Zero in on breathing to open door to still mind

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Meditation is a journey inside to our deepest, most sacred space. It's the place where we find our true selves and can feel the presence of spirit in our lives.

In order to access that space, we must first relax our bodies and give our minds a chance to quiet. But the monkey-mind chatter that we're so used to doesn't always succumb to the desire for stillness.

Our minds just seem to want to go on incessantly -- "I did this ... She said that ... I've got to go to the store ... What can I do about..." It can be difficult to attain a sense of peace and quiet when you just can't turn the prattle off! The same problem also keeps many people wide awake night after night.

So, you say, how can you turn the chatter off? One way is to give the mind a focus, something that will divert its attention from its random ramblings and allow it to let go and be still, if even for only a few moments.

The most common diversion, one that's readily available and concrete, is to focus on the breath. Your breathing is fundamental to living and can be easily accessed. Use your breath to focus your mind.

Begin by zeroing in on your breathing. Don't force it or try to change it, just observe it. Watch your breath go in and out of your nostrils.

Now, see where the breath goes after it enters your nose. Follow it down into your lungs. Notice what happens in your body and where. Does only your chest rise and fall, expand and contract, or does the breath cause your abdomen to swell and recede? Concentrate on breathing deeply into the abdomen. Don't force it, but observe it; feel it raise and fall, like the tide at the shore. Deep breathing fills your lungs more fully allowing more oxygen to be available to nourish your body. If you have trouble identifying deep abdominal breathing, lie down on your back with a hand placed lightly on your upper abdomen (just above your waist). Breathe deeply so that the abdomen rises and pushes your hand up. Keep practicing until you can raise your abdomen with your breath, without your hand being on it.

Once you have a slow, deep rhythm going with your breathing, let your focus return to your nostrils. Focus on just the air going in and coming out of your nostrils. If you notice stray thoughts or full blown monkey chatter returning, simply observe it without getting involved in any one thought and re-focus using your breathing. Watch, feel, sense the air entering your nostrils and leaving your nostrils. Just focus on the present task of staying alive, breathing.

After you work with your breath as a way of focusing your mind away from the thoughts that arise, staying present with an empty mind becomes easier and the meditative state deeper. Don't worry if thoughts sneak in. Just pull your attention away from the pictures and/or words and put it back onto your breath until you can let that go and just be. This type of mind chatter control is one approach to meditation practice. There are others that we will look at next time. Peace be with you.

Joy Kachel is spiritual leader at Unity Church of Peace, where she offers Meditation for Inner Harmony classes on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8 p.m. She is also a master energy healer and teaches healing classes and facilitates a monthly reiki healing circle. You can reach her at the church at 509-520-1915 or personally at 509-529-1048. Go to www.drjoykachel.com for class information and registration.

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