This classic meditation practice is designed to deepen concentration by teaching us to focus on the in-breath and out-breath.
Deliberately take three or four deep breaths, feeling the air as it enters your nostrils, fills your chest and abdomen, and flows out again.
Once you’ve noticed whatever has captured your attention, you don’t have to do anything about it.
Every time you find yourself speculating about the future, replaying the past, or getting wrapped up in self-criticism, shepherd your attention back to the actual sensations of the breath.
If you feel sleepy, sit up straighter, open your eyes if they’re closed, take a few deep breaths, and then return to breathing naturally. Continue following your breath—and starting over when you’re distracted—until you’ve come to the end of the time period you’ve set aside for meditation.
Try to bring some of the qualities of concentration you just experienced—presence, calm observation, willingness to start over, and gentleness—to the next activity that you perform at home, at work, among friends, or among strangers.
Excerpted from Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation—A 28-Day Program by Sharon Salzberg. If you’re focusing on the breath at the nostrils, for example, you may experience tingling, vibration, or warmth, itchiness.


Just be aware of it without adding anything to it—without tacking on judgment (“I fell asleep! If it helps restore concentration, mentally say “in” and “out” with each breath, as suggested earlier.) Our practice is to let go gently and return to focusing on the breath. Then rest your attention lightly—as lightly as a butterfly rests on a flower—on just that area.
You may observe that the breath is cooler when it comes in through the nostrils and warmer when it goes out. Sometimes people get a little self-conscious, almost panicky, about watching themselves breathe—they start hyperventilating a little, or holding their breath without fully realizing what they’re doing. You don’t need to chase after them, you don’t need to hang onto them, you don’t need to analyze them. Rather than tell yourself you’re weak or undisciplined, or give up in frustration, simply let go and begin again. Note the word “gently.” We gently acknowledge and release distractions, and gently forgive ourselves for having wandered.
If you’re focusing on the breath at the abdomen, you may feel movement, pressure, stretching, release.


In fact, instead of chastising yourself, you might thank yourself for recognizing that you’ve been distracted, and for returning to your breath.
Feel the beginning of the in-breath and the end of it; the beginning of the out-breath and the end of it. To help support your awareness of the breath, you might want to experiment with silently saying to yourself “in” with each inhalation and “out” with each exhalation, or perhaps “rising” and “falling.” But make this mental note very quietly within, so that you don’t disrupt your concentration on the sensations of the breath. You’re neither struggling against it nor falling into its embrace and getting swept away by it. Oh, there’s my breath, among those thoughts and feelings and sensations.” If distractions arise that are strong enough to take your attention away from the feeling of the breath—physical sensations, emotions, memories, plans, an incredible fantasy, a pressing list of chores, whatever it might be—or if you find that you’ve dozed off, don’t be concerned. See if you can let go of any distractions and return your attention to the feeling of the breath.



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