A meditation practice does not have to be done at the base of the Himalayas or in an enchanted garden to have profound effects on calming our nervous system and quieting the mind. Quieting the mind does not mean we have learned to think of nothing at all. Quieting the mind simply means reducing the chatter and learning to focus and concentrate. Through this we learn to live in the present moment.
Spending time reliving the past and trying to predict or foresee the future takes us out of the now. An example Max Strom uses in his book, “A Life Worth Breathing” is this: on a break at work you start to imagine your planned summer vacation and then while on that very vacation you spend your time thinking of your neglected work duties. The following exercise will help reduce those moments of disconnect and bring you into the present moment.
Sit comfortably with the spine tall and the core (stomach- low back) muscles engaged to support the seated posture. Sit in a chair with the spine away from the backrest or on the floor with blankets under the sitting bones for support are two good ways to practice.
- Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Stretch the ribs apart with huge inhales as if you were about to hold your breath underwater. Do this five times.
- Rest and breathe naturally.
- Open the mouth so the top and bottom rows of teeth separate about one inch. Do not tense the jaw. Breathe in deeply and pause for two seconds. Breathe out through the mouth creating an ocean sound like a wave rushing to shore. (Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa) This is the same breath you use to fog your sunglesses in order to clean them. The beginning and ending of the exhale taper so the sound is not forced but rather smooth like gentle waves at the ocean. Do the same sound on the inhale.
- Repeat over and over again fine tuning the sound so it is comforting for anyone that might hear you sitting close by.
- Do this for three minutes and count the number of breaths. One breath includes an inhale and an exhale. Note how many breaths you take.
- Release the breath and sit quietly. Notice how you feel when you’re done and continue to sit until it feels like time to get up.
Over time, you can practice deepening the breath and controlling the airflow so it is steady and smooth. The number of breaths you take in three minutes will reduce with a daily practice. This practice can increase your attention span, calm the mind and leave you with a more peaceful demeanor. We find the three minute breathing is often a segway to longer meditations and more moments of being fully present with our children.
posted by Liz and Brian