My dd is the early riser in our family. It wasn’t a surprise to me when I found myself up and watching the local news with her early this morning. I was interested when they started to talk about a new way to reset the brain. I knew what was coming next. Sure enough they started to discuss the scientific benefits of meditation and the numerous venues using it to improve performance. Athletes, business executives, patients with a range of disease including cancer are using meditation to change the function of the brain, improve their performance and concentration and heal their bodies.
None of this was news to me. I’ve been practicing and studying meditation for 11 years now. I lived at a zen temple for four years. I have done countless three-day, five-day and seven-day silent meditation retreats. Silent as in no talking to, looking at or communicating with anyone. It is safe to say I have a fair amount of experience with meditation.
Just to be clear my relationship with meditation is not without contention. Although I love the benefits of meditation, I can come up with a million reasons not to sit on the cushion. It has nothing to do with being fidgety. In general I am not the type of person who can’t sit still. I can totally spend a day doing a movie marathon of Star Wars or The Godfather. What I struggle with is my brain going a mile a minute. I can’t stop the numerous voices in my head telling me all the things I need to accomplish or reminding me of things I would rather stay unnoticed. It has been a great deterrent for my practice over the years.
This knowledge left me mildly interested in the news segment I was watching. I was grateful to see it being presented to the mainstream public. The effort they made to make it accessible to anyone who might be interested. The newscaster was correct that you don’t need robes, incense or a religious interest in this simple but effective practice.
I was surprised however when I had an Aha! moment, as Oprah would say. One statement the newscaster made really struck home for me. It brought me right back to a talk by my zen teacher last year. She asked us what we, as zen students, do when something challenging was presented to us. It was a similar lesson on the news show. The newscaster said, “It only takes one breath to make a difference.”
One simple inhalation followed by a natural exhalation.
The mind is reset. You can feel your energy shift and begin to soften.
The tension in your body and mind releases. This simple shift of focus changes the actual functioning of the brain increasing self-awareness and compassion and diminishing the effects of stress. The body comes with a natural automatic stress reliever built right in.
Next time you are feeling less centered than you would like, try this. See how it brings you back to your center and alleviates the stress you are feeling. It may not eliminate the situation or your reaction to it but it helps you to soften yourself. It gives you a chance to re-balance yourself. It allows you the opportunity to take yet another and another cleansing breath.
You take your breath with you everywhere you go. Use it to center yourself and relieve stress in any moment.
I would love to hear about your experience with the breath.