Philosophy is not enough. We need to train the mind through practice and experience. The mind has to be tamed, quietening all those circling thoughts and worries. Thoughts are not bad in themselves: they have their use, but not when they create stress, and are a constant distraction.
Awareness of the breath is a very precise practice. It clears the mind, relaxes the body and sets a firm foundation for further practices.
Before starting, we need to sit up straight (so as not to restrict the body) and relaxed: take three deep breaths and expel as much stale air out as possible (there is a practice of breathing through alternate nostrils, but it’s best to see someone actually do this).
Take a breath as normal, and breath out. On the exhalation, count 1. Breath in again, and exhale, counting 2 and so on. This can be repeated 10, 21 or even 108 times -10 is good enough! The main point is that if a thought comes in and we get lost in distraction, then simply return to 1 and start again. Don’t rush this practice: allow a short pause between breaths, as this set us up for the meditation practice known as Shamata (for this is what we are doing here) without support. This leads to Vipashana (insight meditation), which in turn leads to Mahamudra/Dzogchen.
Even though we may engage on advanced practices, we shouldn’t forget this vital basic practice.
NB. The point of this practice is that we do not become occupied or vacant, (we merely note). And, we cannot think of two things at the same time!