In the Chinese Five Element System Winter corresponds to our nervous systems, so it is a wonderful time to nourish the nerves. There are plenty of herbs that aid in this process, but one of the best ways to keep the nervous system calm and contented is by focusing on the breath. I know, I know. You've read that on magnets and Oprah magazine articles for years now. So have I, and I still wasn't meditating. But recently, I learned of a simple meditation that is applicable to even my busiest, least meditation savvy days. It has changed my brain and I want you to try it.
We learned of this meditation from Hakomi counselor and trainer Trish Christean. Trish refers to this one as the “5 Minute Miracle” because, in her words, it is. We interviewed her about why she uses this meditation in working with trauma, anxiety and depression in her clients. An excerpt of this interview appears in our Winter Zine, but we promised to post the full one here. Instructions on the meditation itself, which comes to us from the one and the only Thich Nhat Hanh, follow the full interview.
The Medicine Chest (MC): What is mindfulness meditation and how does it differ from other types?
Trish Christean (TC): Mindfulness meditation can be thought of as a practice that develops the capacity for mindfulness. Our ability to be mindful serves as the foundation for other types of meditation practices. Mindfulness practice helps us learn the tools of focused and intentional awareness on our present moment experience, in a way that is non-judgemental and compassionate.That in and of itself is extremely beneficial, but the fact that it also teaches our brains how to be focused and quiet gives us the capacity to develop our capacity to meditate on spiritual or global concepts such as Loving Kindness and Tonglen meditations. The capacity to be mindful is fundamentally necessary for any meditation practice.
MC: Why do you recommend it to your clients?
TC: I recommend mindfulness practice to almost all of my clients because it helps people in so many ways. It's extremely beneficial for stress reduction, increased health and well-being, to have a tool that is available at all times to help center and calm when emotions run high. But even beyond that, I encourage mindfulness practice because not only does every bit of it help relieve the brain and body from the damage of persistent presence of stress hormones, it actually helps remodel the brain in such a way that it makes accessing and returning to that calm, centered, curious, compassionate state referred to as Self. In Self, we have access to our full complement of mental, emotional and spiritual resources, and we can more easily utilize them with conscious intention toward ourselves and others. It is extremely beneficial for the work I do. Mindfulness practice creates the capacity in the client to fully participate with these incredible methods in a way that keeps them centered, regulated and in Self-leadership.
MC: What is your favorite one to recommend to clients?
TC: My favorite is a version of Thich Naht Hahn's beginning mindfulness practice, which I refer to as The 5 Minute Miracle - because it is! It's a wonderful introduction to mindfulness practice, and one that is easily integrated into even the busiest of lives, because even highly stressed and overbooked people can find 5 minutes! And if you can't find 5, 3 will work! It's a practice based on intentionally holding our awareness on our breath. The key in my mind is that it gives our nervous system a chance to rest, even a few minutes of this helps restore its natural flexible responsiveness by helping it come down out of what for many is a fixed and highly stressed pattern. (See the instructions below.)
MC: Do you have any other stories or personal anecdotes that might inspire people to take this on as a practice?
When I discovered mindfulness practice, I was under the mis-impression that meditation was something that required an hour a day and a mind quite different than my own (ie., a quiet one). Hakomi is a mindfulness-based psychotherapy so I had been involved with mindfulness as a tool that we use to allow us to study our inner experience, and I practiced being mindful as much as possible throughout my day, especially during walks, and I generally tried to be self-aware as much as I could. But when I discovered this practice, and most importantly that it could be done in 5 minutes a day, I was willing to give it a try. It changed my life. Truly. I am still practicing and am so grateful to have this practice in my life.
MC: Thank you! What kind of work do you do and how can I get in touch to become a client?
TC: I am a certified Hakomi therapist and trainer with a private practice on Bainbridge Island. I also teach workshops on the island and coach at advanced Hakomi trainings with Seattle Hakomi Education Network throughout the greater Seattle area. My work integrates Hakomi and Internal Family Systems, and has a strong foundation in the neurobiology of attachment and trauma. I can be reached at 360-298-4718 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five Minute Miracle Meditation Instructions:
“Because it is always happening in the present moment, our breath is the entrance point to mindfulness. Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. Regardless of our internal weather- our thoughts, emotions and perceptions- our breathing is always with us like a faithful friend. Whenever we feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, we return to our breathing to collect and anchor our mind.
We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At any time, while we are walking, gardening, or typing, we can return to this peaceful source of life.
Set a timer on your phone, with a quiet chime or bell, for 5 minutes. Sit comfortably, in a dignified posture, with left hand resting in right palm:
You may like to recite:
I am breathing in, 1,
I am breathing out, 1.
I am breathing in, 2,
I am breathing out, 2.
I am breathing in, 3,
I am breathing out, 3, etc., until you get to 10; then start over at 1 again.
Breathing in, I am alive.
Breathing out, I smile.
We do not need to control our breath. Feel the breath as it actually is. It may be long or short, deep or shallow. With our awareness it will naturally become slower and deeper. Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life."