These are some of the questions I get from my meditation students, and my answers.
“I’m not feeling the out-breath”
- Breath-in normally, then blow the air out of your nose forcefully enough to feel it.
- Breath-in normally & blow the air out forcefully to feel it but at half the force of the first time.
- Breath-in normally and breath-out normally and feel the air as it leaves the nostrils.
- Also, you can feel the contrast – what is there and what is missing during the out-breath that is (or is not) there during the in-breath. Focus on the difference – even if that difference is no sensation opposed to some sensation.
Eventually, you will notice more.
“Do I focus on the number, or the breath?”
& “When do we say the number?”
When you are getting distracted, I suggest counting your in-breaths (1-10).
Saying the number at the beginning of (or between) breaths and then focusing on the sensations for the rest of the breath means the number doesn’t get in the way of focusing on the object.
If you are gaining Engrossed Attention (where the effects of absorption cocoons your meditation from distractions at least slightly), you can let go of counting the breaths. The time to check is after three full rounds of 10 breaths (30 breaths). You then decide to let-go of counting, or carry on because the distractions have not subsided enough.
“When do we know we are ready to stop counting?”
& “Counting is a distraction”
Through training and experience we gain the knowledge of when to let go. We can judge, from previous experience, that we are ready (or not) to let go of the counting.
- A part of what we will use for our judgement is how absorbed we feel. For instance, can you feel your hands becoming less distinct, numb, or spacious?
- Another indicator could be: you feel counting is no longer helping to keep you focused but instead is becoming a distraction. Therefore, you feel you can let go of the counting and you will be more focused.
- Yet another indicator might be the length of your breath.
I’ve noticed (in my experience), there is a pattern to my breathing during meditation. It starts normal-ish as I begin to establish contact with the breath. It becomes irregular, as I observe it getting shorter, longer, deeper, or shallow, in no specific sequence. Then the breath becomes longer and regular (and this is the point where the breath may feel controlled even if you haven’t consciously decided to control it).
The gaps start appearing at each end of the in- and out-breath. The sensations appear shorter and the gap between breaths is more apparent, then the breath becomes less distinct as my breathing becomes more subtle.
It is when I want to let go of the regulation of the breath: that’s when I usually feel OK about letting go of the counting also.
“The gaps between breaths, is when I get distracted”
Recognise that when you can observe the gaps between breaths – especially when those gaps are long enough for you to be distracted within that time – you have made significant progress in your meditation.
You can use this gap for a few things:
- To focus more deeply on the object, being alert to when the in-breath starts.
- To say the number of the breath, or to add motivating words; e.g., “yes” or “more”.
- To relax your body and/or check your absorption.
“How long does it take to meditate?”
- As long as a piece of string. It depends upon many factors, such as preparation, a suitable place to sit, the correct coloured candles, noise levels, tiredness, feeling stressed or not…
What’s the SHORTEST amount of time to meditate?
- 1 hour; 30 minutes, 15 min, 10 min, 5 min, 3 min, 1 min, 30 seconds?
- EXPERIMENT (I do this in the classroom with students):
We need an assistant to watch the clock and add up times.
- When I say “NOW”, keep your eyes open and focus on the breath.
- Raise your hand once you “find the object” (the object is any sensation related to the breath). When all hands are up, I’ll ping the chime and you can put your hands down.
The assistant will write on board the number of seconds passed.
- When you have found the object, you continue focusing until you hear the second chime. Then I’d like you to check for any signs of absorption.
We will see how many people can meditate within the time limit.
When I say “NOW”, it only takes a moment to feel the sensations associated with the breath. As soon as you feel the object (the breath), you are meditating. Usually that takes under a second, but sometimes it takes 2-3 seconds.
It can take a minute of observing the breath before you notice the signs of engrossed absorption. Sometimes it can take longer, due to releasing stress. With training, it may take less than a minute sometimes. Feeling the effects of absorption is a major accomplishment and leads toward the more valuable and prized benefits of meditation.
There is no other requirement, or preparation, needed to meditate. Only that you are standing, sitting, or lying still, so you can put your full focus upon your meditation.
When you have had some experience with meditation, and gone up the steps to the higher levels, there are things that can trip you up. It may seem as if all that training was for nothing.
If you find yourself getting agitated about meditation, having doubts about the practice, feeling more anxious due to meditation, or start getting headaches – or anything else as a result of meditation – come and talk to me and we will work out what is going on and how to remedy it.
About the Author
Colin (Q.C. Ellis) has been on meditation retreats in silence and solitude for longer than some monks. He has been studying meditation for over 23 years.
Known as a meditation maverick, he teaches methods to awaken your body’s natural restorative abilities and fire up your inbuilt happiness.
Keeping it real and grounded in personal experience, he is a Transformation Coach, and founder of IntrAnaut™ Academy.
In person, Colin is approachable and would love to hear from you. For ways to connect, click HERE – ColinEllis.info
For additional resources, download his FREE mobile app – MeditationWellbeing.app