Diving into Meditation:Practical applications for your Practice
I had a humbling yet enlightening experience this weekend. My husband and I went with some friends on a boat trip in a beautiful aquatic National Park in our area. It was a lovely day full of sunshine, clear skies, soft winds, and the laughter of friendship. It was a perfect day but I had a persistent feeling of dread and fear in my belly. We were going snorkeling. I have “quasi “ snorkeled before but in truth, I always pretended to snorkel because I have a bit of a fear about it. I am a nose breather. I am the most comfortable breathing through my nose. I am uncomfortable and awkward when breathing through my mouth. I also feel claustrophobic when my nose is covered or stuffed. I had to work with myself a lot when mask wearing became the new normal. I still have trouble with that and I need to take frequent breaks from the mask. With snorkeling the nose is totally and tightly covered and the predominant breathing is through the mouth, hence the dread in my gut on an otherwise beautiful day. Throughout the entire boat ride to the area where we would snorkel I kept thinking and imagining the tight mask over my nose and I became more and more anxious as my thoughts and my feelings spun out of control. Finally, the boat stopped. The anchor fell. Everyone jumped up excitedly and began to prepare. One by one, the group of people that I was with happily dived into the ocean and swam away. As my husband prepared to drop into the water he looked back over his shoulder with an encouraging nod. I told him that I would come in when I was ready and to please not judge or rush me. I would need to do this in my own way. He nodded and continued on his way. I took a moment to be pleased with the fact that I was honest and spoke my truth even though I was a bit embarrassed. I am usually not one who likes to admit fear and weakness. Ironically, it was at that precise moment of letting go of my fear long enough to feel pleased with my sticking up for myself, that I connected with the whole moment and remembered my Mediation techniques and Mindful Living skills. I allowed myself to fully feel the nearly paralyzing fear. I stopped anticipating the moment that I would enter the water with a mask clamped on my nose. That hadn’t happened yet. I was just sitting on the edge of the boat looking into the water. That was all that was happening now. In a few minutes, that began to feel ok. The turquoise water looked inviting so I slipped into the water with the mask and snorkel in my hand. I swam around a bit just enjoying the sky, the fluffy clouds, the sun, the gentle breeze and the cool calm water. I breathed normally through my nose, in and out, appreciating the flow of air through my nose. I paid no attention to the mask and snorkel in my hand and just became aware of all that was around me. I enjoyed the moment without judgment or self criticism or shame. I just listened to my inner voice that said that for now this was just fine, just being in the water. After awhile, I slipped the mask over my eyes. Then I lowered it over my nose and watched for what would happen. I did feel a little fear and I did feel a little claustrophobic but it was nowhere near as great as it had been in my mind the whole day and boat ride. I floated on my back, enjoying the moment even as I was aware of the sensation of the mask on my eyes and my nose. I breathed in and out of my mouth. It wasn’t as terrible as I had told myself it would be. My breathing became slow and more natural. I put the snorkel bit into my mouth and just practiced breathing in and out of the snorkel. At first, I gulped air but then I calmed a bit and discovered my own flow through my mouth. My face was not in the water. Without the self criticism and the catastrophizing, it was really no big deal. It took me a while, but eventually I did put my face in the water and practiced breathing with the snorkel in my mouth for a few seconds at a time. It wasn’t very comfortable and it wasn’t very natural but I allowed myself to feel those feelings and to think those thoughts. But the “story” was gone. The panic was gone. By the time the captain blew the horn signaling that our time was over and we had to start heading back for the boat, I was snorkeling. Maybe not gracefully. Maybe not perfectly. But I was snorkeling. Meditation is not just sitting in a chair in front of a candle. Meditation has absolute practical application. Meditation is for everyday moments and everyday situations. If only I could remember that more often.