Christina Williams: Learning to Breathe

We love sharing great writing from our students. Here’s a piece from Cristina Williams, class of 2015-16.

Will you let stress consume you or will you take a breath?

By Cristina Williams

I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a cream-coloured MINI Cooper, crawling through an unlit industrial area of a Toronto suburb. My friend Louise is driving, and I’m peering into the darkness, looking for the yoga studio where our friend Kate, a mindfulness coach, will be holding her meditation event Reboot 4.0.

It’s 6:57. The event begins at 7 p.m.

It’s too dark to see street numbers. I’m ready to suggest we go home but remember Google maps on my iPhone. I only ever use my phone for texting and checking email a million times a day. I’m grateful for it at this moment more than usual.

I type in the address. We appear as a blue dot. I’m relieved to see we’re only one minute away from the studio. As Louise drives, the blue dot moves further away from our destination.

We’re going the wrong way.

We turn around. Louise and I have both been under a lot of stress lately, for different reasons, and the stress in the car feels palpable. I almost expect it to materialize in some beastly form and laugh at us before devouring us. I begin to wonder if I’m too stressed to meditate. Is that possible?

A shop window beckons us. Filled with incandescent chandeliers, the shop is magical in the barren landscape. A beacon in the darkness. Next to it stands a discreet building. The yoga studio.

We pull in, park and rush inside. I’m eager to see Kate. This is the first time I’ll see her in action, doing what she loves.

A man and woman standing behind a table with an aqua glass top greet us and usher us into a room. About 50 people sit in fold up chairs that face a window lined with burning candles.

We spy Kate. Her blond hair is growing out. A big smile on her face, she comes over. We all hug and chat for a few moments. The energy in the room feels good, and Kate is serene, vibrant and glowing.

Louise and I take seats in the second row. Kate walks up and begins her talk. She is cerebral and self-contained. Dressed in a grey tunic, leggings and tall boots, she struts back and forth, delivering facts about stress.

Technology has sped up the pace of life. We receive on average 176 emails per day. Sixty per cent of Canadian workers are stressed, on the edge of losing it. Stress makes us sick.

Kate shares her story. She lived on autopilot until cancer stopped her in her tracks. With the help of mindfulness meditation, she learned how to face cancer with openness and to accept it as a chance to change the way she lives her life.

Her presentation rivets her audience. But facts and theory never measure up to practice. Before engaging us in a seated meditation, Kate has us stand in mountain pose, stable and rooted but ever changing.

Stress melts away. Moments of focused breathing usher in awareness and my being lightens. Nothing matters in those moments. I’m present. All I have is now. And it is beautiful.

Although I’m thankful for technology, I know I can live without it for an hour, even two. Even my email can wait.

Tip from Kate: Take 3 Deep Breaths. If you can’t meditate for 5-10 minutes you can likely take 3 deep breaths. Breathe deeply so that your belly moves in and out. Take a few deep breaths before a meeting to clear the noise in your head.

Author: audaciousmag

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