Sit, breathe and be

By Joe Tassi | Nov 29, 2009

There are always challenges. It wouldn't be life without them. But I think how we respond to the challenges in our lives is as important, perhaps even more important, than the challenges themselves. For when challenges disrupt our feelings of personal security or safety the need to be present in the moment becomes crucial. So how do we do that? How do we become present in the moment?

A friend and author Barbara Fleming offers a simple suggestion in her book "The Backwards Buddhist." She encourages us to simply sit, breathe and be. It is an uncomplicated but powerful way to spend a few minutes in quiet meditation. This is not the same as sitting and thinking. Thinking is reactive; there is a doing taking place. Sitting, breathing and being is passive. There is nothing to be done because all you need to do is be.

Take a seat and breathe normally, focusing if you need to on your breath. When your mind wanders -- and it will -- and the internal conversation and the mind chatter returns, simply bring yourself back to your breathing (come back Joe ... come back ...). You can't do this wrong; there is no wrong. And there is no set amount of time you have to sit and breathe; no particular time of day that is better than any other. Any time the challenges of life start to overwhelm us, or we face impasses with people we love or work with, we can take five minutes anywhere (maybe not while operating heavy machinery or driving) to find our peace.

We are mistaken I believe in thinking television, the Internet or even reading can serve as an escape from the constant chatter of our minds. Even though we might believe we are relaxing, we are still bombarded by constant images and input that the mind then has to evaluate and judge. The mind keeps thinking.

The philosopher Descartes wrote: "cogito ergo sum," or I think therefore I am. His supposition that our ability to think differentiated us from the whole of creation makes too significant, in my view, the persona or as it is more commonly understood the ego. Instead of the mind being the perfect problem solving tool it can be, Descartes presumed the thinking mind gave us identity. Western philosophy having accepted that presumption of individual identity, our understanding of our connection to the whole of creation has been obscured.

The mind is full of debris, constant thought and internal conversation and judgment that make it nearly impossible for most of us to experience or embrace a peaceful state. But when we sit, breathe and be, we move inward toward our eternal being and with practice we can begin to realize the reality of the present moment, the here and now.

We all still live in the physical world, spiritual beings in physical form, so I assure you the challenges of our lives will continue. I don't know about you, but I feel better knowing that I have a practice that can move me closer to a more peaceful existence with the people I love and work with and myself, even if it is at first, just a few minutes a day.

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