— Life —

City Zen

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Last September, while struggling to finish my book, I decided to work with a personal coach with a decidedly spiritual approach. Part of her system was daily meditation. I found myself resistant. My ego kept saying it was a waste of time. She suggested committing to just five minutes, morning and evening. I agreed to try.

Two months earlier we’d sold our home and down-sized to a beautiful apartment whose stunning views and balcony were quickly overshadowed by almost constant traffic noise.

“What a testing-ground,” I thought. I arranged a few cushions, sat down, got comfy, and tried to pay attention to my breathing for just five minutes. My frustration with all of the noise–and my constant thinking–made even five minutes difficult.

“That’s normal. Stick with it. Pay attention to your breathing and don’t get attached to what comes up,” is the advice I was given. So I stuck with it… and kept sticking with it. Realizing it took me at least five minutes just to settle down, I started to sit for 10 minutes, morning and evening. Then 15. Then 20.

Soon it became the first thing I did before getting out of bed and the last thing I did before crawling into bed at night. It became my “go to” when I was feeling stressed. I would sit down, breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, and my body would noticeably relax. Thoughts would float in like goldfish… then wriggle away.

We’ve moved again, and it is difficult again at our new apartment. There are car alarms, yapping dogs, doors slamming, and upstairs neighbors – we call them Thunderbolt and Lightening – tromping overhead like jack-booted… well, you get the picture. Introducing myself to them, and explaining that the shabby construction between floors amplified their every footfall did nothing to improve the situation. We jokingly wondered if it made it worse?

But right now, all is quiet. T & B are gone. The dishwasher is running, creating a rythmic, sloshy, white noise. I assume the position, breathe in through my nose, then out through my mouth. A few minutes into it, I feel like I am untethered, floating, and twenty minutes later, I feel spotlessly clean.


  • Haralee October 31, 2016 at 8:10 am

    It is amazing how breathing as a focus is transportive !

    • Donna O'Klock November 2, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      Isn’t it? I learned that some people have a harder time beginning than others … and I had to use guided meditations and focused breathing for the first few months in order to settle down. Now, it’s easy, and I’m surprised by how many people DO meditate!

  • 1010ParkPlace October 31, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    I’ve been doing breathing exercises for so long that it only takes me three breaths in and out to reach my zen place. It’s truly amazing! Glad you’re mastering the technique. xoxox, Brenda

    • Donna O'Klock November 2, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      Me, too! Amazing benefits!

  • michelle October 31, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Man, I need to learn how to do this..

    • Donna O'Klock November 2, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      I agree wholeheartedly. It’s pretty darned wonderful!

  • Jen October 31, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    I’m pretty good at calming myself through breathing. Less good at sitting still. It’s a process! I think you might be further ahead! xo

    • Donna O'Klock November 2, 2016 at 4:05 pm

      It took a while to let go of the breathing focus so I could just sit still. I was even distracting myself by clinging to the breathing! Doh!!

  • Esther Zimmer November 1, 2016 at 6:38 am

    I’ve resisted meditation for so long too but recently felt drawn to it and have started with just 5 minutes on the mat. It’s so interesting to read about your own resistance and yet how well it’s worked for you, thanks for sharing! Esther xx

    • Donna O'Klock November 2, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      You are so welcome, Esther! I have started and stopped for more than 30 years… finally, I can do it, joyfully.

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