How to Practice Breathing Meditation

Meditation teacher Diana Winston and researcher Susan Smalley address some of the most common concerns that come up when people first try mindful breathing meditation.

Adobe Stock/ Drobot Dean

Most people struggle when they first start breathing meditation. Here are some of the most common difficulties that arise and ways of working with them.

What if the breath is difficult for me to find or it’s not neutral? 

Most people discover that breathing is a good, reliable neutral anchor for them to use in meditation, but a few people find that paying attention to their breathing can make them uncomfortable, even anxious. Others worry that they start to control their breathing when they focus on it (more on this later).

If you prefer not to focus on the breath, there are other anchors you can use in meditation. Some people use sounds or their bodily sensations. In the beginning, try breathing meditation, using your breath as an anchor, for a few weeks and if it doesn’t work for you, feel free to experiment with other anchors. 

Most people who prefer not to follow their breathing use sound as an anchor. To do this, simply pay attention to the sounds around you. Let the sounds come and go, in and out of your awareness. Don’t try to figure out the source of the sounds or make…