When people are first introduced to meditation, they get a one-dimensional view of things, but there are countless ways to meditate, some can be combined with others.
Once you get the hang of it, what was once hard becomes easy, as with anything else in life. But for some reason, some struggle to focus on their breath when they meditate.
That makes them overthink and doubt themselves, ultimately making it a non-meditation experience, which defeats the purpose.
The only bonus of sitting quietly for a while is learning some patience. Your meditation experience will to a great extent dictate whether you continue with the practice or not.
But if you are one of those that struggle with focusing on their breathing during meditation, there is good news: you don’t have to focus on your breathing to meditate. You can focus on other parts of your body or your surroundings. Even a mantra would help here.
Is Breathing Meditation The Best Meditation?
The best meditation is the one that is tailored to the individual meditating, the one that makes you stick with the practice and makes meditation enjoyable. Breathing meditation is often recommended as the primary go-to because it sounds easy in theory.
All you have to do is inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, and expel slowly through your nose.
That is until you find that an overwhelming amount of thoughts get in the way, trying to keep you from meditating, which makes you have to gently pull back your attention to your breath.
But if this happens during the entire experience, you aren’t meditating in the true sense, you are fighting. With this being so common, it’s no wonder many people stop wanting to meditate. Meditation isn’t a one-time thing that you do once and reaps the benefits for life.
Meditation is ongoing, for that it’s incredibly important you find the type of meditation that serves you, no matter what some guru says.
Of course, you’d need to give it a reasonable amount of time to determine whether breathing meditation is right for you. If it’s not, move on to something else, and if you’re tired of the idea of meditation, rather than giving up on the practice completely, take a break. For the most part, you don’t want to over-meditate if you’re a beginner.
Can You Make Breathing Work?
While you probably could make yourself used to your breathing in meditation, it’s not ideal if you’re constantly presented with distractions, and as a result, you feel like the quality of your meditation diminishes.
At that point, it’s better to use something else to lock your focus in, but still, allow the thoughts to be.
After all, meditation is taming the mind as much as you can, so it can have time to rest and recover.
By choosing anything else but breathing, if it’s the case that you’re having difficulties with that, you allow yourself to see results quicker with meditation. But don’t chase results, simply follow the process and enjoy the process.
Seeing small wins is great as it motivates you to keep pushing, but don’t make it the primary objective, as, with meditation, it’s always best to let go of expectations.
Some think that letting go of expectations makes you less ambitious, but you’re simply deciding that your happiness isn’t gonna depend on one specific outcome.
What To Focus on Instead
There are other things you can focus on than just your breath, such as visualizing something you find pleasing and focusing on that. Focusing on physical sensations or simply, repeating mantras are great alternatives to breathing.
At the end of the day, meditation gets easier the longer you do it, but make sure you pick one way you can focus and rely on.
Focusing On Physical Sensations
This might be one of the easier alternatives to breathing. You can focus on the shape of your hand and fingers or the shape of your foot and toes, depending on what you find easier.
Is your foot touching the floor at the time of meditating? Focus on that sensation. As long as you’re able to sit there and just be, you’re doing things right.
Don’t let overthinking get in your way, if it does over a prolonged time, pick another way to keep yourself in a peaceful state. The calmer and stiller you are, the easier the meditation will be for you.
When it comes to visualization, many think of a white light emerging from their forehead to meditate.
Others think of a white empty room. It’s the closest thing they see as blanking the mind from any thought, which, taming it completely is impossible, whereas letting thoughts flow without judging any of these thoughts and just letting them be is doable.
I find visualizing to be a bit harder than focusing on physical sensations or breathing, but your experience may be the complete opposite.
You don’t even need to limit your visualization to something as boring as white light or a white room or paper.
You can visualize a landscape or something pleasing, so long as you’re able to keep that image in your mind throughout the entire session.
The only con I see of visualizing a particular place is that it gives the mind more to work with, rather than letting the mind run freely, but I don’t use visualization, therefore, as long as you’re able to achieve a deep level of relaxation with visualizing meditation you’re winning.
Mantras are another alternative and one that I recommend highly. More specifically, I recommend chanting “Om” while meditating. This doesn’t have to be out loud, in case you happen to be near others and don’t have the luxury to meditate alone or in a quiet spot.
You can keep the “Om” mantra in your head, and as long as you’re able to zone in the focus there, it’d be the equivalent to focusing on the breath, but perhaps even easier. After all, for most of us, our mind has an inner dialogue daily.
We can take advantage of this fact and use the “Om” mantra to give the mind something to work with. Too much freedom given to the mind isn’t something the mind is used to, therefore, for some, it’s helpful to lock the mind into something specific like a mantra.
If you have no one around you, you may find it easier to quietly chant “Om” to yourself, and as a bonus, focus on the movement of your lips, but that goes back to physical sensations.
Many people think they can’t meditate unless they are alone. While this thinking makes a lot of sense and while reaching profound levels of meditation, you’ll often want to spend time alone.
If you plan to get your feet wet doing the most basic form of meditation, you can, despite your surroundings, look at what thoughts emerge from your mind without judging these thoughts.
Many would find it impossible to find under a busy environment, but many meditate without knowing, merely by taking a step back, as in looking at everything that’s happening and being in the middle of processing. It’s almost like micro-meditating to get a feel for what being mindful feels like.
What If None Of These Replace Breathing Meditation?
For the most part, most meditators will find success using any of these techniques. What we have to do is train our focus and keep our attention in one place.
But despite these being solid alternatives to breathing meditation, it won’t work for everyone, which is why the more you know yourself, the easier it will be to find the meditation that serves you.
I know that if none of these things work for me, I would’ve done guided meditation. It’s what I did, but that’s also because I didn’t know any better. Over the long haul, I believe you’re capable of going at it alone if that’s what you want.
With a guide, you make the meditation experience more linear, and you’re more likely to get it right.
If you feel comfortable with someone else having control over your meditation, there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to go at it on your own, make sure you give these techniques a reasonable amount of time before deciding they won’t work for you.
When Does Meditation Get Easier?
Whether you’re meditating while focusing on your breathing or not, you can tell meditation starts getting easier for you when you stop questioning how much time there is left of the meditation, and you enter a flow state, completely losing the notion of time. This is more commonly seen in deep meditators.
Lastly, meditation becomes something you look forward to, it no longer becomes this chore it was at the start. Because many never get to this point, they see meditation as a waste of time.
The idea of focusing on your breath while doing nothing doesn’t sound attractive, but it’s what pushes us out of our range of comfort, allowing us to grow and become freer over ourselves.