The mediation has five stages starting with a general body scan relaxation technique. It is then followed by two stages of counting your breaths and finished by two stages of focused attention on your breathing. All the counting is done in your mind silently. Feel free to skip the preparation step if your body feels relaxed. In my practice.
I usually meditate in the morning after a short yoga session. Because of that, I go straight to the first stage – counting of breathing. When I meditate in the evenings after a long day, I start with relaxation and three deep breaths. This signals to my parasympathetic system that this is time to rewind and recharge. With time you will be able to gauge when your body is tense and start with preparation when required.
This meditation script is designed with an idea that you start only with the first phase of counting your breaths for 3 minutes every morning gradually expanding to 10 minutes with all 4 stages. The benefits of short meditation sessions have been proven to have a positive effect however if you decide to take your practice further you can extend your meditation practice. With more practice, your ability for mindfulness will increase.
My suggestion is to keep the first two stages short and increase the time for the remaining third and fourth parts. The idea is to calm your mind sufficiently and deepen your focused awareness with the first two stages. As your skill and duration of your meditation practice grow you will find yourself needing the counting less and less. At that point, you can reduce your time in counting phases as you see fit and move to the final phase focusing on the subtle qualities of air around your nostrils.
Spotlight vs Floodlight focus
An influential philosopher Alan Watts who is credited among others like professor Suzuki with bringing Zen Buddhism to the west talks about a different type than daily focus attention. When your mind is set on a subject it is spotlight attention. It is similar to horses with blinds limiting their vision to the race track in front of them. With that type of thinking there is no time or space for anything outside of that subject. Obsessive-compulsive thoughts are a good example of that. There is also another type of attention which is similar to a floodlight where you receive information from all of your senses without diving introspectively to a specific object. To stay with this type of attention without spiraling down a rabbit hole of captivating thoughts you have to stay in the present moment.
A lot of animals live in this current moment making each one of them exciting. If you are looking for evidence notice our dogs or your neighbour’s dog face. They walk around with an eternally happy look going from one exciting thing to another. None of those is expensive toys – look the bush, the cloud, the lamp post, a friendly dog, a cat, and so on.
But living in the now continuously will require special care. You can’t to buy a house or organize a barbeque with friends without forward planning by placing yourself in the future. Equally, you can’t learn from mistakes without revisiting the events of the past. Monks living in temples have their relatives help them with food, and their rooms do not require paying rent. A lot of these things that require the essential faculties of mind to live efficiently in our world are not required if you are a monk. Our paths are much more complicated than that because an ordinary person looking for peace and inner balance in their life has to walk the middle way.
We need to be able to switch between spotlight and floodlight attention when it is required. It comes with an ability to catch yourself in non-productive unhealthy thinking and move to the present moment. For instance, if you keep thinking of an unpaid bill it is a valid concern and needs to be addressed so you do not get your electricity disconnected. However, if you walk around thinking that your social media posts are getting fewer likes than your friend’s it is a different story. It may be a real issue if you an influencer or a marketer working in the social network industry. Otherwise, this is an example where your mindfulness training can bring that floodlight attention to the world around you.
Stage 1 – Preparation body scan
Find a quiet spot where nothing and nobody will disturb you. Get in a very comfortable position either sitting or lying down. Maintain a level of alertness that will keep you awake and aware.
Take 3 deep refreshing breaths. Inhale, pause for 1-2-3, and exhale slowly. And again Inhale, pause for 1-2-3 and exhale. And again, for a third time – inhale, hold it 1-2-3 and slow exhale.
Now let you breathing to return to a relaxed natural state.
Now do a body scan starting from the crown of your head gradually moving down the focus of your attention. Relax your face, your neck your shoulders. Feel how tension is leaving your body with every breath out. Continue moving down at your own pace and release tension from your shoulder blades, your chest abdominal muscles then your hips.
Keep moving down and relax your hamstrings, your knees and your calves. Complete your body scan by releasing the last bit of tension through your toes feeling completely relaxed.
Stage 2 – Counting breathing in
Begin focusing on the sensation of your breath. Feel the air coming through your nose, filling up your lungs and leaving your body as you exhale. Observe how your body moves through this motion. Now begin counting as you breathe in. Count mentally just before you breathe in.
1 – Inhale – Exhale. 2 – Inhale – Exhale. 3 – Inhale – Exhale. 4 – Inhale – Exhale. 5 – Inhale – Exhale.
Keep counting until you get to five then go back to one. Continue for 3 minutes. Try to observe your breathing rather than controlling its pace or depth. Like you would enjoy sitting in-front of a lake observing ripples on the water. Peaceful and quiet. When a thought arises, notice that and gently bring your attention back to counting.
Stage 3 – Counting Breathing out
In this stage you will be counting breaths as you exhale in the same fashion as before. Count mentally after your breath out.
Inhale – Exhale – 1. Inhale – Exhale – 2. Inhale – Exhale – 3. Inhale – Exhale – 4. Inhale – Exhale – 5
Count until you reach five then start again from one. Continue for 3 minutes. Notice how your mind is slowing down and your body is getting more relaxed. Become aware of sensations in your body, distant noises in the background, the temperature of your room, the way your clothes feel on your skin. When your mind wanders bring it back to counting.
Stage 4 – Focus on your breath
In this stage, we no longer counting and mainly focusing on your breath. Notice how your breathing in and out became longer. I also noticed that by now your mind and body are much more relaxed. Place your attention on your connection between exhaling and inhaling. Continue this for 2-3 minutes noticing how breathing in and out becoming one with the gap in-between slowly disappearing.
Stage 5 – Focus on subtle qualities of your breath
As your breathing becomes lighter focus on your mind on the subtle qualities of your breathing. Point your attention in the area of your nostrils where the air comes in and out. Continue your attention on the rims of your nostrils. Tune in to that sensation and explore its qualities. Continue with this part for 3 minutes.
Now slowly bring your attention back to the room. Take a moment. Smile and open your eyes. This is the end of your mediation practice.
This post is a part of 6 articles mini-series. You can read the rest of the posts by the links below: