Mindful Breathing Meditation

“Meditation is to be aware of every thought and of every feeling, never to say it is right or wrong, but just to watch it and move with it. In that watching, you begin to understand the whole movement of thought and feeling. And out of this awareness comes silence”
Quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti

Breathing provides us with a unique opportunity for healing because breath is something that is with us all the time, every moment. It does not matter whether we are awake or asleep, working or sitting, lying down or doing something active—the opportunity to train in and be aware of breath is always with us when practicing mindful breathing meditation.

When we speak of breath we are speaking of the ordinary inhalation and exhalation of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Breath is physiological and psychological conditioned behavior and a voluntary action. It is a dynamic, multifaceted and vital function of the body. Physiologically, breathing occurs automatically based upon the metabolic demands of the body. Breath is also influenced by our psychological condition, our perceptions and emotions. We each have a particular emotional temperament, which may be influenced by genetics, our family environment and our life experiences. Because of these variables our breathing rate, depth and quality change in reaction to emotions. When we think about something in the past that upsets us or anticipate something exciting in the future or experience a challenging situation in the moment. The voluntary control of breathing is an important and unique characteristic of the body. What other visceral functions are we able to directly control? None! We can hold our breath or breathe faster or slower at any time by choice. Why does this control matter? It matters because breathing is the link between our inner and outer experiences, we take air from the outside world into the body with every inhalation.

When we are at rest, abdominal breathing is generally considered the healthiest pattern. Abdominal breathing primarily relies upon the contraction and relaxation of the muscle beneath the lungs called the diaphragm. The diaphragm pulls air into the lower part of the lungs. However, when our bodies need more oxygen, such as during strenuous exercise, our body may involuntarily supplement abdominal breathing with thoracic breathing. In thoracic breathing, air is pulled into the upper part of the lungs. As the name suggests, thoracic breathing comes from the accessory breathing muscles in the upper chest and rib cage rather than the diaphragm. Thoracic breathing is shallower and faster than abdominal breathing and often includes active or forced exhalation. The passive relaxation of the diaphragm is accompanied by active contraction of additional muscles that forces the air out of the lungs, rather than simply allowing the diaphragm to relax, as during abdominal breathing. In other words, in thoracic breathing, we are contracting muscles to exhale, rather than just allowing a contracted muscle to relax. To experience these two styles of breathing, try these mindful breathing meditation techniques: Place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your heart. Now take a deep breath. Did you feel your rib cage elevate and expand? That is thoracic breathing (exaggerated by the deep inhalation). Now take in a deep breath but concentrate on not moving your rib cage. Instead, slightly push your stomach out into your hand. Try to breathe so that the hand placed over your heart does not move. This is an abdominal breathing technique. Repeat this a few times, exploring the subtleties of the muscle groups working, until you can feel the difference.

If we examine the body and mind carefully, we notice a connection between breath and how we feel. When your breath is calm and relaxed, you can notice that the body’s energy is also calm, especially in the areas of the abdomen, lungs and chest. As a result, the mind becomes clear and we feel relaxed and even-tempered after undertaking mindful breathing meditation exercises. We feel that we can take things as they come and that we are capable of dealing with whatever life brings us. On the other hand, when we are emotionally upset, we may notice that we breathe harder and faster, or that we are unable to inhale deeply and exhale fully. We notice a sense of pain, heaviness, or dullness in the abdomen and chest area, or even throughout the whole body, and that the mind is agitated by thoughts or overpowered by emotion. This overpowering energy manifests in all sorts of neurotic ways, such as depression, obsession, fear of intimacy, fear of trust, or feelings of grandiosity or inadequacy. Research has associated breathing patterns with specific emotional states —and it has also shown that we can influence our emotions by the way we breathe. In addition, Western medicine connects our psychological state with respiratory alkalosis. Respiratory alkalosis is associated with a lower pain threshold, with feelings of discomfort and agitation, and with imbalances such as anxiety and fatigue —all the result of less efficient oxygen delivery to the tissues and organs, including the brain.

The Positive Effect of Mindful Breathing Meditation

Western science and Buddhist philosophy agree that calm, relaxed breathing makes us healthier. Because to breathe is such an excellent and abundant support for life and vitality for every being on the planet. Everyone can benefit from training in how to breathe, working with the inhalation and exhalation. We have shown how breath is the main support for life, also why practicing is essential for achieving peace of mind for oneself, which further enables us to help and support those around us thanks to mindful breathing meditation. Finally, we have said that it is through training our energy that we can heal and release all physical and mental suffering completely. Ultimately, this is the experience of realization. It is said in the Buddhist teachings that there is no human being who does not wish for happiness, but among all those beings who are wishing for happiness, it is extremely rare to meet a person who actually knows how to find it. From the point of view of the Buddhist scriptures, an ordinary healthy being takes about 21,600 breaths in a twenty-four-hour period. Western medicine also says that the average number of breaths per day is around 21,000. If we practice mindfulness and appreciate breath training, we have an incredible number of opportunities to balance the body and mind every day. When we recognize the opportunity that training provides, we give ourselves a gift, the opportunity to transcend ordinary suffering.

A positive effect of practicing mindful breathing meditation is that the number of times we need to breathe in one day lessens. We may notice this when we sit down to meditate and become mindful our breath, there will be gaps of time where we do not need to breathe. In the case of accomplished or realized practitioners who have trained in any style of breath practice from one of the traditions of Asia, including Qigong, Tai Chi, and Yantra Yoga, the number of breaths taken in one hour can become very few. The result of such practice is clarity and peace of mind, and unshakable physical health. Why is this? Western medicine answers this question in part by noting that ill people need to breathe more often than healthy ones.

When we have the qualities of calm and relaxation in body, speech and mind, we are able to accomplish more and with better-designed plans. We make clear and thoughtful decisions and have more harmonious relationships. We avoid doing things that are at odds with our personal goals and integrity, and do not sabotage our own growth. We avoid making impulsive decisions or speaking impulsive words, ones we may regret later. When we lack chaos on the inside the world outside reflects our sense of inner harmony thanks to the wonderful practice of mindful breathing meditation.

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Zen Guided Meditation

Zen Guided Meditation Mind & Body Relaxation

Play & Download Guided Meditations for Relaxation, Inner Peace & Sleep

Lay down comfortably and listen to our unique Zen guided meditation that will walks you through a meditation to help you attain a relaxed body and a peaceful mind, guided by a soothing voice. Our complex brain does not make a difference between real or imagined events so what you are experiencing lying on your back is to your brain like having a real-life experience. When we experience something in life new neural pathways are created in the brain and this information is passed to the mind´s subconscious levels for possible future use. So, when we imagine something our brain perceives that imagination as an actual experience. You are literally rewiring your mind to form new neural pathways for your future well-being and success.Read More

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Free Zen Music

Free Zen Music for Relaxation, Meditation and Sleep

Download Free Zen Music

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At RelaxingZenMusic.com you can download free Zen music, peaceful mp3 music for meditation, relaxation and sleep. We offer you the best and most calming and relaxing Zen music downloads, you can use it for recreation, healing and spiritual practice. Enjoy our free music downloads for yoga and Zen meditation, let the subtle peaceful sounds with binaural beats, that is theta brain waves, take you to a higher state of consciousness.Read More

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Benefits of Zen Meditation

“The practice of Zen is forgetting the self in the act of uniting with something.”
Koun Yamada

Many meditators have over the years benefited both mentally and physically a great deal by practicing Meditation regularly, transforming themselves by reaching different realms and having profound insights. Other incredible benefits of Zen meditation are that it helps to reduce high levels of stress and anxiety, it also brings down the frequency of panic attacks. Meditation improves the production of serotonin a vital hormone for happiness, otherwise low serotonin levels can cause depression, insomnia and obesity. Sleep much deeper and longer thanks to Zen meditation practice, a peaceful night of sleep is essential for the body, it is during sleep when the body heal itself. Strengthen your immune system with the help of meditation, studies conducted in this field have shown that meditation helps to greatly improve the immune system. And a better immune system means that you will fall sick less often due to minor infections and ailments like common cold, flu etcetera. Regular Zen practice can also help to reduce the sensation of pain and the sensitivity to it, because during Zen practice the meditator learns how to cope with pain and other sensations.


Benefits of Zen MeditationThere are even more amazing health benefits of Zen practice. Zen meditation improves your posture, as the practice helps you strengthen your back muscles. Many of us today suffers from a bad back, probably because of long hours spent in front of computers and driving cars. Meditation will make the body stronger and more flexible by aligning the muscles of the spine. It also helps to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen. A strong body core protects the back from both pain and strain and an improved posture improves the overall strength of the body, making the meditator appear taller. The way you think changes for the better thanks to Zen practice, this can help you to get rid of any addiction you might have. Addiction is a form of attachment to something, like the attachment to fear, or loss, or longing, and with Meditation you can overcome these attachments and fears and concentrate on your purpose in life. Practicing Zen meditation daily improves the vascular system as well, it helps to lower the heart rate and improve your blood circulation, both of which also contributes to a healthier body making you look younger and feel better. Just imagen all those old Buddhist monks with their loving smiles and how youthful they all look, thanks to the incredible benefits of Zen Meditation.

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How to Practice Zen Meditation

By simply sitting, without looking for any goal or any personal benefit, if your posture, your breathing and your state of mind are in harmony, you will understand the true Zen; you will understand the Buddha’s nature.
Taisen Deshimaru

The Lotus Posture

Zen Meditation is an ancient Buddhist tradition from the 7th century China, and it spread Japan and other neighboring countries where it is still practiced. There are many different ways to meditation, here we will show you the traditional way to practice Zen meditation or by its Japanese name Zazen. Conventionally, only the full lotus position or the half lotus position is used during meditation. Choose a room that is peaceful and silent and make sure that you are not disturbed during your meditation practice, the room should be cool, that is not too cold or too warm. To do the half lotus position you put either foot on top of the opposite thigh, and place the other foot on the floor underneath the other thigh. The full lotus position is done by putting each foot on the opposite thigh with the line of the toes matching the outer line of the thighs, as seen on the image. If the lotus postures are not possible for you to do, you could sit on a chair or on a cushion, whatever is the most comfortable for you.

The postures might feel uncomfortable for a beginner but keep practicing and your legs will become more flexible and you will find the lotus position to be relatively comfortable after a while. Most important with the lotus posture in Zen Meditation is to keep the body upright, the spine should be erect like a stack of coins, and balanced, that is not leaning forward or backwards nor leaning right or left.  Do not be too relaxed or too tense when sitting in any of the positions. Your mouth should be closed, and the tongue should be placed at the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth. The eyes are traditionally kept open during Zen practice, this is to prevent you from daydreaming or becoming too tired to continue. Your eyes should not focus on anything in particular, they will after a while rest in the right position, with the eyelids half open and half closed. The cosmic mudra is the name for the hand position which is the same for the lotus postures in meditation. The palms should be turned upwards toward the sky, the left hand is placed on the right one. The tip of the thumps touching each other forming a bridge as seen on the image. Keep the wrists, arms and shoulders relaxed.

The State of Mind and Breath

Breathing is an essential part of Zen meditation practice. Traditionally, correct breathing is only achieved through one of the lotus postures. You should breathe gently through the nose and the mouth should be kept closed during Zen practice. During breathing try to establish a calm, long and deep natural rhythm. Your focus should be on exhalation while inhalation is done naturally.

Having the right state of mind is fundamental during Zen meditation practice, the correct mindset comes naturally from a deep concentration on the breathing and posture. During meditation it is common to have thoughts, images and feelings bubbling up to the surface from the subconscious mind. You should only watch them as they come up, do not fight, escape or pursue them, the more attention you give them or trying to get rid of them the stronger they become. Watch them like you would watch clouds in the sky, without judgment or attachment.  As soon you catch yourself interacting with thoughts, you should immediately bring back your attention to breath and posture. After practicing for a while your thoughts during mediation will become less and less, and your mind will settle down naturally.

Now you are ready to start your practice, to avoid any distractions we recommended that you practice facing a wall, as traditionally one would do in a monastery. Position yourself a meter or so away from the wall, not focusing on some point on the wall. Once you are sitting in full lotus or taken the position that is the most comfortable for you, you should take a few deep breaths through the nose. Next, place your palms in a prayer position and bow a few seconds as a sign of respect for the Buddha and the teachings of the Enlighten one. Finally, place your hands in the correct position as mentioned above, keep your neck and back straight and start your meditation practice. In the beginning we advise you to practice for 20 to 30 minutes. Once you have finished your practice remain on your position calmly and quietly for a few minutes, don’t hurry up. Try not to talk for a moment after completing your Zen meditation practice.

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