I have always been interested in and inspired by the idea of meditation, yet the practice has never failed to challenge me. My mind wanders. My days are busy. I find reasons why I should be doing other things (“I should be learning something; I should be exercising; I should be cleaning the house; I can do this later”). The stillness (and justifying the merits of inactivity) is just so hard! And yet, and yet, the suggestion to meditate comes back to me regularly. Books I read, magazine articles, Facebook posts – something always comes from the universe poking at me as if to say, “You need this. Meditation will have a calming effect on your life. Meditation will ground you and give you clarity.”
So, once again, here in the summer of 2015, I have tried meditating. I started small, setting the timer on my phone for five minutes. I started simply, just promising to breathe for the full five minutes. The first time I tried, my mind felt its usual frenzy, but I had enough focus that my breath, unsurprisingly, did feel like a path through the chaos. At the end of the five minutes, I felt more grounded. I felt better. So, I thought, five more! Again, at the end, I was calmer, better. In each ensuing day, I tried, when I remembered, to clock my five minutes of breathing.
I have not always been successful at a formal five minutes of meditation, but I have become successful at something entirely different, an unexpected gift. I have developed the habit of noticing my breath informally. In a tennis match, in the few moments of inactivity before I serve, I notice my breath. When settling down to read a book to my daughter at night, in the few moments of settling, I notice my breath. After the hectic moments of dropping her off at summer camp, when I get back in my car, I notice my breath.
The noticing is not the change I want to share with you. The noticing is necessary for this change, so I am grateful that I’m developing the habit of noticing. The change is that, somehow, wonderfully, I have realized that my breath is a time marker for my life. In each moment that I notice my breath, my thought is, “This is a moment of my life. Am I living this moment in as perfect a way as I know how?” It just takes the awareness of that one breath, and everything about the moment is changed. In the car today, when another driver did something unnecessary, I felt myself breathe which triggered the thought, “Am I living this very moment of my life as perfectly as I can?” And my gratitude for life overcame any resentment about her driving choices – why would I want to spend a single second holding onto negative emotions when those seconds were my life? If, for example, I am tired and irritable as I am about to read books to my daughter at night and I spontaneously feel myself breathe, the newly formed habit of thought comes again, “Ah, this is a moment of my life. How do I want to live this moment of my life?” And the irritation turns to gratitude, the fatigue to contentment.
So, I am not perfect at this by any means, and I certainly cannot call myself a meditator, but I do know that the habit of noticing my breathing, and the presence of mind it gives me, is slowly changing me for the better. I am becoming more content, more grateful, and happier. Truly, life is so very short. Moments are so fleeting and yet so perfect when you are in them. And the more I am present, the more I am alive. The more I am alive, the more life I really live. Try it! The habit is one I hope to keep. It takes very little – just in the few minutes before sleep – the few minutes upon waking, the few minutes you set aside to notice your breathing. And, with that practice, you will find you are noticing your breathing off and on throughout the day. When you notice your breathing, recognize the moment. Ask yourself, “Am I living this moment of my life as perfectly as possible?” Whatever your answer is, live the yes.
Live the yes.