Introduction to Meditation: Square Breathing
There are many forms of meditation, many methods, but there are two we as Theosophists are most interested in. The first is what we’ll call “Lifestyle” meditation. Practices which fall under this form are meant to reduce stress, help you manage your daily life, and make for peace of mind.
The second is what we’ll call “Developmental” meditation. These are practices aimed at developing specific faculties and generating insights into ourselves. It’s these meditations we use to help ourselves grow internally and expand our consciousness. Of course, these meditations have daily benefits as well, but they’re more of a long-term practice, whereas Lifestyle meditations are for more immediate needs.
Meditation is a natural phenomenon to us. We enter it when we’re engrossed in a task at work or while playing a game, daydreaming about something specific, or studying “in the zone”. As such, most of us know what meditation should feel like, but we often need practice to take conscious control of the experience.
To start on our journey, we recommend a form of Lifestyle meditation that’s called “Square Breathing”. This is a preparatory meditation that helps us relax and bring order to our mind. It can be practices for as short or as long as you’d like, and while seated, standing, walking, and so on. We suggest starting with short 3-5 minute sessions throughout your day, and then growing from there.
To begin square breathing, inhale slowly counting “1, 2, 3, 4…”. Then hold your breath, counting “1, 2, 3, 4…”. Then exhale, again counting “1, 2, 3, 4…”. Then hold again, counting “1, 2, 3, 4.”
Let your mind focus on the breath and your counting, and continue doing this until you feel settled and at rest. It can be helpful to visualize drawing a square with your mind as you go through the pattern. It may not always work immediately, and sometimes you can feel that it’s difficult to sit down and actually practice. That’s fine too! Find your own time and carve out your own pace with square breathing. It’s meant to be easy to pick up and get you started on the path of meditation.
If you have difficulty breathing, consult a physician regarding the issue. You should never force your body to do something it isn’t prepared for. If you find it hard to hold your breath, quicken the pace of your counts slightly to help. The point is to focus on the pattern of breathing and counting, not to hold your breath or exert yourself. This meditation is about relaxation and developing a rhythm for yourself.