You can do this mindfulness practice using the instructions below or with the help of the recording (#2, “Mindful Breathing). I recommend that you start by following along with the recording a few times. Then, try guiding yourself through the practice, without the recording, just to see what that’s like.
- First, stop. Stop whatever you are doing, or whatever it is that you were about to do, and simply allow yourself to be “here,” without needing to do anything.
- Next, simply bring your attention to your breath, just as it is, in the here and now. You don’t need to make your breath any different than it naturally is. You don’t have to make it slower or deeper. Just bring your attention to your natural breath, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness. Notice the move- ment of the air as you breathe in, inhaling oxygen, and as you breathe out, exhaling carbon dioxide.
- Experiment with saying silently to yourself as you breathe in and out, Breath- ing in, I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out (Nhat Hanh 2009, 4). Or, you can shorten this to In… Out….
- Pay careful attention to your breath, following it as you breathe in and out. Notice the beginning of your in-breath. Follow your in-breath from the begin- ning, to the middle, all the way to the end. Then notice the pause between your in-breath and your out-breath. Follow your out-breath from the begin- ning, to the middle, all the way to the end.
- You might want to imagine that you are floating in the ocean and each breath is a wave passing beneath you. Each in-breath lifts you up, and each out- breath sets you back down. Just float gently on the waves of your breath. It might also help to focus on the part of your body where you notice your breath most easily, like your nose—where you can feel the air going in and out—or your belly, which rises and falls with each breath.
- Following your breath doesn’t have to feel like work. Breathing mindfully can be relaxing and enjoyable. If your breath feels good, simply enjoy the sensa- tion and smile.
- If your mind wanders or if you get distracted, that’s okay. That’s what minds do. Don’t judge yourself as having done something “wrong.” You can just notice and gently say to yourself, Oh, my mind has wandered off, and perhaps be curious about where your mind wandered off to. Then gently bring your attention back to the next breath.
- You can breathe mindfully like this for three breaths, nine breaths, or, if you have time, two or three minutes.
What was it like to pay attention to your breath? What was it like to come back to the present moment? Did you notice anything interesting or surprising?
You can take some time to do mindful breathing any time of day, anywhere. After breathing mindfully for a few breaths or a few minutes, continue to go about your day, more connected to the present moment. See whether coming back to your breath changes your day in any way. Your breath is always there for you, to keep you alive and nourish your body and your mind. Can you learn to be there for your breath?
Try more guided mindfulness meditations here.
(Excerpted from The Mindful Teen by Dzung Vo, MD)