Eckart Tolle says “one conscious breath” constitutes meditation. In other words, there are endless spaces we can create during our day for meditation that may be far more effective then trying to sit for 20 minutes, wrestling with the monkey mind. Meditation can happen at any minute of our day, and we can build upon this individual little moment to change our lives.
One reason some do not stick with mediation is because they wonder why they are meditating. They want to attach a goal or a purpose to it. The word meditation conjures up sitting and “doing nothing”. People can feel as if they are wasting their time. The fact is, meditation is training your mind to be present. The pleasure of life becomes exponential when we can really soak in the present moment. Even “unpleasant” moments and challenges can become more manageable, even lighthearted when we are simply present, not caught up in the story we’re telling ourselves about the situation and/or the characters. Using the breath as an anchor can bring us back into the present, however strongly our mind wants to wander from it. We can see the truth of what is, and can then act with kindness and integrity.
Imagine if you could feel the present moment, in all its simplicity and complexity, without the stories of what was or what could be. In fact, there is only this moment, and the next moment, which is still the present. We can plan for the future, pay our bills, take care of our children, and do all the necessary activities of living, while still being in the present moment. In other words, when you plan or dream about the future, do that with the upmost focus and care. When you feed your children and put them to bed, really be there in the moment doing those things. When you are in conversation, listen. Be mindful of your aversions and tendency to want to escape, and come back to the breath.
Many think worry is life’s necessity. Without worry, one would be passive or not care about a situation or person. But worry and rumination do not create change, or prove that you care. Action at the right time and place creates change. Compassion and listening show caring. Action can mean reflecting, gathering information, and waiting. Maybe the appropriate action is to execute several small steps to reach a final goal or resolution. If no action is possible, then see the worry for what it is and let it go. It will only cause suffering and anguish to punish yourself with endless thoughts.
One Breath At A Time
At times, it may seem like we have don’t have a gap in all the things we must do in a day. In fact, there are many. The times of transition can be opportunities for mini-mediations. Essentially, one breath of mindfulness, one breath of meditation and attentiveness. Use a point of reference like the rise and fall of your belly, or the sensation of the breath through the nostrils, if that’s helpful for you to focus on breath. If you can get three conscious breaths in a row – wonderful! If you can only get one full, deep and mindful breath, you are still practicing meditation and those moment will add up and change your life.
Some easy times to practice one breath meditation include:
- After waking, before getting out of bed
- Brushing your teeth
- Before or after a shower
- Before stepping through the doors of work
- After leaving work
- While at a traffic light (you’re waiting anyways!)
- Before nodding off to sleep
- Really anytime before or after distinct activities or obligations
If you want a challenge, you can practice staying with your breath while….
- Being in a disagreement with another person
- Getting angry or frustrated – before speaking or taking action
- Stuck in an uncomfortable situation – traffic delays, work deadlines, bodily pain, cravings, negative emotions.
Remember, in any given situation, these words are always true: this too shall pass.
Choosing Thoughts to Create Our Reality.
Another twist on the concept of meditation is observing your thought patterns and consciously and proactively changing them.
There’s a saying in Chinese medicine that says “where the yi goes, the qi flows”. Yi is the mind. If the mind is generating all the wrongs, negativities, and woes of our lives, our experience will reflect more of that. Our mind will look for more of those things that we are so focused on. If the qi is flowing into the past or future because the mind is obsessing, will our actions in the present be as mindful and powerful as they could be? If the mind imagines that everyone is out to get you, how will that impact your relationships and experiences in the world?
There are several helpful methods to nudge your mind into positive and empowered thought patterns.
- Keeping a gratitude journal. Simply list at least 3 things/people/situations you are grateful for. Feel that gratitude in your gut. Feel free to keep listing more! Most people find that once they start listing, they find much more to be grateful for in their lives than they expected.
- Observe your thoughts in a given day. Resist the urge to judge yourself, and simply notice. What are you telling yourself throughout the day, or saying about other people? Write those down, and ask yourself, are these true? Are they helpful? Are these beliefs and thoughts what I want to use my energy for? If they are not life affirming thoughts, you can make another list that changes them into positive thoughts. Many of our thoughts are conditioned and will pop up frequently, if not daily. When that thought pops up, why not take a moment to change that notion into something positive? It may sound silly, but I invite you to try it. Then see how your experiences change – internally and externally.
- Daily visualization or writing. What changes do you want to make in your life? Maybe it’s changing your confidence, body, job, relationships, health, or general lifestyle. I invite you to try daily visualizations or writing (whatever is more appealing to you) for the life you want. Being specific is important, and using as much feeling as you can muster. For example, do you want a different job? Your visualization might include the new workplace you’d like, your positive interactions with ideal co-workers, the paycheck you’d get, etc. What does it feel like to like going to this job? If you’re writing, write out all those things as if you already have them.
Changes may not happen the way we expect them to. However, if we are present and willing to allow for change, we may end up with something even better than we expected. Either way, changing your thoughts from ones that are self deprecating, and focused on all that is wrong with you and life around you, to ones that embrace the best in life and people will transform your experience in your daily living.
But don’t believe me, try it out for yourself and see where the journey takes you!
Author Marianne Williamson gives parting inspiration:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?
…It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Amanda Johnson (AJ) practices at Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic in Walla Walla, WA. She loves to show patients how Chinese medicine is fantastic at relieving body pain, aiding recovery and enhancing vitality. When not in the clinic, she will be out hiking, cycling, or playing in the water.