Take my breath away...
On a recent getaway with my husband I found myself waking up to this. It took my breath away and I had to spring out of bed (at 5am) to capture the sheer beauty that spanned the horizon. As I type this I can feel the energy in my body as I look at this photo again- its left an indelible mark on me. I recall wanting to take it all in- every bit of color and shape that my eyes could see. I carried the beauty and grandeur of this sunrise with me all day long . A little later I sat and did a morning meditation. This is something I have been trying to commit to after being reminded of the emotional and physical health benefits it brings. Its true that meditating with a backdrop like this makes it easy to find stillness and quiet through breathing. And I did find a calm space very quickly that day!
On other days though, back in my normal life and flow, it can be a lot more difficult to get quiet through meditation if I even get to it! But the benefits still outweigh the difficulty in taking the time. What research shows to be most beneficial about meditating is that through intentional breath work, the mind slowly calms down and begins to be quiet. Our mental chatter gets told to move on down the river while we stay upstream for just a little while and focus on our breathing. We follow the breath in...and out....in... and out. When this is done with repetition and we focus on our breath's natural rhythm, our neurological system begins to quiet down. We can notice how we are in our bodies - what's tense, what may be hurting and maybe what tiredness feels like. We are also able to make connections with our body and our emotions and thoughts. What does anxiety or frustration feel like in our bodies? Or how we truly are feeling about being single or getting older. We are invited to just observe and not judge or do anything with what we notice. It may be difficult at first since we are so used to letting our minds run wild and feeling the resulting roller coaster effect of feelings or physical shifts. With time though, and practice, there is a longer lasting shift that we notice. The ability to stay with a situation or conversation that we used to react quickly to or avoid. We may notice that we can be present to challenges in ways we used to need coping mechanisms for. It's really quite remarkable what happens as a result of consistent meditation and sitting with ourselves. Our neuropathways are able to rewire through the phenomena of neuroplasticity and in our bodies we literally change at the cellular level. So of course we will notice this and it's effect on our relationships and our overall well-being. And that should take your breath away!
There are others way to practice meditation as a spiritual practice that I'll mention here but could use their own proper explanation. They are Contemplative Prayer and St. Ignatius' Prayer of Examen. I love both of these and take turns with all three. There is a new app I have been working with called CALM and it is a great introduction to meditation.
So while it is easier to create a quiet space while away on holiday in a tropical island, the truth is we actually need it in our every day lives. We need to find our breath and be with it and not let it get away!
Resources: "Body keeps the Score" by Bessel van der Kolk and "Brainstorm" by Dan Siegel
Kimberly Simpson, a native of New Jersey, graduate of Wheaton College and resident of Nashville. Married and mother of three children. Lover of the ocean, gardens, yoga, cooking and travel.