“This would I have you remember in remembering me:
That which seems most feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined.
Is it not your breath that has erected and hardened the structure of your bones?”
Kahlil Gibran

More and more writers are using meditation to deal with the stress and strain in their lives instead of turning to self-destructive habits such as tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. Among the various meditation methods practiced worldwide, the most popular and effective is breath-meditation.

Writers benefit from the practice of breath-meditation due to these eight reasons:

1. Simple and practical technique
To practice breath-meditation, all you need to do is to sit upright, close your eyes, and focus your attention on your incoming and outgoing breath. Initially, meditate for about ten minutes and gradually increase this period.

2. Universal meditation method
Breath-meditation is a scientific self-observation technique recommended by most modern meditation teachers as well as medical professionals. You can use it as a secular self-observation method irrespective of your religious and philosophical beliefs. Since suffering is universal, the remedy also has to be universal.

3. Easily accessible object of meditation
As respiration is a continuous physiological process, you can observe your breath not only during formal sitting meditation but also when you are standing, walking and lying down. Initially, you may need to meditate in silence and solitude but later you can meditate while commuting, shopping, gardening, exercising, etc. You can also meditate at bedtime just before dropping off to sleep, which can help to improve the quality of your sleep.

4. Deliberate as well as involuntary process
Initially, you may find it difficult to meditate on your natural breath because it may be too subtle. Whenever you can’t feel your natural breath, breathe deliberately, that is, breathe a little deeper or faster. By doing this, you can easily feel the incoming and outgoing breath. After a while, you can allow the respiration to become natural and try to observe it. This ability to modify your respiration depending on the state of your awareness is a great advantage of breath-meditation.

5. Development of awareness of the present moment
When you start your meditation practice, you will realize that the mind is constantly darting either to the past or the future. It either relives the past or fantasizes about the future. In breath-meditation, you learn to focus all your attention simply on the experience of the present moment, “Now the breath is coming in, now the breath is going out.” This is the most practical way of living in the present moment.

6. Respiration intimately linked to your mind
Whenever you become distracted or disturbed during meditation, the nature of your breath changes and becomes faster and shallower. After regular meditation practice, you will learn to recognize this change in your respiration whenever your mind becomes agitated.

7. Development of tranquility
Breath-meditation is a simple self-observation technique. However, it’s surprisingly difficult to do. You will be constantly distracted by discursive thoughts, emotions, memories and fantasies. As soon as you realize your attention has wandered, you have to bring it back to awareness of respiration without feeling upset or annoyed. By doing this patiently and diligently, you learn to develop equanimity and mental resilience.

8. Progressive improvement
The more you practice, the deeper your awareness becomes. Initially, you may struggle to meditate for even a few moments. Gradually, if you persist, you will be able to observe your breath continuously for one minute or longer. Gradually, as your mind becomes still, your respiration becomes more calm and subtle. So you learn to develop awareness of subtler breath for progressively longer periods. Thus, the duration and quality of your awareness improves progressively.

The greatest benefit of breath-meditation is that you can apply it in your daily life. Whenever you face an unpleasant situation, the rhythm of your respiration changes; it becomes uneven or rapid. With regular practice, you can learn to identify this change in the rhythm of your respiration. If you observe your breath for a few moments, it regains its natural rhythm. When your respiration becomes normal, it helps you to regain your mental balance. In this way, you can learn to use breath-meditation to deal successfully with any stressful situation.

10 August July 2011

Rohi Shetty is a medical doctor, Vipassana meditator, writer, editor, translator and blogger. His short stories and articles have been published online and in print.

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