Day 2 Afternoon Meditation: Gathering Your Energy, with Sharon Salzberg

Practice strengthening your ability to concentrate so you can empower yourself to stop wasting energy and attention.

This classic meditation practice is designed to strengthen the force of concentration. If you consider how scattered, how distracted, how out of the moment we may ordinarily be, you can see the benefit of gathering our attention and our energy. All of that energy could be available to us but usually isn’t because we throw it away into distraction. We gather all of that attention and energy to become integrated, to have a center, to not be so fragmented and torn apart, to be empowered.

In this system, the breath we focus on is the normal flow of the in and out breath. We don’t try to make the breath deeper or different, we simply encounter it however it’s appearing, and however it’s changing.

Gathering Your Energy

A Meditation to Gather Your Energy

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1. To begin with, you can sit comfortably and relax. You don’t have to feel self-conscious, as though you are about to do something special or weird. Just be at ease. It helps if your back can be straight, without being strained or overarched. You can close your eyes or not, however you feel comfortable. Notice where the feeling of the breath is most predominant—at the nostrils, at the chest, or at the abdomen. Rest your attention lightly, in just that area.

2. See if you can feel just one breath, from the beginning through the middle, to the end. If you’re with the breath at the nostrils, you may notice tingling, vibration, warmth, coolness. If at the abdomen it may be movement, pressure, stretching, release. You don’t have to name them, but feel them. It’s just one breath.

3. Notice what arises. And if images or sounds, emotions, sensations arise, but they’re not strong enough to actually take you away from the feeling of the breath, just let them flow on by. You don’t have to follow after them, you don’t have to attack them, you’re breathing. It’s like seeing a friend in a crowd, you don’t have to shove everyone else aside or make them go away, but your enthusiasm, your interest, is going toward your friend, “Oh there’s my friend. There’s the breath.”

4. Notice when you’re distracted. When something arises—sensations, emotions, thoughts, whatever it might be—that’s strong enough to take your attention away from the feeling of the breath, or if you’ve fallen asleep, or if you get lost in some incredible fantasy, see if you can let go of the distraction and begin again, bringing your attention back to the breath. If you have to let go and begin again thousands of times, it’s fine, that’s the practice.

5. You may notice the rhythm of your breath changing in the course of this meditation session. You can just allow it to be however it is. Whatever arises, you can shepherd your attention back to the feeling of the breath.

6. Remember that in letting go of distraction the important word is gentle. We can gently let go, we can forgive ourselves for having wandered and with great kindness to ourselves, we can begin again.

When you feel ready, you can open your eyes. See if you can bring this awareness of breath periodically into your day.

Research on the Focused-Attention Meditation

Practicing focusses-attention meditation has quantifiable effects on the brain, even when one is not actively meditating. In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Arizona, Boston University, the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies and Emory University studied participants in an eight-week meditation training program. Three weeks after completing the program, participants’ brains were scanned. Researchers found changes to the amygdala brain region—the same effects on emotional processing uncovered by past studies, the difference in this new study being that participants were not meditating at the time of the brain scan.

Read More About Focussed-Attention Meditation:

About the author

Sharon Salzberg

Sharon Salzberg is a meditation teacher and New York Times best-selling author. She is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. Sharon has been a student of meditation since 1971, guiding retreats worldwide since 1974. She is a weekly columnist for On Being, a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and the author of many books including Real Happiness, Lovingkindness, and Real Change.

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