Sit on the floor, legs crossed. (If this is uncomfortable you can sit in a chair. Those who are ill may do this exercise lying down.) Close your eyes or leave them open. Focus your attention on a spot on the abdomen along the body’s vertical midline.

As the abdomen expands during respiration, watch the movement with your mind, from beginning to end. When it contracts, do the same. Continue watching the abdominal motions, one after another, keeping your attention in the immediate present moment.

Rather than focusing on the breath or the abdomen’s shape, observe the motion itself, experienced as a tactile sensation of pressure. Breathe naturally and follow the movements lightly, keeping your mind on the surface of the abdomen. You don’t have to concentrate too hard. If you have difficulty perceiving the movements, put your hands on your stomach.

Don’t mentally link the motions to a body part by thinking “abdomen” (or to a self, thinking “mine”). Nor should you visualize the abdomen.

Empty your mind of all memories and thoughts. Forget everything except the single movement actually happening now. But don’t think about it; just know it. Know and let go.

To “know” means to experience something directly, with bare attention, without naming or conceptualizing it. When knowing, you refrain from mentally verbalizing the experience. However, since it’s difficult to do this at first, it can help to make a mental note of the movements. This is a temporary training aid to diminish distractions, and it should be discontinued when you’re able to observe the motions clearly without it. As the abdomen expands, say in your mind “rising.” When it contracts, say “falling.” The mental note should coincide with the movement and not be tagged on afterward.

When your mind wanders, just be aware it has wandered and then gently bring it back to the abdominal movements. You’ll have to do this hundreds of times, so be very patient and don’t judge yourself. Likewise, when a sound, smell, pain, thought, itch, emotion, or mental image appears and grabs your attention, be aware that it has arisen and then go back to the movements. Beginners can label these phenomena with a one-word mental note, such as “thinking,” “hearing,” and so on. Keep the notes very general and stop using them when no longer necessary.

Eventually during meditation you will begin to notice many other types of bare sense impressions the moment they occur.

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.

This article is only for Subscribers!

Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? .