Day 3 Meditation
We return to the breath for our third day together, with the added element of mental noting. This technique can be useful when you are more scattered as it helps support your awareness of the breath. The mental note is done very quietly within, so that you don’t disrupt your concentration on the sensation of the breath. This is a way to acknowledge whatever is arising in the present moment.
Mental noting establishes a sphere of awareness, a small, calm interior space where we aren’t caught up in a thought or feeling, aren’t reacting to it, but are able to discern it, name it, and move on.
Spend some time at the beginning of each meditation session settling into your posture; the first thing you need to do is really inhabit your body. The traditional components of meditation posture have been used for many centuries. At first they may feel odd and uncomfortable, but you’ll come to be at ease with them. You want to have some energy in your body, without being too stiff. You want to be relaxed without falling asleep.
Question & Answer
Q: I find it very hard to concentrate on my breath. Am I doing something wrong?
A: Being with the breath isn’t easy to do. To explain the proper technique for focusing attention on the breath, I often use the image of trying to pick up a piece of broccoli with a fork. Your goal is connecting the fork with the broccoli just deeply enough so that you can lift it to your mouth. To accomplish this, you need two things. The first is aim: If you wave the fork around in the air without homing in on a target, you won’t get a lot to eat. The second is a careful modulation of energy. If you’re too listless, the fork will hang in your hand; if you’re too forceful and bash at the broccoli, food and plate will go flying. Either way, you won’t get any nourishment. So we aim our attention toward just this one breath and simply connect.
Welcome back. In the beginning of exploring concentration, we’ve practiced meditating using awareness of the breath. Today, we’re going to introduce a word with the breath. Please sit comfortably. You can close your eyes or not, however you feel most at ease. Notice where the feeling of the breath is most predominant, at the nostrils, at the chest, or at the abdomen. Rest your attention lightly in just that area. See if you can feel just one breath. Feel the breath from the beginning, through the middle to the end. If you’re with the breath of the nostrils, it may be tingling, the vibration, warmth, fullness. If at the abdomen, it may be movement, pressure, stretching, release. You don’t have to name these sensations, but feel them. It’s just one breath.
If you like, you can use a quiet mental notation, of in, out, or rising, falling, to support the awareness of the breath. But let your attention actually rest in the sensations of breathing. Or perhaps there’s a word that evokes some particular meaning for you, like love or peace, or now, whatever word you might choose. See what it is like to quietly repeat that word, along with resting your attention and the sensations of the breath. And when you feel ready, you can open your eyes.
You can reflect on whether you found it helpful or not, to use a word. And if there seems to be a particular word that’s most helpful for you. Consider what was most interesting for you in this practice, what was the most challenging.