Saturday, December 13, 2008

Heavy breathing

Breath is, quite literally, the essence of life. Deep breathing is the essence of relaxation. Breathing is the cornerstone of almost all meditation. It’s chi in Eastern philosophy. Energy. Life force. If you watch a pitcher on the mound, a gymnast before she leaps onto the balance beam, or a professional bowler as he stands, ball in both hands, staring down the pins, they all do the same thing: take a deep breath and blow it out. Which is what I want you to do right now. On the day of your date, before you get dressed, block out ten minutes for your peace of mind. Turn the answering machine on and the volume down. There’s nothing that can’t wait ten minutes — even if it turns out your date was lost and calling from a gas station — especially if it’s your mom calling to tell you she wants (or doesn’t want) grandchildren. They can call you back.
For now, here’s what to do:
  1. Pick a quiet room that isn’t too dark, too light, too hot, or too cold.
  2. Select a comfortable chair, one that supports your back, arms, and legs.
  3. Make sure your clothes are comfortable. Take off your shoes. Wiggle your toes. Remove your belt. Loosen your collar.
  4. Sit down and let your eyes fall closed.
  5. If random thoughts enter your consciousness, allow them to gently float away like a fluffy cloud.
  6. Tune in to your body. Listen to your heart pumping, your breath inflating and deflating your lungs, and the blood pulsing in your ears.
  7. Feel very heavy in the chair.
  8. Breathe deeply in through your nose for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and exhale for a count of four out through your mouth. Then hold for two counts of four.
  9. Begin again. Repeat four times. Now, you’re ready to move on to a deeper phase of relaxation.

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