By Your Headspace Mindfulness & Meditation Experts
There are many meditation techniques that have a variety of different benefits: everything from increasing compassion and self-esteem to coping with anxiety and sadness. But sometimes a basic meditation is exactly what we need to slow down and feel grounded.
Whether you’re just beginning to meditate or you’ve been practicing mindfulness for a while and want to brush up on the fundamentals, here’s a basic mindfulness meditation to help you find a sense of calm wherever you are.
The easiest way to meditate is with the Headspace app, where you will find a whole range of guided meditations and support throughout your meditation practice. The basic breathing meditation that follows is a great introduction to the types of techniques you’ll find on Headspace.
To start, find a quiet place with minimal distractions. Sit comfortably in a chair, on a cushion, on the floor, or outdoors with your hands resting on your lap or on your knees. Take five deep breaths — in through the nose and out through the mouth. On the last exhalation, let your eyes gently close.
With your eyes closed, check in with your body: feel the weight of your arms and legs and head, noticing how your body feels where it touches the chair and your feet touch the ground. Now, check in with your senses: note any sensations or discomfort and whether you can smell, hear, or feel anything.
Now, bring your attention to your breath. Don’t alter or rush it, simply allow it to continue at its own pace and rhythm, and observe the rising and falling sensation that it creates in your body. Focus on the quality of each breath without judgment: is it deep or shallow? Long or short? Fast or slow?
Begin silently counting each breath:
1 as you inhale,
2 as you exhale,
3 on the next inhalation and so on, up to 10.
Then start again from the beginning at 1.
While you are counting breaths, you may notice your mind wandering off; don’t worry, that’s completely normal. After all, we don’t practice meditation to stop thoughts. Rather, we practice so we can learn how to become aware of thoughts and then let them go. The breath is our anchor, to always bring us back to the present moment. In becoming aware of our thoughts — observing them without getting involved with them — we are teaching the mind to be not so easily distracted.
So, instead of becoming frustrated or stopping the meditation when thoughts bubble up, simply guide your attention back to your breath. If you can remember the number you’d counted up to — great! Start again from there. And if you don’t, simply start from 1 again. The more we practice coming back to the breath, and the more we sit to meditate, the more our stability of mind increases over time, and the more our awareness grows.
You might want to set a timer, or perhaps set your goal for the number of breath cycles you will count. When you are finished, spend 20-30 seconds allowing your mind to be free.
Aim to finish the meditation as you started: bring awareness back to your body: noticing how your body feels, where it touches the chair and your feet touch the ground. Note any sensations or discomfort and whether you can smell, taste, hear, or feel anything. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes.
During meditation, we practice becoming aware of thoughts and distractions by bringing our focus back to the breath. Our goal is to bring this quality of mindfulness to the rest of our day. View it this way: Meditation is the training ground where we learn the ability to be present; mindfulness is the application of that skill in everyday life as we move through our days.
The Headspace app offers a three-part Basics course to help you learn the foundation and common techniques of mindfulness and meditation. Even if you are a long-time meditator, the Basics course is great for brushing up on the fundamentals. Each part is made up of 10 sessions each and the first one is free — so you can try it out and see if it works for you. From there, Headspace offers a whole library of content to explore, including meditations for happiness, self-esteem, body positivity, gratitude, focus, and more. Sign up for free today, and begin experiencing the benefits of meditation.
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