Last week, I attended the conference, The Mind That Changes the Brain featuring Norman Doidge and Daniel Siegel two of the current authorities on how mental experience and mindfulness can change the structure of the brain. The Breath Awareness Exercise, introduced at the workshop, is useful to create cognitive focus. I like this exercise because it is short but effective, especially if done 1-2 times per day. Science Daily has recently reported that even 20 minutes of breath awareness meditation increases concentration. Here is the website that Dr. Seigel provided us that guides individuals through this exercise (Click on the arrow in the center of the screen to start the practice. Dr. Seigel will guide you through it).
A few things to keep in mind when doing this exercise:
1. Meditation is a a mind training exercise. It is not a relaxation exercise. Even though you are still, your mind is active.
2. The mind gets distracted. That is what minds do. If you find your mind is losing focus on the breath, gently and without judgment, redirect it to the breath.
3. You will learn how to recognize when your mind is chaotic, judgmental, and distracted and with Breath Awareness Practice, you will learn how to redirect your attention to a task.
One of the drawbacks I have had to other mindfulness exercises is that they are time-consuming. If you do this one twice per day, it is only 20 minutes out of your day and the benefits are enormous. Another way to adapt this exercise so it reaches the prescribed 20 minutes per day is to set a timer to go 10 or more minutes past the end of the recorded meditation. Currently I use no guided practice such as the one suggested in the aforementioned link. Instead, I use a meditation timer for the full 20 minutes. If I miss a few days, however, I revisit the guided practice link just to create focus then resume my independent practice after that.