This is one of the simplest and best concentration exercises which anyone can practise anywhere, anytime.
Sit so that the spine is straight, yet relaxed. Close your eyes and focus only on your breath.
Choose a number that you can comfortably count to with each breath. Count up to this number slowly as you breathe in – hold your breath for two counts in the same rhythm – then count slowly to the same number as you exhale. Continue for 5 to 10 minutes, banishing all thoughts and distractions.
The purpose of the counting is to focus and anchor the mind.
To help focus on the counting, imagine that each number is “larger than life” – picture gigantic numbers being projected onto a massive movie theatre screen or up into the sky, all in different bold colours and designs. Or hear the numbers being called out in a resonant voice inside a vast cave.
Make it a game: try anything new and fun to help keep the numbers the exclusive focus of your attention. If you can be enthralled and fascinated by the numbers, then you will be less susceptible to the charm of other uninvited thoughts.
If you find yourself becoming distracted by thoughts or sounds, don’t be disheartened – simply make a fresh start, return to One and start counting again with renewed enthusiasm, determination and commitment. It is quite normal to have to start again several times in the course of a 5-minute session.
This exercise fulfils three prerequisites for meditation. It:
- relaxes us physically;
- brings calm and ultimately stillness to the mind;
- as our breath goes from outside to inside, our consciousness is turned from the outer to the inner.
We are now at the shore of the meditation-ocean, ready to dive in.