Meditation can help you focus, relax, and create clarity. Practitioners claim that it can enhance creativity and help us become more aware of our core selves. I’ve always wanted to be able to meditate but really, up until recently, about the only thing I’ve liked about meditation is that it often led to a nap.
Most articles on meditation that I’ve read start with the phrase “Get in a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus on your breath”. Well my comfortable position is nap position, so that’s easy. Focusing on my breath seems a little more vague to me. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been breathing pretty much my whole life without thinking about it. Usually, after about 5 seconds of focusing, my brain gets bored and wanders off on its own tangents – what am I going to have for lunch, did I to call for that dental appointment, what is that sound is outside, I could really use a nap and I’m already in position…
Recently, on yet another attempt at focusing on my breath, I decided to improvise a bit. It helped me and maybe it will help you.
Instead of just this vague sense of “focusing”, I internally said “breathe in” for 3 seconds during an in-breath and “breathe out” for 3 seconds during an out-breath. I worked on making that in and out slow down so that my 3 seconds stretched longer and longer and my internal “breathe in…breathe out…” stretched into a lulling mantra of sorts.
At first, I could get to about 3 minutes before getting distracted. As soon as my brain decided it was time to be bored, instead of getting frustrated with my lack of focus, I decided to incorporate the distractions into my meditation. For example, my brain started listening to the birds chirping outside and wondering whether I had remembered to refill the feeder. So, instead of just “breathe in”, I said “breathe in the beauty of nature” and then, to make room for that positive feeling, I countered with “breathe out worry about unfulfilled chores”. Each breath from that point on became positive in and negative out in a sort of meditation stream of consciousness. See why you might want your breaths to be a little stretched out? It allows you a little more time to think and impress and express your positive and negative energies.
There are endless things you can breathe in and out. Feel free to repeat the more important ones during your practice. If they come to mind multiple times, maybe you really need a little more boost. Here is a list of some that I’ve used to get you started, but feel free to add in the things that you wish for your own self.
- Creativity – doubt
- Confidence – inferiority
- Beauty – self deprecation
- Peace – stress
- Love for my spouse – irritation at petty things
- Strength – weakness
- Health – pain
- Joy – sadness
- Wealth – stress over bills
- Appreciation of friends – feelings of loneliness
Nothing is right or wrong. It’s all about what energies you want in your life and not. Sometimes, if I’m really stressed, I will have stress be the out-breath for multiple positive in-breaths. Think of it as getting rid of something to make room for something better inside of you. Maybe there is a lot of stress to get rid of so that you can put lots of beautiful things in its place.
Do this until you feel that you’ve done it long enough. Don’t let “frustration with this meditation” be one of the things you ultimately have to breathe out. I find that I can easily do 10 minutes most days but need 20 or more minutes other days. And, by all means, if you have time to take a nap at the end of your meditation, free of the worries your brain might have introduced, go for it!
This can also be used as a quick stress reliever at work. Close your eyes at your desk. Do the “breathe in breathe out” breaths for one minute and then spend one or two minutes breathing in and out work strengths and weaknesses:
- Patience with coworkers – frustrations
- Productivity – procrastination
- Patience – criticism
- Creativity – stagnation
- Calm – stress
I would strongly recommend against the nap at the end of a work meditation however, for obvious reasons…
What are your breathe in and out items today? Your list might help someone else with their practice.