Anapanasati: Breath Meditation for Anxiety

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Jacques Rousseau meditating

Jacques Rousseau meditating in the park at La Rochecordon

From the diverse, varied, and rich Theravada Buddhist tradition comes a form of meditation called Anapansati, or “mindfulness of breathing.” Firstly, what does it mean to be “mindful?” To be mindful is to be aware. In Anapansati, one is aware of the act of breathing: inhaling and exhaling. For the purpose of this article, we will ignore the deeper philosophic and esoteric themes of Anapansati in favor of examining its anti-anxiety benefits.

The historical tradition of Anapansati involved traveling into a forest and meditating beneath a tree. However, you do not need to venture into a forest or even sit in order to practice breath meditation. If you prefer, you may also walk. No particular position is necessary for practicing this form of meditation.

How to Practice Breath Meditation

To get started, it is helpful to count your inhalations, then exhalations. You may pick an arbitrary number on which to reset the count. The counting acts as an anchoring technique for your mind in order to prevent other thoughts from entering it. Ideally, you will eventually not need to use counting in order to be mindful of your breath.

Naturally, it is extremely difficult to prevent thoughts from entering the mind. A beginner to breath meditation will often have thoughts arise during the course of the meditation. The key is to simply return one’s thoughts back to one’s breath. Both beginner and expert practitioners encounter thoughts arising during meditation, so this refocusing is a fundamental part of Anapanasati.

Even a few minutes of meditation everyday can give you the space you need to reflect on your anxiety, calm your nerves, and allow you to create a retreat away from hectic modern life. Of course, there are many other forms of meditation, some of which we will examine in further depth in later articles.

Learn More about Anapansati

If you want to learn more about Anapansati, check out the following links:

How to Practice Anapana

Breathe, You Are Alive: The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing

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  1. […] the turmoil and stresses of daily life that we forget about something fundamental to our survival: breathing. I like to think of breathing as the ocean tide, coming in and going out. Whenever you feel a rush […]

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