In the first part of this introduction to meditation, we began our meditation by taking a comfortable seat and focusing on our breath. Feel like you could use a refresher on what I’m talking about? Click here. Otherwise, lets keep going.
You’re sitting comfortably and focusing on your breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel the breath move through you and gently begin to settle down so that instead of only thinking about the breath and thinking about feeling it move through you, you soften a little and open to the sensations that it brings as you feel it moving through your nostrils, down your throat, and heating the bottom of your expanding belly. In it flows, and now out it goes. Breathe in. As you breathe out, feel the breath grazing your throat as your stomach contracts and the breath is pushed upwards.
On your next breath in, focus your attention towards the top of your head. Breathe in and feel the breath flowing through your nostrils, up your throat, and to the top of your head. When you’re just about done breathing in (so at the top of your breath), pause, and in the silence of holding your breath focus on the top of your scalp. Do you feel your hair? The air? Maybe an itch? Feel. And now breathe out, focusing your attention on the feeling of the air flowing through your throat, out your nostrils, and into the open space in front of you. Breath in, feeling your breath travelling back to the top of your head. Pause. Mentally feel the top of your head again. What do you feel this time? Mentally scan your head. You’re not looking for any feeling in particular. You’re not looking for anything really. All you’re doing is feeling what you feel when you focus your attention on the top of your head. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Let go of any preconceived notions, expectations, or judgments. We’re feeling not thinking. What you feel is what you feel. Mmmmmm feel. And breathe out, following the feeling of your breath again as it travels back up your throat, tickles your nostrils, and flows out of you.
Keep breathing in and out while focusing on the sensations on top of your head a few more times. The more you meditate, the longer you’ll be able to keep your focus on the sensations on a particular body part. Build up your attention span slowly. There’s no rush. No goal even really. We’re just feeling how nice it is to breathe and focus our attention on what’s going on with the top of our head. After a few more breaths, shift your attention from what your feel on the top of your head to what you feel inside and outside your throat. Feel the breath move in through your nose, and into your throat. At the top of your breath, concentrate on what you feel on the outside and inside of the throat. Maybe it’s your hair… the breeze… a bead of sweat… dryness perhaps. And breathe out again. Continue this process, shifting your attention every handful of breaths so that after concentrating on what you feel in your (a) throat, you shift your attention to what you feel in: (b) your left shoulder, down your left arm and into the fingertips; (c) your right arm, right shoulder and fingertips; (d) the front of your body – from the chest cavity down to the pit of your belly; (e) the base of your neck, down your back, and to the bottom of your spine. Bring your focus to (f) the pelvic girdle – feel the breath swim around in the bowl that is your pelvis. What do you feel at the top of your breath? How are the muscles around your hips? Can you let go of any tension you may feel so that your legs can come closer to the floor? Finally, feel the in breath travel (g) down the front and back of your legs and into your toes. At the top of your breath, focus on what you feel in the left leg, then the right leg, before feeling the path of the breath as it travels back out your legs, through the pelvis, up the front and back of your body, through you throat, and out your nose. Once you’ve worked your way from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, reverse the order and work your way back up to the top of your head.
Repeat this process for as long as you can. Maybe initially you sit for 10 minutes. Maybe 20. Set a timer and promise yourself that you’re going to meditate until your alarm goes off. Extend the amount of time you sit by 5-10 minutes every week. Or don’t. It’s your practice. Try to meditate daily, but if you can’t keep that as a promise to yourself right now, let go of the guilt and meditate whenever you can. Meditation becomes easier, deeper, and more profound the more regularly you do it. Mmmmmmm sure feels good to give yourself permission to sit down, breathe, and simply feel doesn’t it…
** This meditation approach is inspired by http://www.dhamma.org/.