Images of a sadhu with a long beard sitting in a cave and dressed in nothing but a simple loin cloth spring to mind when you mention the word meditation, or perhaps your image is of people with their eyes closed chanting “Om” in a haze of incense smoke. But things have changed. It is hard these days to escape hearing about the benefits of meditation, whether it is to deal with workplace stress, or simply the stress and pressures of day-to-day life, or for a more serious medical diagnosis.
There is a proliferation of techniques, ranging from simple relaxation practices to visualization to longer silent meditation practices and even lengthy meditation retreats over a weekend, a week or longer.
There is an implied belief that relaxation techniques are for ordinary people, but if you’re really serious, then you need to be meditating sitting cross-legged for a considerable amount of time, at least thirty minutes, preferably an hour, and some would boast of sitting for four hours. I have never been comfortable sitting cross-legged at any time in my life and now at my age it would be impossible! A chair might be suggested as an option and I could possibly sit in a chair for thirty minutes, but I guarantee I would become restless or start to nod off after only a few minutes.
Why does meditation have to be for such a long time? Is this really necessary?
I remember when I was younger I participated in a yoga group where we would meditate for an hour in the morning and then again at night. More often than not I would fall asleep sitting upright, with my head jolting forward as I went into a slumber (and I wasn’t the only one!). And if I didn’t fall asleep, then my mind would be so busy I would feel I had run a marathon, wrestling with my mind to keep it focused.
Needless to say I never developed a regular meditation practice, however, at some level I knew there had to be a way to find stillness, to end the raciness of my mind and to be more relaxed, at ease and content within myself.
That’s when I was introduced to the Gentle Breath Meditation®. Such a simple process. I can sit comfortably in a chair with no need to sit cross-legged. No need to chant “Om”. No need to sit for long hours. I learnt that all I needed to do was to focus on the tip of my nose and feel the cool air as I breathed in and the warm air as I breathed out, allowing my breath and my body to become gentle as I exhaled. Breathing in gently, breathing out gently.
I discovered five to ten minutes was enough. I could sit for longer if I wanted, but actually I was ready after ten minutes to get up and get on with my day, taking the gentleness of the meditation into whatever I had to do. In fact, I have learnt that it is counterproductive to sit for longer. Once I am in stillness, the body is ready to get moving and to get on with things. To sit for longer would put me into a slumber which is exactly what I experienced in the past with meditation techniques that required me to sit for a long period of time.
I’ve been practising the Gentle Breath Meditation® now for ten years. The benefits I have experienced include a steadiness that has built in my body over time, more presence in all that I do whether it be working on the computer, talking to clients, teaching students, going for a walk or cooking a meal. I have found that the Gentle Breath Meditation® has had a significant and beneficial impact on the anxiety and nervous tension that I experienced in the past, the raciness I felt in my body and mind during busy times, and the emotional ups and downs of my life.
The Gentle Breath Meditation® creates a steady platform for my day and has increased my capacity to deal with life, with relationships, and with work.
Over time a memory builds in the body so that it takes only a moment to re-connect to the stillness and presence within. It has built a solidness in my body giving me so much more confidence as well as opening my heart to others. I have found that through this inner connection I can more easily express the truth of a situation as I feel it with a clarity that was not there before. I can more readily catch my reactions in stressful situations and not get carried away by my emotions.
If I lose this sense of connection during the day, all it takes is a moment to stop, slow down, breathe gently and re-connect to my stillness.
The Gentle Breath Meditation® is profound in its simplicity and I can attest to the immense benefits it has brought to me personally as well as to others.
You can find out more about the Gentle Breath Meditation® on the following websites:
Judy F., Australia