Mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati) is an excellent subject of meditation particularly useful to the busy layperson, as it can be practiced safely by anyone, anywhere, at any time. To practice this type of meditation, one should first adopt a seated meditation posture. Those who can sit comfortably in full lotus or half-lotus posture may adopt those positions; those who find this difficult may assume any cross-legged sitting posture that enables them to hold upright the upper part of the body; those who find even this difficult may sit on a straight-backed chair. The torso should be held erect but not stiff; the hands should be placed one over the other on the lap; and (for those who sit in a chair) the feet should rest on the floor.
The meditator should then breathe calmly and naturally, mentally following the whole breath in and out without a break in attentiveness. At the outset one should simply breathe in and out without reflecting about it. One may fix the attention on the nostrils or upper lip, wherever the breath is felt most distinctly as one breathes in and out. There the attention should remain.
As one proceeds with the observation of the breath, one becomes more and more deeply concentrated upon it. One then feels light in body and mind, very calm and peaceful; one may even feel as if one were floating in the air. When strong calm is established and the mind becomes one-pointed, one may then turn one's attention towards the development of insight (vipassana), aiming to gain direct insight into the true nature of existence. This type of meditation, when successful, leads by stages to the realization of Nibbana.
Apart from its ultimate benefits, mindfulness of breathing has an immediate value that can be seen in one's daily life. It promotes detachment and objectivity. It allows one the mental distance needed to arrive at wise decisions in the countless difficulties of daily life. Regular practice of this meditation brings increased concentration and self-control, improved mindfulness, and is also conducive to healthy and relaxed living.
"A Simple Guide to Life", by Robert Bogoda. Access to Insight, June 7, 2009, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bogoda/wheel397.html.