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Monday, February 27, 2012

Focused attention-- abdominal movement

Maintaining attention to the abdominal movement as you breathe develops your powers of concentration.  It is also inherently calming.  You breathe without thinking about it at all, and in this practice, you do not make any effort to control your breathing.  You breathe naturally, in other words.

The first step is to become acquainted with the abdominal movement if you are not already.  Lie down and put a hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen.  See which hand moves more as you breathe.  If your chest moves more than your abdomen, don't worry.  The abdominal movement will become more prominent as you relax.

It is best to do the meditation sitting up in a comfortable position, either on the floor on a cushion, or on a comfortable chair.  You should sit in an erect fashion.  However, if you have pain issues and can't sit comfortably, it is fine to lie down provided you don't fall asleep.

With your eyes closed, sense the movement as you breathe.  Remember, try to avoid interfering with the natural breath.  Try to sense the movement in all its phases, from the beginning to the end.  Notice the feelings of expansion and contraction and the pauses in between the movements.  It helps to label the movement, silently to yourself, "rising" as the abdomen expands and "falling" as the abdomen contracts.

Now, in short order, your mind will probably wander.  You notice that you are no longer focused on the abdominal movement, but you are paying attention to a sound, thinking about what you have to do, or feeling an unpleasant sensation in your body.  As soon as you realize that your mind has wandered, acknowledge it, label it "wandering," and, when you have regained control of your attention, gently lead it back to the abdominal movement.

You may find yourself wandering a great deal.  Not to worry.  What is important is that you notice the wandering.  By doing so you are developing greater skills in monitoring your attention.  There is no need to beat yourself up over all the wandering.  What is important is that you notice it.  Congratulate yourself on being mindful!

As you practice this simple form of meditation, you will gain in concentration, become more tranquil, and develop your attention monitoring skills.  When you are able to pick up the wandering almost as soon as it starts, you no longer are really wandering.  At that point, you are ready to move on to open monitoring meditation, which I will discuss in a future post.

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