Meditation, meditation, meditation. You’ve probably already heard about all the benefits of meditation. It reduces the psychological and physiological symptoms of stress, alleviates symptoms of anxiety, can improve sleep quality, improves your working memory, executive functions and activates brain regions involved in self-regulation, problem solving, adaptive behaviour and interoception. It can even enhance your levels of relationship satisfaction, closeness and acceptance with your girlfriend or boyfriend if both practice it! Definitely, you have to try it. So here we go, another thing to add to your to-do list.
That’s exactly what I don’t need right now. I do not want to make my to-do even longer. I need to focus, there is no time to sit and wait for all those benefits to materialize themselves. I am so done with those “should”s. I want freedom and love.
For this very reason, I’ve put aside meditation practice since I started yoga a good twelve years ago. It felt like an obligation, and like anything else in life you feel you should be doing but you’re not, I’ve been feeling guilty of procrastination. There is always something more fun to do, to think about than sitting on a cushion for 15 minutes, waiting for that delivering alarm to go off.
I’ve tried it for a while, and I hated it. Therefore I just thought it wasn’t for me. Until I got the privilege to practice with wonderful teachers who made meditation fun again. Until I felt the need to sit down instead of running away. Until I felt the urge to face the truth.
What I discovered is life-changing. It tastes good. It feels great. And I need you to try it now. I want you to take three breaths. By the time you’re finished reading that sentence, one is already gone. So let’s focus on the last two we take together. Exhale and empty your lungs completely. Inhale for a count of four. One, two, three, four. Exhale for a count of four. One, two, three, four. Inhale for a count of four. One, two, three, four. Pause while you are full for four. One, two, three, four. Exhale for a count of four. One, two, three, four.
Feel that? I guess that’s what we call prana. The energy of life. As you breathe with purpose, time expands simultaneously with your lungs. I find myself so focused on the flow of air in and out that nothing else matter. In that precious moment, I am all light and love. No matter what brought me to meditate, may be it sadness, anger, disappointment, I always end up feeling full of love and compassion.
What I discovered though is that what I learn on the mat can be applied in the rest of my life. If I had a dollar for every moment that I spend thinking about what’s coming next, I wouldn’t need to wait for the Lotto-Max to retire. Therefore these days I am working on bringing myself back to the present moment, not letting my mind wander. When I am able to, my days feel fuller. I have so much time, it’s crazy how many things I can accomplish. I feel present, happy and relaxed.
It’s a work in progress. I am definitely not able to be in that state every day, all day. But it’s okay. My yoga teacher once explained meditation with this simple illustration: you put a pencil on a sheet of paper. Eventually, the sheet moves, and the pencil falls. It’s no big deal. You take the pencil and put it back on the paper sheet. Meditation for me is the act of resting your attention on your breath. Sometimes, every time I’d say, your attention eventually slips away. No big deal. As soon as you notice, you bring your attention back to your breath.
No need to sit, although it does help and I am becoming fond of it. Enjoy the simplicity of this life meditation you can take anywhere. Maybe as you develop your practice, you will too feel the need to sit, but for me the first step, and maybe the last too, is to take your meditation with you, wherever you go. It’s this intention of doing things with purpose, what yoga makes us practice, this care we put into raising our arms up, into transitions, into getting out of a pose.
That’s what I want to practice daily, that’s how we get out of our auto-pilot mode and fully embrace our lives, even without having to travel far away or jump off a plane. When we bring consciousness into our actions, we automatically start thinking about how and why we do things. We don’t have to work to find our purpose anymore. Our purpose is already there, lying in those small actions we repeat day after day. Our purpose is in the how, not so much the what or the why. I am inviting you today, and for the rest of your days, to live with purpose.