so simple. It is accessible to anyone - beginner, intermediate, expert - whoever and wherever and it is, as it should be - 100% free.
Anapana simply means observing the natural breath as it moves in and out of the body. It hones, sharpens and disciplines the wandering mind bringing your awareness back to the breath every time you catch yourself wandering. You don't judge, you don't hate, you don't shame - you just realize your mind has wandered from your seat and by bringing your attention and focus back to the sensation of your breath - you guide your thoughts like a herd of sheep back to the practice. It will wander again, you bring it back again.
Anapana is not based on any artificial breath control or regulation, it is simply just sitting, closing your eyes and observing your breath move in and out of the body. It helps to calm the mind, observe your feelings and emotional states and anchor you into a feeling of safety in your own body. You are reminded you are alive and of the moment you're in.
STEP BY STEP
Sit in a comfortable seat, whatever is comfortable for you. On a chair, in bed, at your desk - wherever is fine.
Base of the spine and crown of your head is in one straight line to allow the breath to freely move.
Close down the eyes. We begin.
As you inhale - hone all your awareness and attention on the breath as it moves in through the nose.
Try and feel the subtlest sensations of the air as it brushes the surface of the skin and inside the nose canal, feel every part of the inhale.
As you exhale - hone all your awareness and attention to the space just above the upper lip and below the nostrils as the breath moves out.
Feel the warmth of the breath as it brushes up against your upper lip. Try and feel every part of the exhale.
Repeat for however long you need. I like to set a timer and just sit.
The quieter you get, the more you may be able to feel subtler sensations. It may become easier for you to feel the warmth as the breath moves out or the brush of air as the breath moves in. If you find you cannot feel that much, that is completely fine also. You are still doing the work. Meet yourself wherever you are without passing any judgment. There is no right way. The practice is to be okay with everything just as it is.
If your mind wanders (which it will as all of ours do), just notice that the mind has wandered and without any attachment - just bring the awareness back to the breathing. Meditating is like a dance. It wanders, we gently guide it back, it wanders again, we gently guide it back. It's not blacking out our thinking, it's being aware that we're thinking and not attaching ourselves to it.
Build on this and you are now a meditator :)
Here is a video by my late teacher S.N Goenka introducing Anapana breathing for any of those who are interested in learning more.
Hope you are all well, be safe, sending warmth,