One Breath At A Time

f65936_1571c61ac3264f43939dde510a75a2e3Originally Published for the Bentley Vanguard on February 9th, 2015

10:52 am.

I glance down, for the sixth time this morning, at the tiny silver second-hand ticking away on my timepiece.

The loop is late and mind you, it’s never late. An icy speckled snowflake briefly lands on the back of my hand and shrivels into a single drop of water. I turn my palm and examine the dozens of similar unknowing flurries resting for a moment but inevitably experiencing the same ill fate. The sound of tires splattering against the wet pavement draws my attention towards the approaching half-sized shuttle, drowning out my friend’s indecipherable babble about how it’s too cold to go to class. My mind quickly fills with the badgering of my internal dialogue as I begin to reiterate my daily schedule.

With four snow days in quick succession, my academic life seems to be in constant limbo.

One step forward—two steps back.
And with looming summer internships, the career fair, class projects, and extracurricular activities coming at me with full force, it’s easy to feel like my world is slipping from my grasp. Like newborn babies begging for undivided attention, it’s often hard to decide which mouth to feed first. I’m focused on being in the present moment but my Outlook is reminding me that I have two group meetings, a Skype interview, and dance tryouts this week, not to mention five classes and work. I’m sure every Bentley student can relate.
Now before you tune out after hearing the word stress, one of the most overused, diluted, and misunderstood words in the young adult dictionary, I’m here to share my story on a timeless practice that really works: Meditation.

I fully understand the underlying connotations of the term and every formulated preconceived notion; however, I promise it’s not as challenging as you think.

Just fifteen minutes a day can drastically change your mood and yield long-term benefits. By focusing on your breath, you become immersed in the present moment and allow yourself to sink deeper into the meditative state. Sitting still for long periods of time may be daunting to many, but working incrementally is as easy as ten long breaths.
The point of meditation isn’t to work through every problem on the forefront of your mind. As you hone in on the rise and fall of your chest, the subtle drop of your shoulders, the lengthening of the spine and lower back, the release of your jaw and perhaps the quiet gurgle of a shaded creek from a peaceful melody app, allow yourself to let go of pressing thoughts or physical annoyances. Your attention should be centered along your forehead at the area between your eyebrows, or the third eye, letting your energy radiate from that exact spot. If you find yourself distracted by unwanted thoughts, try to bring yourself back to your breath; counting up to five on your inhale and down to ten on your exhale. I want you to try this.

I want you to try this because I know for a fact that it works.

Although people may take different lessons away from this practice, once you have grown accustomed to the silence, controlling your breath under any stressful circumstance becomes second nature. As someone who has dealt with a history of anxiety, if I ever feel the pressure building within my chest, I stop and go back to my breath. With each cycle of inhales and exhales, I grow numb to the ticking of the time bomb and allow my head to level out before I re-address the situation. I write this piece in hopes that at least one person will find solace in the meditative practice and can make sense of this brilliantly mysterious state we call reality.
Good luck.

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