To begin, assume a position that supports your ability to be awake and alert as well as comfortable. Gently close your eyes and bring awareness to sound. Let yourself receive what you are hearing, and notice what comes without striving to make something happen. You may hear sounds in the room or sounds outside the room, or no sounds at all. Simply listen and notice how the sounds you hear change from moment to moment.
When you feel ready, you can let your attention shift to your breathing. If you like, you can put your hands on your belly and feel it as it rises with the in breath and falls with the out breath. Really feel each breath as it enters and leaves the body. Notice its rhythm and explore its length and depth, observing how it changes in response to a thought or feeling. Notice the way you are breathing, through your mouth or the nose, or maybe a little of both. There may be a tendency to want to change how you are breathing, but we are practicing allowing ourselves to accept whatever is happening and noticing that moment by moment things change. The breath changes and you change. Nothing stays the same, yet there is constancy. The breath reminds us that we are here and alive: let it be your anchor to the present moment.
If you like, as you breathe in, knowing you’re breathing in, you can imagine that you’re breathing in health and vitality. On the out breath, knowing you’re breathing out, you can imagine you’re releasing toxins along with any worries or fears that you’d like to let go. Notice all you can about the breath, staying with it as it comes in and as it goes out.
If physical sensations are strong, they will capture your attention; you can breathe with them, sending care and compassion to the sensation as you notice it. Inhale, breathing in oxygen and nutrients and sending them to any part of the body that needs them, especially to any areas that are particularly sensitive. Breathe out, releasing any tension or tightness that you may notice. Breathe with the sensation, softening into it and noticing how it changes, calming yourself as enter into it with your breath. Observe what arises, with kindness, without judging any reactions you may be experiencing and letting each moment be a new one to enter afresh.
If you become aware that you are thinking, you can label it, “thought” and gently but firmly return your attention to the breath. It is normal for your mind to wander. Simply notice what captures your attention and bring it back. If it’s helpful you can imagine that you’re in a glass-bottomed boat, observing fish as they swim through the water, or observing clouds moving through a vast sky on a clear day.
Be in harmony with each breath, each moment, and know that in giving yourself this time to develop awareness and a steadiness of attention you are nourishing spirit, head and heart. Let it be an adventure, and in the silence and the stillness that comes with practice you’ll discover wonders here for you, now.
From the forthcoming book Here for Now: Living Well with Cancer through Mindfulness, by Elana Rosenbaum, M.S., LICSW.