I sat on the floor on a folded blanket, the dogs resting quietly on the bed, and began Nadi Shodhanam. To maintain focus during 20 cycles of alternate nostril breathing was not very difficult—there’s coordinating the alternating of the breath, the counting of the cycles, the feeling of air moving. It was good, and I was focused.
When I had finished the Nadi Shodhanam, I began the meditation. Knowing that I was going to write about it afterwards quickly became a distraction, and how I was going to organize my thoughts about it flooded my mind.
Then the story of Liz Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love came to mind where she decides to meditate in the gardens in the evening. She sits down and closes her eyes, and then she hears the first mosquito, and then another, and has to decide if she is going to respond (kill the mosquito? get up and leave?), or if she is going to continue to focus and meditate. What would my mosquitoes be?
The neighbour left his house, got on his skateboard and took off down the street. Odin, the dog who lived for 13 months in the dump in Bangkok, is terrified of Noah on his skateboard, jumped off the bed barking and nearly knocked me over on his way to the window. Bilbo, who only lived in the same dump for 4 months, went after his brother to try to calm him down. I quickly decided to not respond, although my heart jumped into my mouth as the dogs bounded around me.
This is the practice. We call it practice, because it’s the safe, controlled version of life. The place and time where we think about how we breathe, and where we focus our attention. Am I going to go over and over the past, or fret about the future? Am I going to be present to experience what is happening to me in this moment, or miss it entirely because I’m making my shopping list?
Last week I came across this: We continue to be tested until we are no longer triggered. When I am moving along happily through life, being present, noticing the world around me instead of living in my internal dialogue, and something hits me out of left field, what will I do? When I open the paper and am triggered by a photograph, or when my thirteen year-old daughter throws a spectacular teenage temper tantrum, will I remember to breathe, or will I not be paying attention to my breath. Will the practice carry me in the moments when life throws me a curve ball?
As I sat in meditation and watched the river flow, these were some of the thoughts that floated by. Some of them I picked up and held a moment before letting go. As time went on, I picked up less and less. And then the water became more clear, fewer formed ideas being present in it. And then, after a while, there was no river.
And then the gentle vibration of my timer alerted me to the end of my 20 minutes. What a beautiful practice.