getting our minds right: a meditative exercise for beginners and busyfolk

We Americans, for the most part, are an industrious bunch. Our story is one of achievement and conquest, no? Manifesting destiny and pursuing passions. Foreigners have flocked here for a good reason.

Whether it’s maximizing how much candy we can crush, how much candy we can consume, or how much candy we can manufacture, market, sell, and roll into a MLM enterprise, we like to stay busy.

Dear friend, count me among the many who have experienced that meditation and meditative exercises help us in our endeavors (use “meditation benefits” as a term in your favorite search engine, and you’ll find no shortage of articles reviewing the science on it). Recognize, though, that the benefit accrues from consistent practice. One common argument against meditation that I’ve heard from patients over the years goes soemthing like this:

Ugh. I can’t meditate…I couldn’t sit there for half an hour and just shut my brain off!

Double batch of good news: when it comes to reaping the benefits, you don’t have to sit there for half an hour, nor do you have to try and shut your brain off.

 *      *     *

I first encountered the breath-counting meditation during a visit to The Village Zendo in NYC. More than a decade later, this method remains an important and relevant of my own preventive wellness program. I hope you benefit from it as well.

The rules of exercise are as follows:

1) the breathing is done through the nostrils for the duration of the practice.

2) one breath in and one breath out constitute a cycle of breathing

3) watching the respiration rhythms, count ten cycles of breathing–that is, count ten cycles of breathing in and out through the nose.

4) upon reaching 10, return to 1 and continue.

5) as you practice, any number of thoughts, feelings, and sensations will appear in the mind and body. You are not trying to get away from any of it. Simply let these be there, release judgments and expectations, and maintain concentration on the exercise.

6) if you lose track of your counting, simply acknowledge that it has happened, release any judgments about it. Return to 1 and continue with the exercise.

7) Practice for as long as time permits &/or you can comfortably maintain your concentration.

Like reading through a new recipe to familiarize yourself with ingredients and techniques involved, review the above and make sure you’re comfortable with the concepts. And like gaining skill in executing a recipe, the only way to get there is to practice. Do. Stumble. Do again. Learn. Skill comes in its own time.

Notes on posture: maintain the spine as erect as is practical for wherever you are practicing. This is facilitated by lifting up through the spine as if to raise the crown toward the sky, yet remaining rooted down below. When this is done, the chin tucks in slightly and the breastbone is gently lifted. At the very least, avoid slouching! The position of the hands, for the beginner, should be comfortable and not interfere with the posture. There are many mudras (hand positions) out there which you can research on your own–please be discerning.

Even if you can only maintain your concentration for, say, one minute–that’s fine. Stay with it, and soon one minute becomes one-and-a-half minutes. One-and-a-half minutes becomes two minutes. Two minutes becomes five minutes, and so on. The trick is to commit to creating space to practice (c’mon, dude…you can check Facebook &/or watch Vines later), and repeat until it becomes an established habit.

The beauty of the practice is that it can be done almost anywhere. Among other things, it deepens our awareness of the internal universe–a rich field which we all benefit from exploring and mastering.

Best to you in your quest for wellness, J*


Justin Jaucian, MS, BA is a NJ licensed acupuncturist and 12-year practitioner of Chinese Medicine specializing in pain syndromes. He also offers preventive wellness programs based on Chinese medicine’s holistic principles and practices with a focus on maintaining the health of the spinal column.

Copyright (c) 2014, Justin Jaucian

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