The Foundation of Mindfulness: Breathe, Notice, and Allow

Breathing is something that our bodies do naturally, pretty much all the time. The breath is used as the point of concentration for many forms of meditation. If you think about it, the breath is kind of a microcosm of creation. That is, the breath starts from emptiness at the bottom of the breath, then the breath begins. We are “inspired,” literally, as inspiration means to breathe in. Something has been created from nothing. The breath rises to its peak, then falls and returns to the void. Everything in nature, including our own lives, happens this way. It’s a cycle of emerging or creation from the void, rising up, peaking, and falling back into the void. I think the bottom of the outbreath is a particular interesting point of concentration in meditation.

A simple, powerful practice is to notice your breath, then notice body sensations, and just allow that to be just as it is in the moment. Then take the next breath. This simple practice is the quickest way I know to bring yourself present in the moment. And unless you are dissociating, the body always tells the truth about what is happening right now. Sometimes this has to do with our experience of emotions, which is a topic for another time. The “allow” step is important, as it is an opportunity to practice equanimity with every breath. Equanimity, or “allowingness,” is a quality of just acknowledging and accepting what is so in the moment, without resistance or judgment. Some speak of this as “creating space,” a quality of spaciousness. There is a loosening, a surrender, a flow. There is no resistance, no grasping, no friction. We flow with the river.

It is not necessary to sit in meditation for long periods of time to do this practice. In any given moment, we can simply breathe, notice what is happening, and allow it to be just as it is. There are many ways to remind ourselves to do this during our busy days. I have two personal favorites. One is a crystal clear polished stone that I carry in my right front pocket. It is literally my touch stone. Every time I reach there, I breathe, notice, and allow. My other favorite is “Thank you.” Any time I hear, or read, or hear myself say, “Thank you,” I breathe, notice, and allow.

In short, this simple practice, the practice of breath awareness, noticing of body sensations, and allowing our experience to be just as it is with every breath, is the foundation of mindfulness. Very simple, very powerful. All other mindfulness practices are built upon this foundation.