Just Breathe

Meditation is good for our health? Really? Shocking. Okay, it’s not breaking news. It’s a practice that’s been around for centuries. It’s proven to help with things like: Chronic pain, chronic illness, and fatigue. It can help people dealing with depression and anxiety. It can help anyone who’s looking for an overall sense of well being.   

Sounds great! Want to give it a try?

We need to find a comfortable position. Got it? Fantastic. Now, close your eyes and relax those muscles. Start with the head, down the neck, shoulders, arms. Breathe in and out through your nose. Nice and easy. In and out. In and out.

“You’re walking along a forest path. The ground beneath your feet is soft. Fallen leaves crunch underfoot. As you walk, your body relaxes and your mind clears. Take a deep breath in and let your lungs fill with cool, fresh, air. Exhale. Take another breath in and let yourself be renewed.

“Sun filters through the treetops. Birds sing softly. A gentle wind blows and the leaves rustle. Up ahead, you hear the sound of a rushing river. Breathe in: 1, 2,3,4. Breathe out: 1,2,3,4.

“Breathe in: 1,2,3,4.

“There’s a low growl from the rivers edge.

“Breathe out: 1,2,3,4.

 “Breathe in: 1,2,3,4.

“The bear lunges at your face and you let out a bloodcurdling scream.”

I don’t want to be mauled to death by a bear!

What? Wait? Wow. I’m okay. There’s no bear. I’m safe. It wasn’t real. What the hell happened? It’s not supposed to work like that is it?

Um, I think we should try a different one. Yeah, a different meditation. Someplace without bears. No bears. That sounds like a plan. I got this. I can do it. Get comfort, relax, and breathe

“You’re walking along a quiet beach. The sun barely breaks the horizon. Waves gently roll onto the shore. The ocean stretches out in front of you. There’s a slight breeze. It’s cool but comfortable. Inhale through your nose and exhale. 

“The water rolls against the shore. The sea is so calm. The gentle lapping of the waves draws you in. Your feet sink into the wet sand. The saltwater dances around your ankles. It feels warm and fresh.

“The sun’s a little higher now. The glow reflects off the water. You wade farther in and your fingers glide over the smooth surface. All is calm. All is peaceful.

“Breathe in: 1,2,3,4.

“Breathe out: 1,2,3,4.

“Breathe in: There’s movement on the horizon, and you squint.

“Breathe out: The waves come in harder, faster.

“Breathe in: Up, up, up it comes!”

I don’t want to be eaten by a sea creature!

Oh holy hell! I thought this was supposed to be relaxing. What am I doing wrong? Millions of people, over thousands of years, have benefited from meditation. It should work for me too. Why isn’t it working?

Am I doing it wrong? Maybe my overactive imagination and anxiety are just having a giggle. Maybe I’m not relaxed enough. Is it possible that meditation doesn’t work for me?

I can’t sit still and focus on my breathing for more than two minutes. My chest tightens and my shoulders tense. Images of pain, suffering, and death run through my head. After five minutes, my anxiety reaches max capacity and I think, for a brief moment, that I might prove spontaneous human combustion is real.

Oh boy, that was a long sentence.

Maybe it’s something we have to grow into? An acquired taste like, I don’t know, pumpkin. If I keep trying, it will get easier. Right? Except, I hate pumpkin and every time I meditate I feel like I’m going to vomit.

Traditional meditation might not be for me. Sitting, breathing, relaxing? I just can’t do it. I get why people love it. I can appreciate its benefits. There’s a good reason why it’s been around for centuries. It helps people slow down, heal, and live better lives. Meditation is a great practice.

 It doesn’t work for me. 

Awhile back, I was on a hike and I met an interesting woman. She teaches yoga and meditation. I told her that I was having trouble and she gave me some advice. She told me that meditation comes in many forms and it can be anything. It could be spending time playing with my dog. Going for a walk. Baking. Photography. Activities that clear my mind, and allow me to be present in this moment.

When I bake, I feel the dough forming in my hands. I work it, shape it, create something from nothing. When it comes out of the oven, there’s a sense of accomplishment because I did that. I created something.

I stare into my dog’s eyes, and the world disappears. He runs to fetch his toy with a look of pure joy, and my heart explodes. In that moment, I’m happy.

With my camera, I’m going outside and actively searching for beauty. Instead of getting lost in my head, I see what’s around me. I feel the air and smell the rain-soaked ground. That moment recharges my battery.

I’m experiencing these moment without judgment. I’m not worrying about what my blood tests will say. I’m not focused on the pain in my legs. A world of troubles falls away and I’m feeling, seeing, experiencing what’s right in front of me.

This stranger I met on a quiet trail redefined meditation for me. It’s a deep breath after a long day. It happens in the simple moments. It happens when we allow ourselves the freedom to breath.

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