Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breath Counting: A Great Way to Start Your Day

Imagine the body is merely an extension of the mind. If you're mentally unbalanced, you will be physically unbalanced as well. Get in control.

You may have a weaker appetite; trouble falling asleep or waking up, more aches and pains and less energy in general.

But like two connected batteries, you can use the mind to charge the body and vice versa. If you incorporate some simple directive meditation into your daily routine, you will feel stronger physically and have more energy to get through the day. As little as 10 minutes of meditation a day can have a profoundly positive impact on your sense of balance, control and overall health.

If the idea of meditating makes you think of swamis and elaborate rituals, you may say, "Ugh!" and never want to try. However, meditation can be very simple, time efficient and (best of all) cost free.

Try this exercise in the morning. Find a quiet place and get into a comfortable position. You can lie down or sit, whichever is most relaxing. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Simply count each breath in your head, up to four. Then start over at one. Don't count higher than four because, believe it or not, you'll start to lose track and begin worrying about what number you are on.

As you count, focus on the feeling of your chest as it rises and falls. If you get distracted by thoughts about work or things you have to do, gently guide yourself back to the counting. The mind is not always a cooperative entity, especially if you are a Type A person, which means you are constantly moving from one chore or responsibility to the other. So at first, thoughts may intrude fairly frequently. But don't worry! Stay with it. As long as you are patient and gentle with yourself, the outer world will become less and less distracting during those 10 minutes.

To provide some structure for the exercise, you may want to use an egg timer. Then you won't have to open your eyes periodically to look at a clock or watch, wondering whether your 10 minutes are up.

The breath count is a great beginning meditation. It does a number of powerful things. First, it turns your attention inward. During those 10 minutes, you will become more aware and connected with your body. Second, it relaxes you. Your head, arms and legs may feel heavier or suddenly warmer as you count. Third, it centers you. It allows you to just "be" for a few minutes, before you must re-enter the busybody mode of life. It is a moment where you can gather all your body's energy and direct it in a very simple way.

This exercise should make the energy you need to accomplish life's most demanding tasks more readily available, and you will be able to access it faster. Getting control of a situation won't seem like such a tall mountain to climb. You may even be surprised to find that, after a week of morning breath counts, you can concentrate better at work, organize yourself more easily, and manage your relationships with greater confidence. If you are tired of relying on concentration-enhancing drugs like Ginkgo Biloba, try breath counting. And welcome yourself to the world of meditation!

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