Day 17 – square breathing

I wake up at 4.30am with serious anxiety. I write an email, call my cousin, consider yoga and meditation… But my cousin says, “No, I’m more important.” I laugh with her and she seriously calms me down with some good giggles- it is truly the best medicine. We talk about this blog, about how different I seem from Day 1 to Day 10 to Day 16… About my conflict about alcohol. I tell her that I want this to be honest- about the everyman struggle we have between the modern life and a meditation practice. I also admit that this anxiety, under normal circumstances would make me cry, tear my hair out, possibly knock the hats off of random strangers in the street… Sometimes I look at myself and wonder how the hell I am not falling apart. But at the moment the only way I know I am experiencing anxiety is because of the nausea I feel after I eat anything that isn’t raw fruit or vegetable. If it were not for this meditation practice, my personal issues would be swallowing me whole. This is seriously the best I have felt in my whole life. And I have no other explanation except that I am meditating every day… Life may change, curveballs may be thrown directly at my head and the forks in the road could stab me in the eyes, but as long as I can sit and meditate, I seem to maintain an amazing sense of clarity that even my friends and family are gobsmacked about. Yogi Bhajan wrote, “Meditation is not what you do in the morning, that’s practice. Meditation is the daily result of that practice.”

So today I am doing the last of my pranayama meditations; square Breathing. The four parts of the breath are:

1) Pooraka, inhalation

2) Rechaka, exhalation

3) Antar kumbhaka, internal breath retention

4) Bahir kumbhaka, external breath retention

The square breath is easy enough and very balancing. It requires focus and patience. After an hour of yoga in which my mind was jumping back and forth from the massive list of things to do before I fly to Bali tomorrow. This list was open next to the mat as I practiced and I was adding to it between poses.

After a restless savasana, I sit up and immediately feel myself calm, like my body was just waiting for the seated pose to slip into this space. I inhale for five, exhale for five. I add a pause at the top of the inhale and at the bottom of the exhale. I inhale for five, retain for two, exhale for five, retain for two. I progress the retention one count per breath until I reach an even inhale five, retain five, exhale five, retain five. The breath is following an even square. Each breath I gently increase by one count until I reach inhale ten, retain ten, exhale ten, retain ten. I maintain this square breath for about five minutes and find it easier than the 1:4:2 or even the 1:2 ratio. I slowly reduce the breath by one count each breath until the square is 5:5:5:5. I slowly back down the retentions until my inhale is an even five inhale and five exhale.

That was the last of my pranayama meditation techniques for now. Breath is central to Yoga because it is central to life… and Yoga is about life. T. Krishnamacharya. Tomorrow I will start to explore mantra meditation.

I sit for a few more minutes until that list is practically yelling at me and then finally get up to do a bajillion things. After the chemist, post office, bank, seafood, some heavy lifting, a swim, and five currencies later, I sit down and realise I could fall asleep. Watching the Big Bang Theory, Raj is showing Sheldon an “ancient Indian meditation practice”. He has candles, incense and classical Indian music. In the end, he walks out on Sheldon’s wild imagination of the intellectual who can not stop the mind. It may be a skit, but it does accurately reflect the struggle between the mind and the spirit. Ultimately, the mind, Sheldon, is left alone and the spirit, Raj, leaves the room. Makes sense to me.