I have a great little calendar that offers a daily quote, giving me a little inspiration each morning. This is my second year using the calendar, and it's been fun to see how things have changed. Some of the things that resonated with me last year aren't quite so profound this time around, and some of them I don't even remember reading last time around. But today when I flipped the page, I was pleasantly surprised to see some familiar words:
"To know that I am nothing, that is wisdom; to know that I am everything, that is love and in between these two life moves."
I am nothing.
I am everything.
I am everything in between.
That's something to meditate on.
This has become a mantra for me. Knowing that I am simultaneously connected to EVERYTHING in this entire universe, but also that I am such an insignificant speck of NOTHING in the grand scheme of the everything brings me a sense of wonder and peace. I am everything. I am nothing. Everything. Nothing.
Here's a simple meditation practice you can try on our own. (Or better yet, come try it in person tonight! I'm subbing the 7-8pm Slow Flow class at Optimal Self)
Everything and Nothing Meditation
Step One: Find a quiet place where you can sit uninterrupted for a few minutes. This could be in your car, at your desk, on a yoga mat, or maybe hiding in the storage closet or pantry. Wherever feels safe and comfortable. Do you.
Step Two: Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Just notice how it's flowing. Don't try to change it. Don't judge the way it's flowing. Just be a witness to it. Notice the temperature, the length, the quality, and the destination. Is it going into your chest and lungs? Is it making it's way into your belly? Just notice. If it helps, adopt a simple mantra. (A mantra is a "mind tool," or something to keep your mind focused on so as not to internalize outside stimulus, letting you drop deeper into meditation.) You can simply say silently "I breathe in" or "I inhale" as you take the breath in, and say "I breathe out" or "I exhale" as you let the breath escape.
Step Three: Begin to lengthen the inhales and exhales. Perhaps count to 3 or 4 on the inhale, then pause briefly at the top of the inhale, holding the breath in. Release the breath slowly for the same count of 3 or 4, and pause at the bottom of the exhale. Repeat, breathing in and out for the same count, and pausing in between. Work towards equal, even breathing. If it feels forced, see where you can relax into it. Let go of your expectations for how it's "supposed" to feel or look like. Simply drop into the rhythm of your own, unique breathing pattern.
Step Four: Adopt a new mantra. On the inhales, silently say the words "I am everything," thinking about taking the whole universe in with the breath, feeling your connection to it all, feeling the breath integrating into your body, becoming part of you, a part of everything. Pause, holding in the breath, marveling at the connectedness. Exhale slowly and evenly, silently saying the words "I am nothing," thinking about sending out every bit of your being, feeling your smallness, the trivial nature of your silly little life. Hold the breath out momentarily before repeating the process. Continue breathing with the mantra for as long as you like.
Step Five: When you feel like you've had enough, begin transitioning out of the meditation. Try not to just open your eyes and walk away from it abruptly. First sit in the silence for a moment, not thinking about the mantra or anything else. Just notice what comes up in the silence, and enjoy the peaceful, easy feeling you've created. Maybe take a few rolls of the neck or a big stretch with the arms up overhead, or bring the hands to heart center in Anjali mudra. When you feel ready to open the eyes, do so slowly. Let the eyelids flutter open, gently taking in the light of the room around you. Let yourself reawaken to the sensations.
Step Six: Close your practice. With the hands at the heart, maybe drop the chin to the chest, bowing the mind to the heart. Give yourself a little bit of love, and thank yourself for taking the time for meditation. You may like to close by saying "Om" aloud or in your head. Another beautiful Sanskrit chant that goes nicely with this meditation is So Hum, which is a reflection of the sound of the breath, and carries a more contemplative meaning. "So" translates to “I am" and "Hum" means "that." Here, “that” refers to all of creation, the one breathing us all.
I am that.
I am everything.
I am nothing.