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My relationship with meditation has been a long and fraught one.
My first ever experience was about 12 years ago on a “Vipassana“ retreat.
For anyone not familiar with Vipassana, it is a 10-day silent meditation retreat. No talking, little eating—just two sparse, salty meals both served before midday.
In my particular course, there was also almost zero sleeping due to the fact that we slept in an open-sided dorm with fluorescent strip lights left on “in case somebody needed the toilet,” and 12 ladies who could make an Olympic sport out of snoring.
The meditation hall was a building site (literally, a banging, crashing, pile of rubble), there were 1,000 mosquitoes per cubic meter of air, and the windows hadn’t been built yet. Oh, and I hadn’t sat cross-legged since I was at primary school.
The many downs and ups of that particular journey are for another time…suffice it to say, I exited the experience a changed person and deeply knowing in my soul that meditation would always be a part of my life.
Back in the real world, I loosely managed to keep it up, but despite my love of all the many benefits—and a (probably unhealthy) attachment to rare glimpses of real peace—I found myself drowning in a sea of (not good enough) excuses to not get on the cushion.
Some of my favourites being:
“I don’t have time.”
“I don’t remember how to do it.”
“I’m a crap meditator, so what’s the point?”
“I really think that this time I accidentally set the timer for 50 minutes instead of five—I’ll just open my eyes and check…”
So I fell into a rhythm of a slightly irregular practice, where I felt continuously hypocritical (a yoga teacher who doesn’t meditate?!) and pretty much the opposite of mindful in every single way.
And then, a few months ago, a face popped up on my Instagram feed: some guy, Waylon Lewis, talking about a one breath, eyes open meditation.
“This sounds like my kind of practice,” I thought, as I clicked through.
The video was short, and the instruction simple: “Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, find a good posture, breathe in, breathe out.”
And I started to really connect, feel calmer, more grounded, and still. All the while, pottering around my kitchen and looking after my two small children without them even really noticing anything had changed.
Except something enormous had changed.
In that one moment, I felt like I had unlocked one of life’s deepest secrets.
I have taken the practice with me these past few months and passed it on to many students. It really is a perfect practice, and it really does work. It has changed my relationships—with my kids, with my partner, with myself. When I feel the temperature rising, I come back to this idea of one conscious breath and it gives me the space I need to reset.
The most significantly changed relationship is the one with my son. He is three, and we call him the threenager. He thinks he is in charge of our whole family, and he has recently started hitting other kids.
I am a yoga teacher—I believe in peaceful resolutions and conquering the world with love and finding the good in every being.
And then he hits my daughter over the head with a vacuum cleaner, and I properly Lose. My. Sh*t.
I didn’t understand that having children would take me so far into the depths of my internal rage. I love my son more than I ever loved anyone, but he makes me madder, more enraged, and more utterly disappointed than any other human in my life. His failures are my failures, and I take them unbelievably personally.
A one breath, eyes open meditation gives me the space to see him as a child, the space to see his pain, his frustration, his anger at having to be in the world unequipped for its challenges. I see his bubbling, boiling emotions that he doesn’t have words for, his sheer terror at the world before him, and I see how vast and unknown it all really is when you are three.
Have I become a perfect and serene being? Not at all—I get it wrong all the time. At least once a day, usually more like 24 times.
But I am getting there and so are the people around me. My son does the breath with me now, and I am so grateful he’ll have this tool to use his whole life.
We often hide behind the excuse that one person cannot change the world, but if we all teach our children this 15-second technique, imagine the army of calm, grounded people we could have running the world in 20 years time.
Please make time to try the following and tell as many people as you can—that lady next to you on the bus right now? Tell her, too.
Sitting, standing, climbing a ladder, eating your lunch, wherever you are right now: take a moment.
Softly lift your spine.
Imagine feeling calmer, and make a choice to come back from wherever you are.
Repeat as many times as you need until you feel better.
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