Number Breathing

Are four trees a forest?

There are many meditation techniques that utilize counting and numbers. From Thich Nhat Hahn’s method of counting breath for concentration, to secular box breathing used by the Navy Seals, numbers and counting help us measure and focus our breathing. But what of the numbers themselves? Can they not also be an object for mindfulness?

Find a place to sit that’s comfortable. It could be indoors in your home, or outdoors in a park or by a forest or garden. Site erect, like you would when you meditate, and bring attention to your breath. Like many exercises on this site, this exercise is designed to bring awareness to thought, so don’t feel any expectation that you need to be in a ‘meditative’ state, or that thoughts are there to distract you. Simply be present. If you like, you can consider this a ‘thinking’ meditation.

As you breathe, count forwards from the number 1. Inhale bringing awareness to your breath, then let the word ‘one’ ride on the exhale. What associations do you have with the word ‘one’? Not just with what it signifies, but also with its shape, its feeling.

At the next breath, let the number 2 ride on the exhale. What are the associations there? Continue on to 3, then all the way up to 10, and restart at one if so desired.

Variation: Send your awareness to your surroundings. Are there trees, plants, pictures, kitchen utensils? What do you see? Don’t count the breaths but, counting backwards this time, let the number 10 ride on multiple exhales as you find a group in your surroundings of which there are 10. It could be 10 trees, blades of grass, knives in a knife block (if there are more than 10 of the object, simply count 10 from the group). Then, when you are ready, move on to 9. You might spot 9 leaves on the ground, cookbooks stacked on the shelf, whatever. Continue on down to 1, the ‘1’ being the self. Bring your awareness to yourself, your breathing, exactly where you belong.

For more mindfulness exercises, look here.

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