Meditations on meditation

The echo chamber that is the internet is full of blog posts, podcasts, and books on the benefits of meditation.

I don’t discount the idea of being more mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and even your breathe.

Closeup of candle flame.

Closeup of candle flame.

I’m not into the woo-woo chants and the mysticism or the opening of chakras, but I do like the ideal of recognizing your thoughts and realizing that you can decide to dwell on them or not.

I figured before I discount the words of these sages and gurus, I’d at least try to start a meditation practice.

The word meditation is much maligned. Images are conjured of the lotus position, chants, sitar music, and incense.

Let’s scrap all that and get down to the physiologic core. It’s about controlling your breathing, which in turn can affect your heart rate, blood pressure, and possibly your endocrine system.

This morning I tried a method of mindfulness called box breathing.

It’s a method employed and taught by Navy Seal, Mark Divine. With reassurance from a manly man, I felt less like I was going to have to stop eating gluten and become a raw vegan. I proceeded with the exercise.

The method is a simple practice of inhaling deeply, holding your breathe, then exhaling deeply. You can vary the time intervals you use for each, but I settled on an 8 count of inhale, 7 count of holding, and 7 count of exhaling.

Here are a few things I found out.

Even on a quiet morning with the the sun still below the horizon, a dull hum of my bedside fan and humidifier, it is still incredibly difficult to focus solely on your breath. And your sole focus should be on the action of your controlled breath.

Without fail my mind wandered.

The echos of the advocates of meditation rung in my head. The thought of, hey, I should blog about this.
What should I eat for dinner this weekend?
I wonder what time it is?

Between each thought I’d slowly pull myself back to my breathing pattern. The practice is not about ignoring your thoughts, distracting yourself, or delusion. It’s about recognizing your thoughts for what they are and slowly and voluntarily bringing them into focus.

The monkeys fighting in my mind persisted.
Who should I pick up on waivers this week to help my fantasy game this weekend?
Will I ever get a win?

I slowly pull myself back.

The whole process seems futile in the moment.

Why does anyone even do this?

Then I reminded myself, anything worthwhile is difficult. It’s the challenges that improve us.

To begin each morning by controlling two autonomic function of your body, your breath and the function of your eye lids – the only two you have conscious control over, seem like a small victory.

I may not be able to control my thoughts. I might not be able to control what others do or what might happen to me. But, by being able to control something small, sets me up for the day with a win.

Life isn’t about being a control freak and dictating, but discipline over thyself will remain a virtue worth pursuing.

Author: Jeff

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