Why The Breath Is So Important
Thich Nhat Hanh, of Plum Village Monastery is a Zen Master and lifetime practitioner and teacher of mindfulness practices. His teachings explain that when we practice mindfulness, we are practicing mindfulness of something. We can be mindful of sounds, sights, sensations, feelings, breathing and more. One of the most common and introductory practices in mindfulness meditation is mindful breathing. Another way to say this would be mindfulness of the breath. We can use guided meditations to help us practice mindfulness of the breath.
The breath is always with us. It was with us when we were born and it has been with us in every moment since. For this reason, the breath can always be used as an object of our mindfulness meditation practice. This makes watching the breath a common tool in many different schools of meditation. If someone’s first lesson in meditation was to bring mindfulness to the sound of passing cars, they would not be able to practice this meditation unless they are an area where cars were passing. Mindful breathing, however, is available to us no matter where we are, no matter what time it is. The breath is accessible to every living being, which makes it a powerful connecting link between all students of meditation.
The Art Of Mindful Breathing
There are 10 day silent retreats where the students are asked to focus on nothing but their breath for the first three full days of the course. It is common for a meditation student to become frustrated while practicing mindful breathing. They might be expecting something to happen as a result of them breathing mindfully. However, the true art of mindful breathing is when we learn to watch the breath without expecting anything to happen as a result. The real mindful breathing begins when we are able to watch the breath the way we would watch a sunset, without expecting anything from it. The art of meditation is to enjoy the breath as it occurs, without trying to manipulate it.
There are two types of people who practice guitar. One type are those who practice because they think they should be practicing. The other type are those who can’t walk by the guitar without picking it up, because they love to make music. We can look at mindful breathing the same way. There are two ways to practice. We can practice because we think we should, or we can learn to love the practice itself and enjoy it. In this way, mindful breathing becomes much more enjoyable and sustainable.