This is the second piece in a small series that explores how mindfulness can support greater presence and peace on your wedding day. While these practices are certainly useful for weddings, many are easily applied every day of our lives. These practices enable us to bring all of ourselves with us wherever we go, ultimately empowering us to have a better time when we arrive.
When we are stressed, many of us experience a constricted sense of space and a shortened sense of time. Our muscles tighten, our breath restricts. Stress, both positive and negative, can cause us to move through even joyous celebrations and important achievements as if toward an invisible finish line.
There is a Zen teaching that goes “when you have only a little time, meditate for 10 minutes. And if you have no time at all, then meditate for 20.” This teaching acknowledges that a sense of not having enough time is not an objective law, but rather a subjective experience, one that we can change.
Taking time for meditation is difficult, especially when we don’t feel like we have any time in the first place. Yet it is that very sense of time-deprivation that we stand to change by slowing down and making space.
Practice: Don’t Just do Something, Sit There!
Before you begin, it will be helpful to set a timer for at least 10 minutes. Once a timer is set, silence your phone or put it on airplane mode. (An app that I also find very helpful is Insight Timer, which you can set to an amount of time for meditation, and it will ring a bell at the beginning, middle, and end of that time.)
Either seated on a cushion with your hips above your knees, or laying down with your legs extended, find a place where you feel most at ease. Allow your body to receive the support of the floor. Soften your eyes. Soften your jaw. Release any tension in the space between the eyebrows. Let the back of the neck and the full weight of the head release.
Seek a place where you are as physically comfortable as you can be. If you are not comfortable, ask yourself "What can I do to get comfortable?" Simply acknowledging that you have the time and space to take care of yourself sends a soothing message of safety to your nervous system. You may change how you are seated or laying down during the practice, and that's okay. Trust that this question of comfort is a resource you can carry with you to return to throughout your day.
Pure, Circular Breath
Gently turn your attention to the ebb and flow of your breath. Simply notice the rise and fall of your inhale and exhale without making any changes. After a few rounds of breath, begin to notice and silently count the number of seconds it takes to reach the top of your breath. (For most of us, this is between four and six counts.) Then, as you exhale, count the length of time it takes to exhale completely.
As you continue to breathe, gradually move toward an even count between your inhale and your exhale, for example six counts in and six counts out. It might feel more natural to extend the length of your inhale, perhaps to eight or nine counts, which will naturally lengthen your exhale.
Whatever ratio of breath you settle into, spend several minutes there, following the even rhythm of your inhale and exhale. As you breathe, you may imagine you are polishing a wheel, a ring, or a circle with no beginning and no end.
Continue this pure, circular breath for as long as you wish. In closing, place the right hand to your heart and your left hand to your belly. Notice how you feel. Perhaps the practice has opened up a sense of space or given you an expanded sense of time.
Moving into your day, may you remember the length of your breath as a kind of metronome, one that help slow you down and put you in synch with the blessings that surround you. May you walk, speak and perceive with a rhythm of receptivity to love, fun and grace.
Everything else can wait.