I entered the room and my eyes darted to the corners. Each nook was painted a pristine white and sky blue, the blending of these two colors created a sense of serenity.  The space in the room lacked chairs, white sheets provided padding on the ground. The minimalist presentation didn’t bother me. Initially, I didn’t want to sit down, but I knew I had to coax my limbs to relax so that I could land Indian style on the floor. I reminded myself that this was my choice, to come to a meditation center to learn how to quiet my mind. I’ve always had trouble sitting in one place, afraid to confront the silence in my soul.

For most of my life, the act of being busy has given me the momentum to breathe. The need to do more than one task at the same time always yells at me, whether it is talking on the phone and typing on the computer, reading a book while I move my feet on the elliptical machine, or helping my daughter with her homework while I compose my own to-do lists.  I’m not certain this is an effective way to live, stillness becoming elusive; almost a riddle I am unequipped to solve.

I couldn’t worry about that now, my task this evening was to sit in silence for one hour. The meditation leader urged us to take one breath in and feel the air trickle into our airways, synchronizing the flow and exhaling. To pay attention completely to the breath, we were required to vacate our minds and pay exclusive attention to the air coming in and out of our noses. I felt some resistance in doing this, my mind made a list of all the things I needed to do once I left the meditation, laundry, making my daughter’s lunch, mopping floors, and I chuckled when I put meditation on the list. After twenty minutes of breathing and paying attention to the air entering in and out, I felt my mind quieting down. What was contained in my breath twenty minutes ago emptied out, like liquid that poured out of a glass.

The events of the last four years flashed, the first reach of air that my daughter grasped when she was born and the final chest movement my father exhibited on his last day of life. The moments cushioned in between those two events, passed by in my mind like a mosaic, from the first time my daughter took her first walk to the last time I watched my father take his last step. The common thread of breath weaved and intersected through them and me.

At the end of the meditation, the truth for me became a little clearer. I know that breath is what moves us individually and collectively, but for some reason those meditative moments pled with me to really feel breath. I give gratitude for my daughter’s first breath, but am reminded of the horror of what happened to my father at his last breath.

The breath fulfills and betrays us at various times in our life, but it is what provides us with our inner walls of refuge.

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Has meditation provided you with epiphanies? What has been the most surprising thing you have learned from meditation?

Image by Guy Tetreault

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