Just Breathe

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This month I have felt surprisingly calm and relaxed, considering the time of year, and it must be related to drinking more wine practicing meditation and being more mindful.  My To-Do list seemed more manageable.  My daily tasks seemed more pleasant (most of the time…).  My need to nag my husband seemed less important.

I listened to meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn’s audio CD “Mindfulness for Beginners.”  The introduction discussed medical benefits of meditation, including the regulation of our proprioception and neurological functioning.  I couldn’t help but connect this information with my own personal experience with anxiety in college.  While I did not learn about meditation until years later, I know that I overcame my panic attacks by finding solitude, practicing self-care and overall becoming more aware about my needs.  Meditation would have been an effective tool to have learned during that time-  and this CD, as well as other books by Jon Kabat-Zinn, would have been great introductions to meditation practice.

During the week before Christmas, I traveled with my daughter, as a single parent, to the Midwest.  While it was wonderful to be home, my daughter did not sleep more than four hours consecutively all week (due to the acquisition of at least six teeth and traveling to unfamiliar places)- and I was exhausted.  At 4am, two days before Christmas, I experienced my worst-moment-of-parenting (yet): a screaming toddler and I had no reserve, as I was beyond exhausted.  I had tried everything I could think of since 1:30am, without success, to get my daughter back to sleep, and I felt so tired/angry/exhausted/helpless/alone.   I knew that, at that moment, my daughter would be safer if I just walked away from her and so, in a moment of grace, I turned on my iPhone and listened to the “Anger Meditation” from Meditation Oasis.  It took a few minutes for the terrible feelings inside of me to dissipate but eventually they did.  I am not going to lie and say that the calm I felt, lasted beyond 10 minutes, but it was an immense help.   And eventually, we all got some sleep.  Meditation Oasis has been a great discovery- check out their podcasts, iPhone apps, and meditation resources on their website.

Last week I watched a documentary called “The Dhamma Brothers.”  It is a powerful account of a group of prisoners in an Alabama prison who participated in a 10-day meditative retreat.  The healing and transformation observed among the participants is enough to convince me to make meditation practice mandatory in prisons.  No, wait- mandatory for all children.  No, wait- mandatory for all U.S. citizens.

Speaking of children, there is a fantastic book for children called Peaceful Piggy Meditation.  It is a charming book that explains meditation in a way that is appropriate for young children.  “Peaceful piggies sit like a king or queen on their throne, feeling the solid earth beneath them and the big sky all around them.  Every day, they sit feeling their breath going in and out until their minds calm down…By slowing down, peaceful piggies notice all of the magical little things in life, like the way raindrops race each other down the window…the way the clouds tell silent stories…and the way birds sing songs just for you.”  I especially loved an idea shared at the end of the book of making a “mind-in-a-jar” (a jar filled with water and sand that represents your mind clearing its thoughts, as the sand settles).

This resolution has been one of my favorites.  I know I will continue to make meditation a priority.  I have not only felt calmer, but I think my attention is improving too.  Research supports the effects of meditation on attention, memory, and mood– to name just a few.  If you aren’t already convinced about the benefits of meditation, here is some good news from NPR– just breathe!  I loved the closing line, “And the best part is all the ingredients are free and literally right under your nose.”  <Cue Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe.”>

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