I’ve taught meditation for more than a decade. It has been both amusing and enlightening to hear people’s reactions to the word “meditation.”

“Oh, I could never do that! Don’t you just sit around with your legs crossed and chant?”

‘‘I’m too busy to meditate!”

“Isn’t meditation boring?”

I’ve had a student venture to class and, while introducing herself, said in rapid fire words “I don’t know why I’M here. My friends tell me I need this. I DON’T THINK I NEED THIS. But they do, so…” As I looked around at the other students in class, it was apparent to the rest of us why her friends thought she needed the class.

I’ve even had a student tell me after a guided meditation involving a beach and relaxing waves that she became stressed when her meditation beach was different from the description I used while guiding the class.

Breathe, everyone. Seriously, just breathe. Meditation begins there.

It has been said that it is physiologically impossible to be stressed during those moments where you are taking a deep breath, focusing your attention there. That really is the basis of meditating, bringing yourself back to the moment you are in.

One doesn’t have to be still to meditate. Running, for me, used to be a meditation, though it took years and training to teach meditation to understand it. I would run at night or early in the morning, my focus on the breath and the sound of the footfalls. Particularly when I ran in country settings, I would be centered on the place, the space and the movement.

Activities like painting, music, dance – where you are in the moment and quiet the thoughts in your brain – are simply different forms of a meditative experience.

We often don’t give ourselves the grace to slow down, like that student from my class. I’ve taught five-minute meditations for the busy days, the busy lives we find ourselves overwhelmed by. Take five minutes in the shower, focusing on the sensations of the water, feeling where you are. Listen to the birds outside your window, focusing on the songs that sometimes become background noise rather than the beautiful melodies they are. Sit outside and close your eyes, feeling the warmth of the sunshine on your face. Be where you are when you are there.

I’d love to say I meditate for an hour every day; but the reality is, holistic practitioner that I am or not, we all can get caught up in the stresses the world presents. I do; however, take those moments connecting back to the breath, the 5-minute breaks to center myself, those activities that bring my focus back to the present.

That’s all meditation is. Bringing yourself back to the moment you’re in. Bringing yourself back to yourself.

susan schirl smith
Susan Schirl Smith is a writer, photographer and holistic nurse based in New Hampshire. Her essays have been published in Cognoscenti, Pangyrus, Silver Birch Press and The Journal of Holistic Nursing. Her photography has been featured in Barren Magazine and L’Ephemere Review. Smith’s current manuscript is Desperado, a memoir of her brother. You can follow Susan on her website or Facebook.

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