What is your relationship with your breathing? Do you ignore it, train it, observe it?… Has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your awareness about your breathing in any way?
Blowing the shakuhachi is a deep breathing training. Over the years, I notice that my breathing’s awareness and quality have improved, and as a result, the connection with my breathing has increased my inner peace, my ability to manage my emotions, and more generally, my feeling of happiness.
Since February 2022, I give live meditation sessions of the app Insight Timer. I share with the participants the deep breathing meditation training in relation to the musical tradition of shakuhachi, which combines the unique sounds of the flute with inspiring music.
Being connected with people from all over the world at the same time is really special.
These sessions are FREE, so don’t hesitate to follow me and attend my sessions!
You can also train by yourself anytime, listening to my audio meditations on the app. Keep reading to discover how.
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The Four Steps of Deep Breathing Meditation
Deep breathing meditation consists in 4 steps:
inhalation – pause – exhalation – pause.
To practice, start to find a confortable yet active position. Your posture should allow you to stay alert without excess tensions.
- Take a deep breath in… (through your nose or mouth)
- Hold on a second…
- Breathe out, through your mouth, as long as you can…
- Hold on a second before the next inhalation…
Simple isn’t it? We could do this for hours, couldn’t we?
Actually, this is a bit TOO simple for the mind. Soon it will get bored and start to wander, telling you that you have better things to do or to think of. Focusing on that simple practice becomes then harder than you expected. Most of the time, you don’t even notice that you are not focusing anymore. So tricky is your mind, it doesn’t wait for your approval to do something else.
How can you keep your mind focused on your breathing?
The Counting of the Breath
At the beginning of each inhalation, count your breath, from 1 to 10. When you arrive at 10, start at 1 again. If you go over 10, begin again. If you don’t know anymore where you are, start from 1 again.
This is a technique used in Zazen (silent sitting meditation). In my deep breathing variation, you don’t only observe the breathing but breathe deeply and calmly, following the rhythm above, the rhythm we need to play shakuhachi honkyoku.
Be gentle and patient with yourself if you don’t manage immediately to stay focused. That’s what this training is about. If it would be easy, no need to practice!
On Insight Timer, I published two meditations with shakuhachi on this technique, with a little variation which consists in counting from 1 to 20 (you may count twice from 1 to 10 though, it’s up to you). It gives you a frame of time, so that it’s doesn’t seem out of reach to take 5 to 6 minutes for yourself. And if the counting doesn’t work, you can still focus on the music and enjoy the calming effect of the shakuhachi sounds. Taking this time, even little, for yourself, does make a difference.
Click here for the “music only” version, with bells.
Cliquez ici pour la version guidée en français.
(NB. : It’s recommended to download the app on your smartphone or tablet).
Meditation on a Specific Theme
In addition to the “counting of the breath” meditation, each session has a specific theme, inspired by the music I play. For example “Emptiness”, “Grounding in breathing”, “Stable as a mountain”, “Gratitude”, etc.
Anchored in your deep breathing, meditate on the given theme while listening to the music played live just for you!
The Benefits of Deep Breathing Meditation
Even for just a few breaths, can you already feel the calming effect of deep breathing meditation?
The more you’ll practice it in a calm and safe environment, the more you’ll be able to tap into it whenever you need it. With a consistent and regular practice, you will be able to consciously activate it when you face challenges or difficult situations in your daily life. Taking a few deep breaths will help you to let go of excess tensions, stress, frustration, anxiety, sadness,…. It will allow you to stay connected to your energy flow and keep clarity on what is going on inside yourself.
It may not be enough, but it’s the start, so you don’t get overwhelmed by emotions and it will help you to keep (or find back) a clear mind.
Deep Breathing Meditation for Shakuhachi Players.
It consists in playing anything, from Ro-buki to your favorite honkyoku, while maintaining a mindful deep breathing awareness.
Start easy and increase the difficulty progressively. The difficulty is to keep the right balance between the instrumental technique (sound quality, fingers), the music notation (pitch, phrases, ornaments, rhythm, style, etc.) while staying focused on your breathing no matter what.
This means a very good knowledge of the piece you are playing.
No secret here: practice practice practice… with full consciousness and enjoyment!
Happy deep breathing meditation!