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The Many Benefits of Mindful Breathing in Meditation – EOC Institute

The Many Benefits of Mindful Breathing in Meditation

Mindful Meditation Breathing: Instructions, Tips, & Benefits

Benefits Of Mindful Breathing

The present moment is the ultimate (yet elusive) goal of any meditation practice. What then, is the best way to stay present? The breath. Here we dive into why the breath is such a powerful meditation tool, proper mindful breathing instructions, and the many benefits that come from regular practice.

What do prominent meditators say about the breath?

As the foremost authority on the subject, the Buddha himself recognized and emphasized the importance of the breath, once saying "being sensitive to the whole body, the yogi breathes in; being sensitive to the whole body, the yogi breathes out." The "Awakened One" taught attention to the breath as a fundamental (and essential) meditation technique.

In his classic guide "Wherever You Go, There You Are," internationally acclaimed meditation author Jon Kabat-Zinn writes this about breathing: "the breath is the current of life, connecting body and mind... it helps to have a focus for your attention, an anchor line to tether you to the present moment and to guide you back when the mind wanders, the breath serves this purpose."

Vietnamese Zen Master and author Thich Nhat Hanh has said that, in order to see into the mind (and gain insight), we must first calm it down. When we leverage the breath to this end, deep introspection is just the beginning. He believed that breath centered meditation can magnify our focus, increase our compassion, help awaken us to our true nature, and in time, with enough practice, even put us well down the path to enlightenment.

Why's the breath such an effective meditative tool?

Benefits Of Mindful Breathing

While we spend our lives on autopilot, distracted, tuned out, at the full mercy of our "superficial" 70,000 thought per day conscious mind - the breath is always there, nourishing our life force every moment of every day. Yet, instead of taking advantage of its ever present power, we ignore it.

And so in meditation, we observe the breath. We tune into it. We become at one with it. When we focus our full attention on the breath — a funny thing happens, we find that our busybody conscious mind takes a backseat, and our powerful (yet much quieter) subconscious mind runs the show. And instead of mindlessly reacting to the world around us, the breath allows us to calmly observe things from a much quieter, much deeper place. In this way, the breath serves as a powerful gateway into the present moment.

How do we use the breath in meditation?

The goal is to stay with the breath as best we can, for as long as we can. And so in our meditation practice, whenever we notice our mind "thinking," we simply recognize the content as "just another thought" (thereby letting said thought go), and we kindly, gently, and patiently return our attention to the breath.

And we do our best to not judge where the mind wanders off to or get frustrated at how many times it wanders off. Whether we catch ourselves daydreaming, worrying, replaying memories, making to do lists, or whatever - with infinite patience and understanding, we gently let our thought(s) go and we bring our attention back to the natural rhythm and flow of the breath. Again and again.

Benefits Of Breathing Meditation

And if half your meditation session flies by without being aware of the thinking mind, then no problem — that's part of the process. Simply go back to the breath.

Can the breath help rid the mind of anxiety and depression?

The truth is, everyone has difficult thoughts and feelings. That's part of being human. Rather than trying to banish negativity from the mind (which is a useless pursuit), meditation teaches us to handle things a little bit differently. How's that? In meditation we learn to recognize negative thoughts as like any other thought — thereby treating them as such.

And so, whenever a negative thought surfaces within the mind, no need to identify with it. We simply let it go, and return our attention to the present (with the breath serving as the most powerful gateway). Once all thoughts become equally important and equally unimportant, we become immune to the constant "push and pull" of the mind (including the negative stuff like anxiety and depression), and we reach a state of consciousness perfectly suited for handling life's many ups and downs.

What other benefits are associated with mindful breathing?

With links to relevant articles, using the breath in meditation can increase happiness, relieve insomnia, boost creativity, increase longevity, speed weight loss, help us reach subconscious mind mastery, strengthen immunity, relieve anxiety, alleviate depression, increase focus, strengthen intuition, and dramatically upgrade the brain — just to name a few benefits.

Benefits Of Mindful Breathing

Want to take it to a whole new level? The world famous "Iceman" Wim Hof, holder of over 25 Guinness world records, uses meditative breathing techniques to do incredible things, like climbing Mount Everest (wearing only shorts), "freezing" himself in ice for hours on end, running "barefoot" marathons in the Arctic Circle, and more. You can read more about him in this article.

In summary, if you want to tap into the limitless benefits of meditation, the breath is your greatest tool!

Read More: Like the breath, the sensations of the body can be used as a powerful meditation technique. Learn more in our detailed "How to Meditate" guide.

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