Full Awareness of Breathing

Discover the soothing power of this mindful breathing exercise.

Photo by Adobe Stock/Negura Dincolo. 

Excerpted from Pause, Breathe, Smile: Awakening Mindfulness When Meditation Is Not Enough, by Gary Gach. Sounds True, 2018. Reprinted with permission. 

In the heritage of mindfulness, there’s a foundational meditation practice. While it comes to us from across two-and-a-half millennia, it’s still flower-fresh. It’s called Full Awareness of Breathing. Please note: This isn’t about taking deep, full breaths, as in yoga. Rather, it’s about full awareness: grounded in the present moment, living fully. How? By centering our awareness on our breathing.

Full Awareness of Breathing is practiced by millions around the planet, in Zen, mindfulness, and other traditions. Our version has been handcrafted by Thich Nhat Hanh. If a Pause, Breathe, Smile makes up a fifty-second meditation, Full Awareness of Breathing can form the basis for an in-depth, formal meditation. Beginners often struggle to sit still for more than five or ten minutes. Here, spending four minutes on each phase, you have a twenty-minute meditation; a done deal. It can be practiced even longer, for forty minutes or for hours. Once you are familiar with it, you can do a speed-through in just a few minutes. It can be accessed at home alone or with a facilitator in a group — or right now, breathing and reading.

The setup is akin to the mindfulness verses. We focus our breath and full awareness on pairs of images, with each line summed up by a key word. For example:

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.         [ in ]

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