Meditation Technique: Noting

Meditation Technique: Noting

Last week we explored a foundational exercise for starting a new meditation practice. When you are feeling more comfortable with meditation overall, you can start experimenting to see what other meditations can feel like for you. Today’s particular meditation is a simple way to find focus any time in your day when you feel scattered, anxious, or ungrounded. You can practice this technique for anywhere from one minute to one hour or more, depending on how much time you have and how much previous practice you have under your belt.

As mentioned last week, basic meditation is about honing your concentration, and in this particular technique the object of your concentration is your breath. The thing that is unique about this type of meditation is that you’re going to engage your conscious mind to take note of what you are focusing on as well as what shows up to distract you.

To set up for this meditation, find a comfortable position sitting or standing. Lying down is a good way to fall asleep, so you may want to avoid lying down unless you’re prepared to sleep for a little while at least. If you’re standing, plant both feet on the ground evenly and find a central point of balance where your weight is even from side to side and from the ball to the heel of each foot. If you’d like to sit, find a chair or a comfortable place on the ground and sit with your legs straight or cross-legged.

Whether you’re sitting or standing, try to stack your rib cage directly over your hips and relax your shoulders. If you’re in a space where you can close your eyes and you’re comfortable doing so, go ahead; otherwise, keep your gaze soft and unfocused.

Start by taking several deep breaths, letting each inhale be a little deeper than the one that came before it. On your exhales, let go of as much air as you can without force.

Then, on your inhale, say the word “breath” to yourself. On the exhale, repeat the same word, “breath.” The entirety of this meditation might be a repetition of the word “breath” for several minutes as you allow your inhales and exhales to stay soft and long.

If a stray thought tries to carry you away, once you notice that you’re distracted, note that occurrence as “thought.” Imagine that thought as a stray cloud drifting across the sky, and let it pass. Each time a thought interrupts your focus, label it “thought” and let it softly pass by.  

If a sensation distracts you – an itch, a discomfort, feelings of warmth or coolness, or any stray aroma passing by – label it as “sensation” and then let it go. Like thoughts, imagine your sensations are bounded and temporary and let them pass. Of course, if pain appears, adjust yourself as needed! The point of this meditation is not to sit through physically painful circumstances. 

Every time you notice yourself distracted by thoughts or sensations, label them and return to breath. Occasionally a breath will sound like this in your mind: “breath-thought-sensation-thought-sensation-breath,” and that’s okay. With practice, your mind will eventually let the thoughts and sensations pass by without noticing them, and you’ll be able to maintain focus on just your breath.

Practice this for as long as you are comfortable, or as long as you can fit into your day. One minute is a victory! You may also find that keeping short journal entries of the success or challenges of your meditation practice helps keep you focused on your long-term mindfulness goals. Happy practicing!