This week, set aside two times in the day – once in the morning when you wake up and once in the late afternoon or early evening – and for at least ten minutes, just watch the breath. Don’t try to change your breathing - it will naturally slow down after sitting for some time, but don’t force this. Just be conscious of the breath coming in through your nostrils, and watch every moment of it going out again. Then try to notice the small gaps at the end of the ingoing breath before it goes out again, and at the end of the outgoing breath before it goes in. Small pauses where you are not breathing at all. This may be for only the slightest fraction of a second. Again, don’t try to make the gaps longer or to do anything at all – just notice them.
The idea here is twofold: The first is that when you are not breathing, you are not alive. So, for a fraction of a second you can experience being dead, but still being. The second is that for the majority of your life you are focused on things – work, objects, thoughts – and the focus here is essentially on nothing.
Focus intently on this nothingness for the ten minutes (or longer if you can afford the time) twice a day, but also try to bring moments of this awareness into the rest of your day. Stick a simple post it note up at your desk or in your car that says “Am I Still Breathing?” Often my students or friends will say that they just can’t meditate – all that sitting still doing nothing – and my reply is always the same: One conscious breath is a meditation. And the more often you can take a conscious breath, the more meditation you bring into your life, until eventually every breath is a conscious one and then there is no need for ‘meditation’ anymore as you have become the meditation.
A NOTE ON MEDITATION AND EMOTIONAL DETOX:
On thing to be aware of when you start meditating is that you will naturally start to clear stresses and traumas and negativity that you have been hanging on to. In order to clear, these things must first come ‘up and out’ so to speak. In my experience, people often give up on meditation fairly quickly as they start to feel worse – more irritated or aggressive or depressed – than they were before they began. If you can keep in mind that these emotions are coming up to clear and you are not going mad or having a nervous breakdown or anything, then it makes this phase easier to transcend.
Simply allow whatever comes up to be. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to run outside and scream, do so. I’ve found that because all that emotions are is energy, it helps to simply find a release for this energy – run round the block, swim a few lengths, get out the punching bag.
Life will find ways to help you to bring these emotions out into the light for you to clear them – usually this comes in the form of something that we would consider a “negative event” – the dog pees on your favourite carpet, your partner forgets to unpack the dishwasher, someone skips the traffic light and crunches your new car. The event or trigger is irrelevant, it is simply the messenger – what counts is the emotion that is triggered in you. The emotion is yours. So, don’t shoot the messenger. Don’t kick the dog, or murder your spouse, or torch the offender’s car. However, don’t pretend that you are not experiencing the emotion that is triggered. Don’t judge it. Allow it to be and find a creative way to release this energy and let it move out of your life.
This phase does end, and the rewards for making it through this are immense.
Good luck, and wishing you a meditative week!