Back to Basics

I’ve started meditating again. It’s time. There are several different ways that I go about it.

1)When I’m feeling ambitious I practice zazen, which I learned back in college. Basically I sit completely still and try to focus on my breathing, counting from 1-10, over and over. When thoughts come up, I acknowledge them, let them go and then get back to the counting. I’ve never really gotten much out of sitting zen, but I like how challenging it is to still both the body and mind. Try it- it’s hard to get to 10 without 3 different thoughts popping up in your head.

2) Something that I’m finding a bit more useful than zen is the process of “breathing through” my pain and emotions. I read about the idea on Dear Sugar, an online advice column that I discovered last month and have since become obsessed with. When I’m feeling overcome with emotion, I focus on the person/event/emotion, then breathe in deeply with intention, hold it for a second, and then actively blow the feeling out. Over and over and over.

Blow out rejection. Breathe in understanding. Blow out fear. Breathe in hope. Blow out loneliness, pain, confusion, anxiety, what if’s?, anger, regret, longing, etc. My feelings aren’t gone by a long shot, but I know that I’m making progress with each breath. It’s hard to explain how it works. I feel like through the breathing I’m getting a handle on overwhelming things in my life and applying time and effort into accepting them.

3)I’ve never tried mantra meditation before. However, I have stumbled across a mantra for myself.

I was listening to some list on Spotify, maybe it was top albums or something like that, and the Quiet Company album came up. I started listening to it randomly, and I came across the song “Are you a mirror?” It’s a song about a father expressing hope and love for his new baby. Of course it took me about three takes to realize it was about a CHILD, because I was so walloped by the chorus: ” I look inside you and I see myself.” The first time I heard it I instantly thought “that’s how I feel love.” When I feel real compassion, deep understanding and connection with a person, I guess I call it love. Romantic love/friendship/familial love- it all boils down to this same feeling.

I could stand to cultivate more of this feeling in my life, so throughout the day as I interact with all things living I think my mantra silently to myself.

  • I’m eating a Super Duper burger outside the BART stop, keeping pigeons from getting at the crumbs: I look inside you, and I see myself.
  • I’m buying coffee from the barista I try to avoid at Starbucks, the real catty one who labeled my breakfast sandwich “Crazy”: I look inside you, and I see myself.
  • I’m on the phone with an elderly lady in Connecticut, haggling over the bill for my knee: I look inside you, and I see myself.

Baby steps, baby steps.