If someone tells you that meditation involves clearing your mind, it can be difficult to begin. How do you clear your mind, exactly? If, like most people, trying to think about nothing just leads to more thinking, then you can feel less than encouraged as soon as you begin. If you focus on something like the breath, however, your thoughts will more easily fade.
There’s a reason why so many meditative practices involve your breathing. It’s a strange thing. Unlike your heart rate, you can quickly and easily control your breath. If you don’t consciously control it, though, your unconscious mind takes over and breaths for you.
You can think of your breathing – its rate and depth – as being the product of conscious and unconscious thinking. It’s a bridge between two minds. Since meditation is all about relinquishing conscious control to your unconscious mind, it’s a great place to start.
Even if you simply observe your breathing, you will learn more about yourself than most people do. Your body needs fresh, clean air – and more of it during a crisis. If you notice that you are gulping down oxygen, then your body is stressed. You might feel fine, probably because you’ve felt this way for a while, but you are burning yourself out.
If your breathing is slow, deep and steady, then it means you are relaxed. Your body isn’t aiming for a quick hit but is instead making sure that each part of you receives the oxygen that it needs.
This process works both ways. Just as your state of mind influences your breathing, so does your breathing influence your state of mind. Don’t think about its current rate or depth. If you want to relax and go into a meditative trance, then slow and deepen your breathing a little bit. Even a small change tells your inner mind that you are in a relaxed state.
Focusing on your breathing gives your mind something to do. If you are new to meditation (or even quite experienced) this will help. Thinking about nothing often leads to thinking about how you are thinking about nothing, which isn’t helpful. But if you let your breath occupy your full attention, you can clear your thoughts and relax your body at the same time.
If you ever feel bored while paying attention to your breathing, then you’re not really paying attention. Take a moment to breath in and out through your nose. Notice the feel of each inhale and exhale around your nostrils. Focus on the subtle differences with each cycle.
It doesn’t take long before you are heading into a meditative state.
Focusing on your breathing is important for self-hypnosis too. It’s one of many techniques to enter a trance state and stabilise it. From there, you can do whatever you came for, whether that’s access a creative state, relax or simply have fun.