Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Sitting
Slow your breathing down.
Focus gently on your in-breath.
Focus gently on your out-breath.
If you de-focus, kindly bring your attention back to your breath.
Allow peace, if you can.
Here's the Index of all toolkits. And The Mini-Toolkit: For Those with Little or No Time.
In one corner of my little "quiet time" room (cum office), there's a collection of pillows that help me feel supported, comfortable and relaxed when I meditate (or simply "sit" as many Buddhists call it). When I sit on those pillows, I look across at a piece of paper I have taped to the small filing cabinet in front of me. The headline says, "Famed Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh's Gentle Guidance for Beginning Your Meditation Practice." He lists six steps that can help--things like using a single tone from a quiet bell to begin, and sitting with your spine straight but feeling fully relaxed.
At the end of these six suggestions he says: "If you sit regularly, it will become a habit.... Consider daily sitting practice to be a kind of spiritual food."
That's a lovely thought. I like food. I like to eat--it's very pleasurable. And I am very fortunate to have access to plenty of healthy, delicious food. What a great way to think of mediation--being enjoyably nourished by God, by the Universe. By silence.
People who are aware of the most basic form of mindfulness meditation would probably describe it as simply paying attention to your breath. A conscious sort of "not doing." Certainly a release from our very human tendencies to think we are, and should be, in control. As I sit and simply notice my breathing, I discover that the universe can function without me. I am not in control. What a great lesson. And usually very calming.
There is another basic aspect to mindfulness mediation that I think is just as important: the invitation to respond with simple acceptance when you notice that your mind, your wandering unmindful mind, is paying attention to everything but your breath.
The instructions when this happens? No judgment. No criticism. Just awareness of the straying mind and then a gentle redirecting to re-noticing the breath. I tend to give myself many opportunities to practice this self-kindness in any given meditation session, because my mind strays after this and that, bouncing around like a hyperactive two year old. Oh well. How very human. My brain is curious. And my brain (and my will) want to be in control. It's okay. Just notice your breathing.
This kind self-acceptance, and this peaceful non-doing are, in my experience, the spiritual food that Thich Nhat Hanh wrote about. Enjoyable. Delicious. Nourishing.
After he said, "Consider daily sitting practice to be a kind of spiritual food," he added something very important: "Don't deprive yourself and the world of it."
When I am hungry, I get cranky, grumpy, distractable. If I stay hungry I become less and less able to offer anything to anyone else. If I allow myself to be nourished I have a base of peace and energy, a much better place from which to meet, relate to and compassionately support others.
So, perhaps if Thich Nhat Hanh were here, he and I might both say to you, "Bon appétit!"
Until next time,
Ocean meditation, Dmitry Osipenko, unSplash
Baby eating, Derek Owens, unSplash
Grumpy baby, Ryan Franco, unSplash
Julia Childs, GQ.com (notice what's up in the air near her hands)