I never thought I’d be thankful for a stuffy nose, but it helped me to meditate without really trying. It all started on a day I was off from work and I stayed in bed as ten thousand thoughts ran through my mind. I noticed a clogged nostril and focused all of my attention on trying to reopen it.
Concentrating on my breath, I slowed my intake. I “felt” the air going in and going out. I have trouble when one nasal passage gets stuffed up at the expense of the other. My left nostril clogs up while I’m lying on my left side, and my right when I’m reclining on the right. I think some nasal stuff, which goes unnoticed when standing or sitting, starts to accumulate due to some allergy or structural facial malfunction. (Was this caused by blows I took to the head while playing sports or other pursuits? I don’t know.)
I alleviate the problem by simply lying on the other side. I slow my breathing and block all thoughts save for my focus on the cavity inside my face where cool air passes through my nose and into the throat and then to my chest. I feel the air going in. My chest and abdomen expands. I became aware of other irritations, other parts of the body that are uncomfortable. I sense a feeling in my shoulders. I “command” them to relax, to untie the knots. Relax. Then I broaden my scan to the facial muscles. It’s amazing how stressful we become as the jaws clench, our mouth tightens and the eyebrows close toward the facial center as we unconsciously look for a potential danger caused by our monkey mind. I unclench my jaws, relax the mouth and eyes and let my head follow my heart by focusing on the present moment.
The tenseness I feel usually comes from thoughts I have of chores I need to do, or regrets for things I did or did not do. Why do I feel uptight when focusing on the past and the future, but calm and at peace when I “will” myself to live in the moment?
I take a deep breath and hold it. I hold it for a long count of two or three. I’m giving the process I started inside a chance to “breath” and relax without having to work on the in- or the out-breath.
Next, I slowly exhale, tracing the flow of movement out of my nose, feeling how my body deflates and decreases its amount of oxygen. I stop. I halt the breathing process right after that last drop of air leaves me. Counting two or three long seconds, I slowly retrace my steps, taking air in again.
Something almost magical begins to happen. I feel a slight tinge at the center of the blockage. This tinge spreads out and the tiniest bit of air begins to enter through the clogged area. It’s unnoticeable at first, because I’m focused elsewhere. My attention is still on the mechanics of what has now become a meditative breathing. But soon, there’s no denying that “something” has gotten through the barricade. I liken it to a football player running with the ball breaking through the line of scrimmage of blockers from an opposing team.
The ball carrier runs another play right up the center and finds more daylight. He gets free. He’s found clear sailing and low and behold, my nostril is open.
I can breathe freely again, and more importantly, I’ve relieved myself of all negative thoughts. I’m living in the moment and not the past or future.
This is what meditation is all about, isn’t it?