“Following the breath” is an introductory qigong breathing meditation practice that will help you achieve a tranquil breath and it will help quiet the monkey mind. With regular practice, this for of mindfulness meditation can help lower high blood pressure and reduce stress. There are many other health conditions that improve with regular meditation practice, particularly autoimmune disorders. Do this practice in the morning when you get up, during the middle of the day (if you have time) and before you go to bed. The duration of the practice should be at least 15 minutes to get the health benefits. Some teachers recommend 20 minutes or more per sitting. You can use a timer to help you to determine when to stop the practice.
No, you don’t have to sitting in an uncomfortable yoga posture to do Taoist meditation, although some do. I don’t recommend it as it can cut off the circulation in your legs. In this Taoist sitting posture, the buttocks are placed on the forward 1/3 of the chair and the spine is erect and is lengthened from the waist up. There is a slight tuck of the hips forward. The head is held as if suspended by a wire from the heavens above, and it is tilted slightly downward to help open up the occipital region at the top of the spine where the head connects. The feet are placed parallel on the floor directly below the knees. The hands can either rest on the thighs, palms down, or they can be folded palms up in the lap.
Staying with the Breath
The practice is simple in theory: just follow the breath going in and out of the nose. However, you will notice that your attention will wander to visit discomforts or various sensations in the body (and there are an infinite number of these), or you will have thousand thoughts that keep you from watching the breath. As in mindfulness meditation practices, you just simply bring your attention back to the breath as it goes in and out of your nose.
Maintain gentleness with yourself in training. This is of key importance. There is no striving and there are no goals. Equally important is that you do not interfere with your breathing patterns. You let yourself breathe naturally without any conscious intervention. If you find yourself changing your breathing, however, you should just let go and return to simple attention. The letting go of thoughts, distracting sensations, and conscious control are part of the practice of returning to the breath.
As a meditation session progresses, you will perhaps notice that yourself slouching, especially if you become sleepy. Sleepiness is another distraction, so just correct your posture if you notice it has become compromised in any way and then go back to following the breath. Keep practicing until the timer goes off.
Finishing the Meditation
At the end of the practice, you will want to go gently back to the world. Do not immediately start with aerobic exercises, for instance. Walking is good, but start off slowly and later you can gradually step up the pace. You want to carry the feeling of relaxed consciousness into your day. If you are practicing before you go to bed, this meditation will help you get a sound night’s sleep.
Other Qigong Breathing Meditations
There are many other breath practices that are available, such as training in dissolving of blockages with the breath, normal and reverse abdominal breathing methods and embryonic breathing. There is an excellent post on the stages of normal abdominal breathing in the Qigong Healing WordPress blog. Reverse abdominal breathing and embryonic breathing are practices that are learned later in one’s practice. More on those later….. Until then, practice!.