Meditation for us westerners is a thinking over. We withdraw to a quiet place and think about a problem, trying to solve it. The key aspect here is the lack of distractions. This will enable us to better focus on the problem. Being calm in a controlled environment, we will make a better use of our neocortex.
Mindful breathing is a kind of meditation in which we don’t focus on a problem, we focus on the breath. If the mind starts to wander, we bring the focus back to the breathing. But why? Isn’t breathing an activity that we supposed to master by now? Isn’t it involuntary most of the time?
Breathing is a proper parameter to show the state of the mind. We breathe long, deep and steady when we relax. We breathe short, coarse and irregular when we feel danger around. As we focus on the breathing, we tend to make it long, deep and steady. Our bodies relax as a result. When the body relaxes, the mind calms down. Because the mind is like an internal mirror for the external body.
As the mind relaxes, it is easier to control it and to understand it. You might realize that you are not your mind. That you are the solid, strong and quiet entity that observes the mind. The mind’s rhetoric and endless chatter seem to come from a child now. You can hear what it has to say. You check the suggestions, but you don’t attach to it. You don’t worry about it and you don’t take it to the heart.
This way, you can use the mind for what it is: an instrument to render this world. The mind is like a smart-phone. You can use it, or you can attach to it and see it like it is a part of you yourself, then suffer.
When you start with mindful breathing, it’s a good idea to practice in a quiet room, in front of a white wall. This way, you will only have internal distractions to deal with. But this is just beginner practice. You will benefit if you extend mindful breathing to other easy tasks. Try it when you wash dishes, walk, run or wait. The goal is to be mindful every moment.