I’ve talked about the book, Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelly before, but I want to revisit it yet again as the inspiration for a short meditation and breath practice that I’ll link below.
The main lesson I took away from Mr. O’Kelly’s story was to notice something that he referred to as “perfect moments.” He said we tend to look for, and wait for, perfection in the big moments - vacations, special occasions, exotic locations, but perfect moments happen all the time. They are often small and ordinary - a cup of coffee with a dear friend, a sunset outside the back window, a deep and meaningful conversation with your child, the way the sun reflects off the water on an outdoor walk. These moments can be anything, anything that strikes you as beautiful or precious. It can be the sparkle of sunlight off the water of the small and dirty Heart River (that runs right by my house in Dickinson) that I pass on a walk with my dogs, it doesn’t have to be the blue green waters of the Caribbean.
When he knew he was dying, Mr. O’Kelly, committed to recognize these moments when they happened and to treasure them, to lock them away in his memory. His message to his readers was, why wait? Don’t wait for a life threatening diagnosis, don’t wait for that fancy vacation, notice the perfect moments NOW!
But that’s the rub. Those perfect moments are around us all the time. Why don’t we see them?
We have to train ourselves to be aware. To be here now. I think we are all familiar with that phrase - be here now. But what does it mean and how do we do it? The idea is to let go of the past, the future, and live in the moment. But let’s be real. We remember our past and that past does affect us. We have to plan for the future; to leave it to chance is foolishness! You have to do your homework, you have to be ready for that big meeting. I’m a yoga teacher, I encourage my students all the time to “let go” of past, future, of even present expectations, to experience the moment as it’s happening, but I plan for all of my classes. I planned this blog post! You can plan for the future, remember the past and still experience the present moment. Grounding yourself in the present doesn’t take away your ability to look back or look forward, it merely makes your vision clearer and more precise.
Let’s take this idea and use it as a meditation practice. I’m including the instructions below in written form, or you can press play and I’ll lead you through. It’s simple and easy and can be done anywhere, anytime.
Close your eyes and feel your feet on the ground. Are you wearing shoes? Socks? Feel your feet against the material of those socks. Notice your feet in your shoes and your shoes on the ground. Take a deep breath. Notice the feel of the air as it enters your nostrils, travels down your throat. Notice your ribs expand outward so your lungs can inflate. Now feel the breath as it moves back out again.
Begin to let your body relax. Begin with your feet and slowly move up your body, through your ankles, over your shins and knees, over thighs and hips, through your belly and chest. Let that relaxation flow across your shoulders and down your arms, through your wrists and finger tips. Soften your throat and loosen your lower jaw. Let go of the tension in your face: beneath your cheek bones and between your eyebrows. Let the relaxation flow over the top of your skull until your entire body is at peace. calm. quiet.
Place your right hand gently on your belly and your left hand on your heart.
Notice your breath beneath your hands. Feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly. The expansion and contraction of your rib cage. Now start to follow your breath. Watch it all the way to the top of your inhale and then follow it all the way down to the bottom of your exhale. Watch for the spaces. The tiny pause that happens at the very top of your inhale, when you are no longer breathing in, but you haven’t quite yet begun to breathe out. And the twin pause at the base of the exhale. When you are no longer breathing out, but you haven’t quite yet begun to breathe in. You aren’t creating the spaces, they are there naturally, you are merely noticing them. When you become comfortable with the spaces, go inside them. Imagine them growing and growing, so that even though your breath remains the same the space itself feels bigger and bigger and bigger. A place you could climb inside and stay and explore.
It’s in the spaces that the perfect moments lie. That’s where the answers are found. Where clarity resides. In the spaces between activity, between thoughts, between words. Find the spaces. They are always there.
Continue to breathe this way as long as you want. When you are ready to leave the meditation, do so mindfully and quietly as possible. Bringing yourself back into the larger, busier, noisier world. But take the spaces with you!