Meditation. Mindfulness. Being Still. For me, it has been a challenge. When I first tried to be still with my breath a few years ago, I was searching for new ways to cope with some difficult changes in my life. "So. Meditation. I'll give it a try," I thought. I did what I was told. I paid attention and tried to release my wandering thoughts. I explored the feeling of my breath in my body. I tried to be compassionate with my weary spirit. But I was impatient. The inward focus was painful. I felt pressure. I felt alone.
On one occasion, after struggling through my first meditation class, I remember dashing out of the room in tears. I had managed to persevere through what felt like hours rather than minutes, but as soon as I heard the gong, I raced off to the nearest Dunkin Donuts for a huge caffeine hit, popped in a CD of frantic celtic reels, and flew down the road "playing the steering wheel", the only thing remotely resembling a percussion instrument in which I could expend my nervous frustration. Clearly, I wasn't finding my calm.
It would be months after I fled that meditation class until I began to find my way. One day as I sat in a the woods contemplating the creatures around me, I thought about the fact that the trees and I were breathing the same air. The animals. The plants. The insects. We were all sharing and exchanging the same marvelous gift! Every living thing on earth was sharing one, collective breath. There in the woods I started to pay attention to my breath. But this time I wasn't focusing on me anymore. I was focusing on us. I was not alone. I found my path.
Now, when I start a morning intention, when I want to settle myself, or if I choose to engage in a group meditation, I know exactly how to start. First, I face a window, go outside, or close my eyes and imagine I am in the woods. Then, with each new breath, I bring to mind a different creature with whom I am connected. I tenderly think of the sleeping chickadee and his effortless breath. I imagine I am standing beside a mighty, silent sequoia. I remember the katydid's song on a hot, summer night. This settles me right down and from there, I can begin to notice the slow rhythm of my breath and go from there. As I connect with nature, I find gratitude. I find my way. I find calm.
When I breathe…
I breathe the breath of a thousand oaks
I breathe the breath of a thousand bumble bees
I breathe the breath of a thousand crows in flight
I breathe the breath of a thousand heroes
I breathe the breath of a thousand villains
I breathe the breath of a thousand homeless
I breathe the breath of a thousand ancestors
I breathe the breath of a thousand children
I breathe the breath of us all
- Beth Adoette
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