FEATURED WRITER : Featured Writer Trikala’s Healing myself - One breath at a time
Air, it is what cultivates and sustains life, and devoid of which there is no life. A lesson that is known to all, but one that I learnt in the face of deteriorating mental health.
The first, and very basic lesson of meditation is to watch the breath; to follow the journey of that air through the body. To feel it entering the nose, fill the lungs, and expand the stomach. To visualize that the air coming in brings energy, and the air going out expels waste, cleansing both body and mind.
I had attended many meditation camps and workshops through the years, mostly dragged to them by Amma. These sessions promised miracles of better concentration, better health, and even, better complexion! I had always been a cynic, practicing the breathing exercises as a chore under Amma’s watchful eye. However much I tried, I found it dull and boring. I tried many times in vain to cultivate the habit.
It all changed in 2020, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. I had been confident that this was going to be the best year of my life. I had just purchased my first house, a townhome. A dream that my husband and I had nurtured for the last 5 years, and worked tirelessly towards. I had a whirlwind of a time, planning the closing, moving and Gruhapravesham (a traditional Indian housewarming party). My parents and in-laws were due to arrive in a week from India, and my brother from Charlotte, to join us in the grand celebration.
Suddenly, as the disease spread like wildfire, all of my family had to cancel their travel plans. I cancelled my house warming party, and prayed fervently that the movers would show up to help us move to the new home. Within a week, my entire world was turned upside down.
Then came the mandatory lockdowns. My husband and I very quickly realized how much we enjoyed the outdoors, and the company of our friends. Even between the two of us we battled loneliness. There was of course the very palpable fear of contracting a thus far unknown Plague, and fear for the safety of my family across the world. In addition to this, I realized that every activity that we were passionate about involved leaving the house - the one thing that we could not do at this point. Without the usual activities of hiking, or working out in the gym to tackle my stress, I felt as though life as I knew it had come to an end. This had a very profound effect on my already fragile mental health. I felt as though I had been backed into a corner. I had no option but to either be medicated or to meditate. I chose the latter.
In the first session, I felt myself feeling every twitch and itch in my body while I sat down to meditate. I barely lasted 3 minutes. My mind and body felt like a noisy uninhabitable jungle, my thoughts jumping like a long limbed primate from the next set of pending chores, to see if I should make a Will. I grew more and more restless, and my overthinking worsened. It got to a point where I hadn’t had a complete night of sleep in weeks.
I lamented to Amma on the phone, “Amma, this is just not working!”
”Have you tried Mindful breathing meditation? She asked.
She reminded me, “All you have to do while sitting down is to feel the air coursing through your body, and accept all the thoughts that race through your mind. Don’t force your breath, just let it flow. Use one of those meditation apps to get started. All the best, ra!”
With Amma, and the app serving as my teachers, I was able to meditate longer using this technique. However, the most important outcome was that I slept peacefully through the night for the first time in many weeks. I realized that I was on the cusp of some personal pinnacle, I could only move forward from here.
Focusing on my breath became my anchor to reality. I felt as though I was healing myself one breath at a time. Every instance of a problem at work brought the shadow of stress my way, I breathed my way to calmness. The air that I breathed in gave me energy, and the breath out took away all the negative thoughts, and energy. I felt lighter, both physically and metaphorically.
As my practice grew consistent, my self-awareness and vitality increased. My thoughts seemed to be clearer, enabling me to introspect without feeling confused. Despite the world around me being in the depths of despair, I felt as though this air that I was breathing was insulating me, equipping me to deal with not only these challenging times, but also all other challenges that life would bring my way. I felt more resilient than I had ever felt before. The air, a string of sorts binding my mind and body together, connected with that cord of energy.
Over time, this practice became an integral part of my life. I made it a point to meditate as soon as I woke up, and just before I went to sleep. My health in general improved, my thoughts turned more positive, and less of the spiralling negative ones that I’d experienced before. I felt like I’d found the switch to ‘inner-peace’ that I could flick whenever I needed! And to think it all began with a single breath of Air. ***
About the writer : Trikala is a finance professional who loves to collect experiences by travelling and reading. A very prolific reader and an equally talented writer - she has been writing stories, poems and essays since her childhood. You can read some of her work at www.mistress-of-art.blogspot.com
This piece was written as Trikala’s final assignment for a six-week Creative Nonfiction writing workshop.