This exercise can be done at any time with your eyes open or closed. It can be done in any position: sitting, standing, or lying down. If possible, breathe through your nose.
Be aware of each in-breath and each out-breath. Feel the subtle changes in each breath. Give your whole attention to your breath. Focus on one point in your body where you feel the breath the strongest. Outside the nose, inside the nose, back of the throat, the chest, and the belly are common places to feel the breath. Some people may feel the breath moving through all areas of the body, and this is fine, too.
Breathe normally without changing the breath. If thoughts, emotions, or sensations take you away from your breath, this is normal. Our minds are extremely busy and move back and forth between thoughts frequently. As soon as you realize your focus has been hijacked, just let go and move your concentration back to your breathing. If whatever pulled you away is strong, let your attention stay on it until it lessens and then return to your breath. This can occur time after time but is perfectly normal. It is a process, and the thoughts pulling you away from the breath are normal and necessary. Try to be patient. If you become frustrated, just give the exercise a break.
An important point here is that you never want to stop your thoughts from happening. Thoughts are absolutely natural, and thinking them away will cause them to grow bigger. Thinking, judging, and becoming frustrated because you cannot keep the thoughts, emotions, or sensations away will make them stronger. All we need to do is become aware of them and, if possible, let them go. If it takes a thousand times, that is what we need to do. This helps strengthen focus, awareness, and understanding. These skills will develop into the ability to let go of stress and negativity.
Over time, the effort required to keep your attention on your breath will become less and less. What once required extreme effort will become second nature. You will start to feel the breath and not have to think about it. Relaxation and happiness will become stronger.
In the beginning, try to do the exercise for a few minutes each day. It can be done when you wake up, while walking from place to place, on breaks, or just before falling asleep. If you only have 20 seconds, a few breaths will be helpful, but the more you do this the better the results.
Another option is to do the basic breathing in the background while keeping your primary focus on everyday living. Give ten percent of your attention to your breathing and keep ninety percent for what you normally do. Over time, this can develop into a comfortable companion that keeps you relaxed and in the moment.