Counting the Breath – Some Stuff is Weird

The technique shared with us in today’s meditation was a bit different than what I was expecting. When I read the title “Counting the Breath,” I thought the count would be connected to the length of the inhalation and the exhalation. This is the type of counting that I’m accustomed to (and associated “ratios” of inhale:exhale for certain purposes). This was, in fact, totally different.

Sharon guided us through the process of attaching a mental notation to our inhalation and a number to our exhalation, counting up to ten and then starting over. The idea is to deepen our concentration even further by executing these repetitions of ten breaths along with the mental notation. I had mixed feelings after continuing for several rounds after the conclusion of the recorded meditation.

First, I had to wrap my head around the idea of counting the breath itself as “one,” inclusive of both the inhalation and the exhalation, instead of separating them into different events. Once I felt I understood this concept enough to do it, I ran into my next little snag. I find counting to be a very automated activity and particularly with single digits, I can count easily without actually knowing what I’m saying. Almost as if the numbers one to ten are a song and I know what sounds are supposed to be coming out at what point (I think this might be common among people who multitask a lot – maybe). So the counting itself presented a challenge rather than supporting my focus as intended because the mindlessness of the action allowed my attention to wander without screwing up the count.

Luckily, Sharon probably knows this happens to some of us which is why we were – just in time – prompted to start again at one after our tenth breath. This looping served to rein in my focus.

What struck me the most about today’s practice was that in counting the breath like this in multiples of ten, the number of breaths that we experience during an entire meditation session became an amazing concept. I’m not going to do the math there but I’m sure the number is larger than I thought it was before today. I wonder what makes those breaths different from any of the other ones I have throughout the day. What makes them special enough to carry me through my meditation as opposed to three loads of laundry? Are they really the same? Yes, I’m personifying the breath and letting my imagination run a little wild with it. At this rate I will soon be assigning names and favorite foods to breaths one through ten at which point they’ll either become fast friends of mine or aspects of my identity that I can’t synthesize and I’ll need to see a doctor.

Well, this post has gone off the rails quite badly.

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