Breath Counting/The 20 Breaths Meditation

The 20 Breaths Meditation is a concentration practice. Concentration involves directing your awareness to one thing and holding it there. When the mind wanders, without judgment, bring it back to the object of concentration, which in this case is the breath and the counting.

How to Do It

Bring your awareness to your breath. Without changing the breath, notice all the different sensations of breathing. Begin counting your exhalations using your inner voice. With your first exhalation, silently say “one.” With your next exhalation, say “two.” Keep going, counting ten breath cycles. Then count another ten cycles, but this time count  backwards, from ten to one.

Give each breath your full attention. Notice the nuances in the sensations of breathing. Remember that you’re not changing your breath, just using it as an anchor for your awareness.

If you lose track and wander into thinking, know that this is totally normal – this is what everyone is dealing with in meditation! Without judgment, come back to watching the breath and begin counting again.

Consider resting for a few extra moments after the 20 breaths cycle, still watching the breath flow in and out, before moving on with your day.

You can always add another cycle of 20 breaths. You might like to consider setting a timer to do more. Just keep cycling through the 20 breaths counting. Keep the amount of time comfortable and ‘doable’ so that you feel satisfied with the practice, not disappointed if you struggled to complete it. In other words, add time in small increments. When you feel satisfied and good about the practice, you’ll be eager to do it the next day. If you’re disappointed, you’ll be more likely to skip it.

At a certain point you won’t need the counting anymore. The mind will arrive into a state of calm awareness, steady and focused. An occasional thought will come then go. Just keep watching the breath flow in and out.