Our mind has a tendency to brood over the past and slip into the future. This is the reason people are sad and worried most of the time. It brings up a chain of negative thoughts to our mind and when we emotionally react to these thoughts; our body feels drained and fatigued.
We seldom enjoy life as we either stay in the past or future; hardly ever in the present moment. The best way to be in the present is to put your awareness in your breath. As one always breathes in the present, never in the past or the future; this awareness will help you remain in the present moment.
Practicing Awareness By Buddhist Meditation
There is a well-known Buddhist Meditation called Annapaan, where you just observe your normal breathing process. Sit in any relaxed position with your body and spine erect. Take a few deep breaths to move your diaphragm, which will relax your body. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. To do this, first bring your awareness on the inside of your nostrils, and feel a touch of cool air while inhaling. Then focus your awareness on the upper lip and feel a warm air touching it. Try to concentrate completely on inhalation and exhalation. When your mind is completely focused on observing the beginning and the end of inhalation and exhalation, it will lose connection with the past or future. You will not get other thoughts because the mind can only do one thing at a time. So, if your mind is busy observing the breath, other thoughts just disappear.
The objective of all meditations is to bring down the number of thoughts. If there are no thoughts, there will be no judgment and reactions. Your mind will be calm and still. Sometimes, while focusing on the breath, your mind may drift, and thoughts may appear. Don’t worry, just acknowledge these thoughts, and bring your mind back to the breathing. With practice, the thoughts will soon lessen and the mind will experience a calm and quiet state of mind.
Initially, many people find it hard to focus on the breath continuously because of a wandering mind. A simple way is to count the number of breaths you take. Try the countdown method from 10 to 1 and not from 1 to 10. This is because counting upwards sometimes feels stressful, while countdown is always relaxing. Once you are comfortable with 10 to 1, try counting from 20 downwards. Slowly, with practice you will be able to focus on your breath, quite effortlessly.
In the beginning, try meditating on your breath just for five to ten minutes, and slowly increase the duration to 30 minutes. Not only while meditating, you can also try bringing your awareness on the breath, with your eyes open. You can keep your awareness while doing some routine work at home, which does not require much focus. After several months, the awareness will start coming on its own, without taking much effort. You will start enjoying any work you do.
But the real challenge is, how to keep your mind on breathing during the day, when you get a wave of negative thoughts. Here’s my example: I used to meditate every morning and focus on my breath. As long as my mind was focused on some work, it was fine, but in between when I sat idle, many negative thoughts started to flood my mind. Whenever I got upset, there were more negative thoughts, and I started reacting to them. After few months of Breathing Meditation and regular practice, I managed to take command of my awareness, and put a stop to the stream of thoughts, and my mind became quiet and calm.
Anchoring Your Breath Awareness
There is a scientific tool you can use to bring your mind to breathing easily. If you anchor your breath awareness to some physical action or gesture, it will be much easier to bring your awareness to the breath. This is based on the Principles of Neurolinguistic Association (NLP). I practiced it myself, and this is how it worked.
When you do regular Breathing Meditation every morning, you can use these hand gestures called Chin Mudra or Gyan Mudra – Join the index finger with the thumb in both hands and let the soft part of your fingertips touch each other. You must have observed many spiritual people use this gesture while meditating. The spiritual relevance is that the index finger symbolizes ego which brings arrogance; this is why we use the index finger to point at others. The thumb, on the other hand, symbolizes Universe or Cosmic Intelligence. Therefore, when you join the index finger with the thumb, you are surrendering your ego into the Universe, and, by doing so, you will become complete or whole. This gesture connects you with the Universe and you will be logged on to the Higher Intelligence.
When you regularly practice your awareness through this gesture, your brain will develop neuronal connections between Breathing and the Gesture. Later on, whenever you make this gesture, you will find your awareness will automatically reset itself to the breathing. This is a kind of positive conditioning you can develop over a period of time, which will keep you aware of your breath, and you will stay more in the present moment.