I’ve tried plenty of times to “learn” how to meditate. I took a 4-week meditation course at a yoga studio, I learned some techniques while studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I spent time at the Osho Meditation Resort in India, I’ve read books, I’ve watched videos. And do I meditate regularly? Nope.
Or at least I thought I didn’t.
See my problem is – and I’m certain I’m not alone in this – I’ve long tried to define meditation as something tangible, something I could learn to do “right” and chastise myself for doing “wrong”. The more I tried to learn how to meditate, the more proof I collected that I’m no good at it.
Meanwhile, during class one day at IIN, I learned a simple technique: deep belly breathing. I liked it.
Because most of my clients come to me with an assortment of stresses, I always share this simple tool with clients and groups. Most of the time you’re breathing into your chest. Sure it keeps you alive, but it’s shallow breathing. When you’re feeling stressed or fearful about something, your breath becomes faster and even more shallow. This kind of breathing signals your brain that you’re in fight-or-flight mode, and the stress hormone, cortisol, is released into the bloodstream. By the way, excess cortisol is also linked to excess belly fat (stress stinks!)
Try this: sit quietly for a moment and gently close your eyes. Place your hand on your belly and breathe deeply to expand it fully. Repeat.
Now your shallow breathing has been replaced by deep, slow breaths all the way down into your belly. This breathing tells the brain you’re safe and the stress hormones are reduced, calming your entire system.
You feel clearer, calmer, more grounded. You’ve interrupted the chatter in your brain, the worry, the overwhelm, the stress, the negative self-talk, the recurring thoughts, just by taking a deep belly breath or two.
While you could sit and enjoy deep belly breathing for an hour, what’s really awesome about this little technique is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. Sitting with your eyes closed is not required. You can be stuck in traffic late to pick up your child at school, or standing outside your boss’ office waiting for your yearly review – hello, stress! – and you can just breathe deeply into your belly and allow peace to enter.
So what does deep belly breathing have to do with meditation? I just watched a quick video about “How to Meditate in a Moment”. I sat here at my desk and followed along with the one-minute meditation which instructed me to simply plant my feet on the floor, close my eyes and sit up straight, but not rigid. Then I was told to pay attention to my breathing, and so I put my attention on my deep belly breaths.
Duh. Light bulb. A-ha moment. I just realized that I meditate all the time!
Meditation, I now understand, is not about right or wrong, it’s not measurable or tangible, there’s no best way to do it, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s simply a practice you can do anywhere, in just a moment, that brings you back to the present, back into your body and quiets the mind chatter.
What then does that allow? Peace, clarity, an open mind. An awesome life becomes truly possible from this place.
So all the time I spent trying to learn how to meditate, I could have spent breathing and enjoying the peace within me. And the self-talk about “I don’t know how to meditate” is now replaced with the more empowering thought “I enjoy meditation daily”.
Try it. You’ll like it. And please share in the comments below how it was for you.
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