Meditation basics: Breathe, mindfully
Mindfulness can happen anytime. You can eat mindfully, converse mindfully, write, poop, sing, read mindfully. There is medicine in this. And, then there is meditation, a space where our mindfulness is nourished, strengthened, and rewarded.
Focus your mind on one thing
When I sit in meditation I focus all my mind on just one thing, the breath. There is no right way or wrong way to breathe while meditating. My meditation teacher, Mare Chapman, taught me to place a hand on my stomach and focus my mind on the movement of my belly. I like this, the feel of my belly rising and sinking. Soft belly. Womb space. Life maker. Center. I learned to follow the path of my breath, from nose to chest to belly and back up.
Where do you sense the breath?
I close my eyes when I meditate, but Pema Chodron keeps her eyes open. Her practice, shamatha-vipashyana, is a bit different. She focuses on the breath as it goes out. Focusing on the air moving out of my nostrils can sometimes be easier. It can also be a bit heady. I already spend a lot of time up in my head, thinking and planning. Of course this makes for good practice. Belly breaths are nice for bringing my focus to the lower parts of the body, feeling how the movement of air impacts my posture, muscles, and even emotions.
Focus on your breath, just don’t FOCUS on your breath
I am reading Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron as I restart my meditation practice. My mom and I are reading it together! Don’t you just love having a book buddy? We are on chapter one, and our goal is to simply pay attention to the breath. AND, be kind. Geez, I am terrible at ragging on myself, "breath deeper," "refocus!," "ignore that sound!" These words from Pema Chodron are like a cool balm: “The touch on the breath is light… You’re not grasping or fixating on it. You’re opening, letting the breath mix with the space of the room, letting your breath just go out into space.”
Starting small with micro habits
I like to do a little meditating in the morning and a little bit in the evening. I find that two minutes will suffice to maintain the habit, but right now in my practice, five minutes is perfect. I also discovered this rad YouTube video, “Mindfulness Bell - A 5 Minute Mindfulness Meditation” from the Guided Meditation Site. I intend to increase my meditation time to 15-30 minutes, and in his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes that we can build new habits through micro-habits. The idea is: In the beginning it is most important to carve out an itty bitty slice of time and create a routine. One minute of meditation can slowly become 30.
As I write this, I return to my breath over and over again. Breathing in, and breathing out. I remind myself to relax my shoulders, and unfurrow my brow. It is a simple thing: breathe in, breathe out. It is a cool tonic. Quiet medicine.
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