Meditation: Affectionate breathing

Affectionate breathing is a core meditation associated with mindful self-compassion. The sensation of breathing is handy for meditation since it's available to us wherever we go, an everpresent ally. Affectionate breathing varies on traditional breath meditation by adding an element of warmth and compassion. We look for a sense of being soothed by the rhythm of the breath, and gratitude for how it sustains the body. You could think of it as a way of practicing the joyful feelings of friendship, by being friends with our breathing.

It's a bit tricky to read with your eyes closed, so you'd best go over the instructions first and try them out before starting the timer. Alternatively, you could do the longer guided audio version of this meditation by Kristin Neff. The version presented in the text here is a bit more compact since we'll be using it in SRS practice.

  1. Find a comfortable posture, and let your eyes gently close. Take a few slow, easy breaths.

  2. If you like, place a hand over your heart, as a reminder of the intent towards affectionate awareness. You can leave your hand there or let it rest at any time.

  3. Now begin to notice your breath, as it rises and falls, how the body is nourished on the intake and relaxes as you breathe out.

  4. Just let your body breathe you. There is nothing you need to do.

  5. Now notice the rhythm of your breath, flowing in and flowing out.

  6. Incline your attention towards your breathing as you might towards a beloved child or a dear friend.

  7. Feel your whole body subtly moving with the breath, like the movement of the sea.

  8. Your mind will naturally wander like a curious child or puppy. When that happens, just gently return to the rhythm of breathing.

  9. If you notice there’s a sense of watching your breath, see if you can let that go and just be with your breath, feeling it.

  10. Allow your whole body to be gently rocked and caressed by your breathing.

  11. And now, gently release your attention, sitting quietly in your own experience, and allowing yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling and to be just as you are.

  12. When you are ready, gently open your eyes.

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