One breath at a time

The first month of 2016 has been jam packed.  I have been a busy little bee these days.  Work has been in full swing as the first quarter of the year is off to a bustling start.  Between that, prepping food to eat healthier, keeping up with daily errands and squeezing in time for exercise and self care, this bee has been feeling overwhelmed.  We live in a world where multi-tasking has become so normal that when you see someone doing only  one thing, with their full attention, it’s almost offensive.

I find myself getting so caught up in the “go, go, go” that when it’s time to just sit down and chill, I tend to jump into the next thing.  I see this as an imbalance in myself.  Dr. Wayne Dyer has a quote that reads “I am a human being, not a human doing. Don’t equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life. You aren’t what you do. If you are what you do, then when you don’t…you aren’t.”  Read that a couple of times just let that sink in.  We tend to tie our self worth into how much we do and how well we do it.  Most people I know consider productivity to be a positive quality.  Obviously there is merit in completing things and doing them well.  Accomplishment is a great feeling.  But the drawback is that you can train yourself to forget how to relax, how to be still, how to be quiet.  Even when I’m “relaxing”, I catch myself checking emails, doing research on the internet or planning what I’m doing the next day.  So, even when I’m unwinding, I’m still doing a lot.  No wonder I feel overwhelmed!

I’ve had a pretty consistent meditation practice for a few years now.  I laugh every time I hear someone say they “can’t” meditate.  Mostly because they would usually benefit from it so much.  The people who think they “can’t” are typically the one’s who need it the most.  They think they can’t sit still and be quite for any length of time- even 5 minutes.  5 minutes is not a lot of time.  It might feel like a long time, but think about how fast 5 minutes goes by when you’re browsing the internet, shopping, or commuting somewhere.

What is meditation anyway?  Well in my book, mediation is simply training your mind to concentrate.  There are so many different techniques and the common denominator is focus.  Bringing your focus back to this moment,  your breath, a mantra, an affirmation, a flame, a scent, or holding something and focusing on that.  At any given time, your body is having a sensory experience.  For the most part, the only time you are aware of that experience is when you want to change, or do, something.  My body feels cold and what do I need to do to change that.  I smell a pleasant fragrance and I want to find out what the source is.  I smell something bad and I want to get away from it.  My co-worker’s music is bothering me or I really like it.. you get the idea.  This is all happening lightning fast.  Mediation is about stepping back and not reacting to it.  Watching the mind.  Observing these thoughts and reactions.  Observing the desire to move or do something and coming back to stillness again and again.  In this way, you train your mind to learn to be less reactive, less impulsive, and more focused.  This is a tool to re-learn how to really, deeply relax, restore, and replenish.

When I find myself feeling that overwhelm I mentioned earlier, I know I need to slow down and come back to my meditation practice.  Often times, I get so busy I start sacrificing that time for myself so I can take care of something else.  In essence, I ditch my self care time to DO something that I perceive as needing my attention more.  And then I end up here.  Feeling drained.  It’s ok.  It’s good.  For me, mediation is coming back, over and over again. So even this cycle is a sort of mediation too.  I am aware that I have been distracted and now I am coming back to my practice. The final point I want to make here is that whatever comes up for you during your mediation: calm, peacefulness, restlessness, anxiousness, boredom, or any judgement, it’s all good.  There is no right way or wrong way to feel.  Just observe it and let it go.

The Dare: This mediation exercise is called the 5’s.  A teacher of mine gave me this handy tool years ago and I still use it to this day.  This meditation is breath-focused and I love it because you can do it anywhere at any time.

Gently inhale for a count of 5, hold the breath for a count of 5*, and gently exhale for a 5. Repeat for 5 minutes.

*If holding the breath brings up any anxiety or discomfort, just skip that part and inhale/exhale for 5.

Ideally you want to do this with the eyes closed but for beginners or anyone who thinks they don’t have time, you can do this anywhere with the eyes open.  I’ve done it while driving, waiting for an appointment, at work, in a meeting, at dinner, in bed.  The possibilities are endless.  Something is better than nothing. Give it a shot! Physiologically, this exercise is proven to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and promote an overall state of calm and well-being.