Oakville Zen Meditation

#372 Breathing properly during meditation: the Why and How

Breathing properly to anchor our mind: the why and the How

Understanding the “WHY” will help you to maximize the “How”
The basic purpose of Zen is to achieve and maintain serenity that is a steady emotional balance.
It can be achieved only in taming, and better in controlling our non-stop cognitive and emotional mind.
From neuro-imaging, it is estimated that our brain-mind produces between 90,000 and 140,000 thoughts /feelings every day, most of them subconsciously.
Our restless mind moves continuously from one thought to the next one, from one space-time to another one. It is an on-going time machine under which we are controlled.
Zen is using the words “monkey mind ”as metaphor to describe our wandering human mind:
a monkey moving repeatedly from one branch to the next where branches being thoughts & feelings.
Zen also describes us “Day sleep walkers” that is doing zillion of things during the day in automatic behavior while having our mind elsewhere and doing something else at the same time.
Cognitive thinking is obviously necessary but most of our mind noise is just a sound tract creating
restlessness and emotional yo-yo. Can we tame our monkey?
The answer is yes, and, with practice we can even control our restless little beast. Why a yes answer?
Despite its enormous computerized power made of 100 Billions neurons and Trillions of connections,
our mind cannot deal with 2 thoughts at the same time. It is like 0 or 1 in our computers.
For example: if you have a series of successive thoughts A, B, C, ..etc and you decide to focus actively on X, your mind has no choice but to comply because it cannot have 2 thoughts at the same time.
By keeping focusing on X, your mind is anchored. This is the equivalent of the pause button and the basis of mindfulness meditation discovered zillions of years ago in our Eastern countries.
What focusing point did they choose to anchor the mind while meditating?
Our breathing because it is physical, convenient, permanent and easy to concentrate on. Bedside it is the only vital function of the body that we are able to modify.

2- HOW to breathe: The magic moment:
First, your posture: straight back, chin horizontal, eyes closed or semi open and staying still.
Allow 1 or 2min. to let your body “phase in” to let your breathing settles to reach its normal rhythm.
Concentrate on your in and out breathing by becoming aware of your breathing sensations in a mindful way w/o trying to modify it nor to analyze it or to make any decision.
1- During your inhale, feel the coolness of the air entering your nose.
2- During your exhale, feel the motion and relaxation of your chest and abdomen.
Focusing on you exhale is the best way in focusing and relaxing further.
Breathing should be a restful practice. You don’t need to change its rhythm nor “to do it right”.
Many distractions will arise all the time:
Thoughts, images, emotions, aches, pains, wandering in the past or future.
Don’t resist, just be aware and accept them one by one, then let them go by going back to your mind anchor that is your breathing.
You may experience hundred of such roadblocks against your breathing re-focusing but they are just the opportunity in controlling your mind the same number, hundred of times. The moment you realize you’ve been distracted by a thought and you are going back to your exhale breathing is a magic moment because you are experiencing factual reality in the moment w/o any cognitive activity and against your wandering fictional restless mind. Put in another words: It is Awakening.
Finally: If you are struggling with your concentration, counting your breath is an excellent adjuvant.
Count 1 at the end of your expiration, up to 10 then count down to 0 and repeat the circle.
Never hesitate to use it. I dam using very often.
Remember this: the beneficial impacts of the practice of mindfulness meditation is cumulative whatever its frequency or duration. A daily 20 min. sitting is recommended.
Thank you all