Usually, I have trouble sticking with a meditation practice. Even five days in a row feels pretty good to me. A new phone app has been helping me to approach mindfulness with fresh enthusiasm by getting instruction from Joseph Goldstein, a Buddhist teacher. This is probably my eighty-fifth try with mindfulness, since it became very popular in medical centers. I used a body scan meditation with cancer patients in 1990 as part of my doctoral thesis. John Kabat Zinn, Ph.D., had just published a best-seller “Full Catastrophe Living” about meditation for everyone based upon his chronic pain studies. Harvard researcher Herbert Benson, M.D., also came out with “The Relaxation Response,” describing his study of physiological data from meditation practices. So, taking a type of meditation, which is embedded in the Buddhist tradition, and using it with a general audience is not new.
Like flossing teeth, sticking with any practice that I know is good for me is not easy. It is simple, but not easy. (Although, prayer comes pretty naturally after forty-seven years as a Christian.) Today, my focus on my breath was mildly disturbed with random thoughts of my “To Do List.” I let them pass like the white clouds overhead. I successfully ignored all the election news; that never even entered my mind during the meditation. I returned my focus gently to the breath, like returning a wandering puppy to his bed. It was restful.
It is wonderful to be meditating on my polished coral lanai in Hawaii, which is a very spiritual place for me. There is an unhurried, relaxed sense of time here. The warmth makes it easy to be casual in shorts, tank tops and “slippahs.” Next to the green-ridged Ko’olau mountains, I hear birdsong, feral roosters’ crows and an occasional airplane in the distance. Tall red wax palms, taro, red ginger, pink anthuriums, ornamental pineapple and more vibrant plants thrive in our garden. Grace, spaciousness and calm inform these surroundings. Beauty lives here. Beauty indwelling with nature is another name for God.
Focusing on my breath brings me to a sense of grounded-ness. I live here with God’s creation; I am also a small part of God’s creation. In my own spiritual tradition, God breathes into humans to give them life. “Ruah,” a feminine word in the Hebrew Scriptures, means wind, breath or spirit. In one biblical story, God appears as a gentle breeze. Ruah is both imminent and beyond us. In the Christian Scriptures, the Greek word “pneuma” has the same translation. God appears quite notably in the Spirit. So, this focus on the breath is rich with meaning and common to Judaism and Christianity as well as Buddhism.
Whatever your spiritual tradition, may you breathe easily and deeply today.
Wherever you live, may you find Beauty today.
Whenever you pause, may you be grateful today.