When meditating, you want to lightly, passively focus on a single thing to help clear your thoughts. This thing can be a simple thought, an object, the tip of your nose. It can be a sound, a word, a chant, a symbol. Or, it can be something as elementary as your breath. In fact, focusing on your breathing is one of the best ways to enter into and maintain a meditative state.
Entering meditation by counting your breaths is one of the simplest, most common and most effective meditative tools. To use your breathing to meditate easier and longer, just perform the following:
First, like in all meditation, you want to find a quiet place where you know you won’t be disturbed. You really want to get away from the ever-running flow of media and electronics, too. So shut off the computer and put it elsewhere. Turn off your phone and place it in another room. Above all, stay away from a TV. Television is intended to stimulate you and keep your attention jumping around; it’s not really an ideal meditative aid.
Once you’ve found a place to be that is quiet, private, and free from distraction, you want to sit down in a comfortable position. You can sit in a chair if you want, or a cushion on the floor if that works better. Just make sure you’re sitting somewhere comfortable where you can sit easily for the next twenty minutes. It’s hard to meditate and clear your mind if you are constantly adjusting your body. And finally, don’t feel like you have to twist yourself into a yoga-pretzel. Maybe those position aid in meditating, maybe they don’t. But if you’re just starting out and don’t have any clear and personal instructions about how to achieve those advanced positions, than you really shouldn’t stress out about them. Being stressed about trying to meditate perfectly isn’t a great way to relax into a trance state.
Now that you’re sitting comfortably in a quiet room, it’s time to start consciously breathing in a relaxed manner. Slow down your breathing and deepen it. Make sure you’re breathing into your stomach, giving your diaphragm free play to expand as it needs to. Try and fill your lungs up from the bottom first. Above all, just make sure you’re breathing in a deep, slow, relaxed manner.
Once you are breathing properly and comfortably, start to focus on your breath. As you inhale, count to one. Exhale slowly, now inhale again and count to two. Count silently to yourself, and don’t stress out about it. Try to make it to ten while maintaining your focus. If you lose focus or lose count, simply start over at one without making a big deal out of it. The number is nothing more than an object to maintain your focus on, it isn’t important in and of itself.
Continue practicing this exercise for about twenty minutes. There’s no competition here, there’s no real way to keep score, so just set a timer, do your best, and come out of trance when the timer goes off. The exercise works better if you can practice it multiple times a day, especially when you’re first learning and improving.