Types of Meditation pt. 2

Mindfulness of Breath

Mindfulness of breath meditation is a type of Mindfulness meditation which involves practicing keeping an awareness of breathing.

In the Buddhist tradition, it is often practiced from the guidelines of the Anapanasati Sutta (written communication from the Buddha on establishing mindfulness of the breath). In this type of mindfulness meditation, the practitioner uses breath in the body as the object of awareness.

As you can see, there seems to be plenty of overlap with both mindfulness and concentration meditations. However, this is not a “concentration practice”.

The Anapanasati Sutta describes the practice of going into the forest and sitting beneath a tree and then to simply watching the breath as follows:

“Breathing in long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in long’; or breathing out long, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out long.’ Or breathing in short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing in short’; or breathing out short, he discerns, ‘I am breathing out short.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.’”

In mainstream circles, this meditation can be easily practiced anywhere and any time and for any length.  

In everyday life, a practitioner breathes slowly and deeply, counting their breaths. They have the option of keeping an awareness, or focusing, on their breaths in a manner that helps to ignore thoughts that enter the mind.

Body Scanning

Body scanning can also be referred to progressive muscle relaxation. Variations exist. This is often used in yoga, therapy, and other settings.

Beginners and those experiencing chronic tension often benefit as this practice gives the practitioner plenty of sensations to observe. Here, he practitioner moves their awareness, mind’s eye, or attention, through the body slowly, paying attention closely to each part of the body and the sensations present at that part at that present-moment. This can be done seated or lying down. I often recommend this to clients who have trouble sleeping.

During progressive muscle relaxation sessions, a practitioner starts at one end of their body, usually their feet, and work through the whole. While most move from one part of the body to another, relaxing, or tensing then relaxing that part. However, you do not need to do it that way. You can simply scan the body for any current areas of tension, and then release that tension by relaxing the muscles as an example. Involving breath and imagery helps enhance the outcome.

What is happening here, besides the obvious, is the practitioner is practicing observing the tension, releasing the tension, without judgment or resistance.

Tensing then relaxing the muscle, or visualizing (anything) resembling the tension departing, are helpful.