Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Learning to Breathe Three Minutes at a Time
Meditation has always been somewhat of an enigma to me. I know a lot of people make it a regular practice and I have tried to meditate with little success and little return. I just didn’t get it.
Recently I read Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life by Karen Maezen Miller (I highly recommend this book, by the way) and in it she spoke of meditation in a way that made it sound easy. Her method is simply to count your breaths—inhale one, exhale two, inhale three, and so on—until you get to ten. If you lose your place, start over at one. If you get to ten, start over at one again. It is a practice in focusing on breath.
I gave it a try. The simplicity of it appealed to me. It was something I could do anywhere, anytime. I did it while washing dishes one day. In that moment there was nothing but me, the dishes, and my breath. What surprised me the most was that was enough. Miller encourages focusing just on what is in front of you. Her method of meditating helped me do that.
On the heels of this discovery, Carrie Ann Moss announced a 10-day Kundalini meditation course through her website Annapurna Living (a site I adore). It was explained as an easy form of meditation that anyone can do amidst their full, busy lives. A short and sweet daily practice with an easy 10-day commitment. I signed up.
Today is day nine and I realized something. This meditation has become almost comfortable for me. (I say almost because I’m still not ready to do it in front of my husband. Only my four-year-old has witnessed it. He plops himself down between me and my computer so he can watch the video.)
For three minutes each day, I sit, I breathe, I chant. (It’s the chanting that makes me leery to practice where anyone might hear me.)
On the first day I felt pretty darn silly, but at the end of the three minutes I felt I had done something worthwhile. I think it was the closing words I liked most: “May the longtime sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide your way on.” Repeat that a couple times. I bet you will feel your mood shift.
The second day I felt a little silly, but I knew what to expect and felt a little more familiar with the words. Later that day my four-year-old was repeating some of the words from the meditation. When I caught his eye he giggled, which, of course, made me giggle.
The third day I felt almost familiar going in to the meditation and each day thereafter was a little more comfortable. What’s more, I realized that chanting made me hear my voice. Really listen to it. To hear when it wavers and to want to speak with more strength. I found myself saying the simple sounds with more conviction.
Today I realized how much I was looking forward to the meditation. It feels like a reset, like my day can properly start (or restart) when I do it.
I don’t know if meditation is something I will continue daily forever. I do know that for now I am enjoying this practice. Whether I follow Moss’s three-minute chanting meditation or Miller’s counting of breaths, I feel a bit of peace afterward that probably benefits my family as much as it benefits me.
In Hand Wash Cold Miller puts it this way: “With my meditation practice, I can see that I’m still a cranky person, but I try to be a kinder cranky person.”
Seems worth it to keep trying, doesn’t it?
FYI: Carrie Anne Moss is running her meditation course again in April. You can find out more and sign up here.