top of page

Counting the Breaths

Many beginning meditators, especially in the Zen tradition, use "counting the breaths" also called "breath-counting" as a first meditation method to try. The breath is a practical and effective object for our concentration, but it can be challenging for people new to meditation to focus using only the breath itself. Counting provides an extra anchor for our attention that can help ease into meditation and stabilize the experience. You can read more about the method on this page, and also find more information and instructions on other aspects of meditation at the links below:

This description of breath-counting meditation is simple so you can begin quickly and easily, but make sure to read about the other important elements of meditation including posture, before beginning to meditate.

  • Settle the body into a stable, supported posture you can comfortably hold still in for the duration of your meditation
    (read about the important aspects of posture)

  • Keep the eyes half-open, with a soft gaze;
    (read more about placement of the eyes)

  • Take a few deep breaths - just to help settle down; bring your full attention to the feeling of the breath in your body, especially in the abdomen as it expands with inhalations and contracts on exhalations.

Counting the Breaths

  • When you inhale, hold the word "one" silently in your mind. It's a long "oonnneeee" that lasts throughout the entire inhalation. Put your attention on the word "one" as you continue to feel the breath in your body.

  • When you exhale, hold the word "two" silently in your mind in the same way, continuing to feel your breath.

  • Count each inhale and exhale up to 10, then go back to 1.

  • When you get distracted, whether lost in thoughts or noises or anything else, you will lose the count, either forgetting it completely or going past 10. When that happens, just come back to 1.

That's it. That's the method. Very simple, but not easy.​

When you're distracted and lose the count, be compassionate with yourself and as soon as you notice you've lost the count, just come back to 1. Getting distracted by thoughts is expected, and the process of coming back to being attentive, over and over again, is not a failure of the method - it is the method.

bottom of page