Breath as the Bridge

Breath as the Bridge

  • August 1, 2016

“Because the mind is often miles away from the body, Vietnamese Buddhist monk and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (1976, 15) explains, the “breath is the bridge” that connects the mind to the body. Bringing your attention to your breath halts the incessant chatter of your thoughts and your concern with self-esteem. When your mind is adrift somewhere in the past or the future—lost in regret or worry—you can use your breath as an anchor to your body and to the present moment” (Marotta, 2014, 26).

By using the breath as the bridge to connect the mind to the body, every time you come back to the breath you train the mind to stay put.  Rather than being lost in past regret or future worry, the breath escorts you back to the present moment where peace and strength reside.  Remember, it’s the “coming back” that matters.   Ask yourself:  “How much of my time is caught in past or future thinking as opposed to present moment awareness?”

For this formal breath meditation practice, sit in an upright, relaxed posture and close your eyes.  Gently bring your attention to the breath and your intention to be fully present.  Notice breath sensations in the body.  This may be in the belly, rising on the inhalation and falling on the exhalation; the whole body lifting and lowering on the in breath and out breath; the cooling sensation in your nostrils as you breathe in and the warming sensation in your nostrils as you breathe out; or the little puff of air on the upper lip as the breath exits your nose.  Ride the waves of breath sensations wherever the breath is most vivid, most alive.  Whenever the mind wanders, as it will naturally do, make a mental note “thinking” and kindly escort the mind back to the breath.  As you “keep coming back,” you’re cultivating such qualities as patience, non-judgment, and trust.

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