Mind Your Breath … and Prosper
How the hot new mindfulness movement helped this writer and can give you a boost, too.
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True to myself, I don’t tiptoe but instead plunge into my mindfulness meditation exposure. On a Thursday in late March I arrange my schedule to attend two guided sessions—a 45-minute one led by Robinson and the hour-plus one by Nguyen.
“Apprehensive” doesn’t quite define my mood (I mean, nothing bad can happen), but even with Tarquini-Sanders’ previous encouragement, I wonder whether I’ll be crawling out of my skin 10 minutes in.
I wasn’t. Time felt altered in a way I’d never experienced—simultaneously suspended and moving in fast-forward. I achieved even the hourlong meditation without desiring to flee halfway through. When Nguyen brought that session to a close, I felt as if I had emerged from a dream, returning to reality after having been somewhere else.
When I woke the next morning, I felt refreshed—fully and completely rested—for the first time in weeks. The feeling persisted all that day and into the next. It made me hunger for more.
Over the weekend I practice on my own with mixed results, and on Monday, I join another guided session, this time with Chodor Kelsang, the Buddhist monk, at Samudrabadra Kadampa Buddhist Center in Fort Myers. I hoped to glean as much as I could from someone who’d studied mindfulness from its native origins.
Kelsang put to words exactly what I was experiencing, and in doing so, he put my still-lingering self-doubts to rest. At the start of a meditation session, a frenzy of thoughts swirls through our consciousness, he tells the small class. With breath, stillness and concentration, they quietly settle into submission.
“Through that,” he says, “there is a feeling of peace, and when you find peace within yourself, you can find peace in the world.”
Paige Coniglio practices breathing during the workshop.
I’m hardly there yet. To be honest, I’m struggling to maintain a consistent practice; my time is limited, my schedule fluctuates, and as open-minded as I profess to be, I’m not comfortable announcing: Mom is going to her room to meditate now.
But even in my irregularity, I’m noticing change. My energy level is better. I managed 2 hours worth of stop-and-go traffic to Captiva without my heart rate jumping. I’m remembering to take in small details—the warmth of sunlight, the smell of dinner cooking, the way the wind rustles the bougainvillea in my backyard.
Meditation’s stillness has allowed me to make new physical discoveries, too—like the shallowness of my breath and the tightness of my jaw and the way my neck twists ever so slightly to the right. With breath, my muscles are letting go. I feel the difference in the dance studio. In fact, meditation creates a sensation that’s not unlike a post-workout glow, that slight pulsating of the muscles, expansion of the lungs and surging of blood through the vessels. How curious, I think, because for 30 minutes, I’ve merely sat.
Kelsang had encouraged us to find a state of equanimity in our meditating—a brain neither sluggish nor excited. I wonder, perhaps, if this onslaught of “mindfulness” is really a societal push for the same—a counterweight to the social media obsessions; order-by-app, eat-on-the-run meals; be-all, do-all, have-it-all messaging; and angst-provoking news that shouts at us all day from devices we wear on our wrists and carry in our pockets.
As with any hot trend, mindfulness runs the risk of extinguishing or commercializing or otherwise succumbing to the “next big thing.” I hope not. I’ve spent a mere two weeks dabbling in mindfulness meditation, and I sense its potential. Its practice and the study can go much deeper, though at this juncture, I’m not sure I’ll go beyond the simple act of breathing in, breathing out. For now, that is enough.
It’s a Friday afternoon, and no one is home. I think I’ll sit cross-legged for a while and listen to the wind in the bougainvillea and breathe ...