COMING CLEAN: Week 8: Breathe In, Breathe Out

Courtney explores opportunities to find more mindful ways to add meditation into her days.

When I was 13, I had a huge crush on Keanu Reeves. I had seen the movie Speed that summer, and I imagined I was Sandra Bullock, driving the bus to save those passengers while I fell in love with that dreamy cop. I cut out photos of Keanu and pasted them to my notebooks, and drew hearts around his face. Then, I began watching every movie Keanu has ever been in — the good, the bad and the horrible, the Bill & Ted movies included — stumbling across a low-grossing little gem that came out in 1993 called Little Buddha.

Most may not recall this under-the-radar flick, so I’ve included a clip for your viewing pleasure. This scene in particular intrigued me, and so fascinated me that I began a lifelong interest in expanding my spirituality. The concept of reaching enlightenment through meditation — in that I could sit still and block all distractions and gain a better understanding of myself and this world — has always seemed like an awesome achievement. I spent my youth routinely returning to the principles of Buddhism, and peppered my education with philosophy and religious studies classes to deepen my knowledge. (And to think my curiosity all began with an infatuation with Keanu Reeves.)

http://www.youtube.com/v/2xV8xgWlZy0&hl=en_US&fs=1

When week 8 of the Take Action Challenge asked us to simply breathe, I thought about my desire to practice meditation on a regular basis. It’s funny: As easy and obvious as this challenged appeared, it really surprised me how much I neglect to sit quietly and focus on breathing every day. I think everyone assumes they do this, but consider how often you rest, just rest, without it intended to serve another purpose — reading a book, sleeping or watching TV, for example. I think it stems from the same reason some of us can’t go to the movies alone, or sit and have lunch without reading a magazine. We seem to place value on busyness (or simply looking occupied), and because we are social creatures, when we are busy together, all the better. I’m not saying I’m a shut in or that I don’t adore my friendships, but the moments when I’m alone and the house is quiet are really special. If my city block is also near silence — my neighbor isn’t playing the drums, the kids aren’t yelling down the street, my dog, Chloe, has stopped barking and no one is mowing the lawn — it’s like I’ve struck gold. It’s the perfect time to meditate — and to simply breathe.

On Practice

The Life Time Fitness in Highland Park has been offering meditation classes twice a week with Eddie. This week I went and found this form of “exercise” to suit me well. The hour-long class starts with deep silent breathing, then moves on to audible breathing (saying “om” aloud) and lastly, Eddie walks the students through visualization, incorporating all the practices save the vocalization. I found myself so relaxed that I dozed off — not drooling and snoring sleep, but where my stillness gave way to looseness that surrendered to sleep. Eddie had us create a picture in our minds of where we at peace, and I imagined a pasture near a creek, similar to the one Kyle and I recently visited on a fly-fishing trip in Lanesboro, Minnesota (below). Anytime I feel stressed, I picture this scene and slow my breathing in and out until that lurking deadline or aggravating phone call fades in severity — to be completed, yes, but not to ruin my day.
Green Pasture

The End of the Take Action Challenge

I hope, like me, you found easy ways to make big changes in your day — and, in turn, your life — through the Take Action Challenge. When I started this in May, I figured I would be encouraged to run laps or cut out all sweets and do yoga twice a week. (In time, I may run a few laps and cut out some sweets and do yoga once a week.) But what I appreciate about Experience Life and the philosophy of the staff is that small changes do add up. If you are coming from a place like me, where working out is rare and eating processed foods are commonplace, even taking a daily walk seems like work (when will I find the time?!). Although I’ve been more active and munched on more veggies in my past, returning to it or starting fresh can be equally paralyzing. But the little changes add up — and make a difference that is sustainable for a lifetime. And soon nothing feels like a chore (or a challenge), but is instead how you live — a happy, healthy life. Doesn’t that sound nice?

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