On the breath. On space. And cats.

I think I attempted to sit down this morning about five different times.  You see, I have these two cats.  I woke up at 7:00 to feed them after they absolutely refused to allow me to sleep another minute, and thought, “Maybe I should sit now.”  But, being Saturday, I decided I needed at least another half hour of sleep.  Of course that turned into two hours.  Eventually, I felt guilty enough to rouse myself from my warm bed.

Normally, when I do sit, I sit in our living room because I like the spaciousness and I have a statue of Ganesh and Buddha I like to glance at before I close my eyes.  Of course, the moment I closed my eyes this morning, Freddy started clawing the rug, perhaps the one habit my cats have that absolutely churns my insides.  By this time (we’ve had them now for 6 months), I literally have a physical reaction to it, a nice mix between anger, anxiety, and nausea.  So there was no way I was sitting through that.  I had a talk with Freddy, got him to stop, and sat back down.  And then he started again.

I moved to the spare bedroom.  This space is quite a bit smaller than the living room, so I had to carefully sandwich myself between the bed and the piano against the wall, but the light in there in the morning I always forget is so gorgeous.  Then I heard the cats against the door.  They wanted in.  They cried, they scratched, but for once they weren’t clawing my rug and I let them wait.

So.  About that breath.  That’s my other problem.  I’m an opera singer by training so breathing seems like not only an important concept to me, but also a fairly base one.  However, I’ve come to realize that the only time I really consider my breathing is when I’m singing, and it’s become painfully obvious to me that breathing for singing and meditation are two different things.  Whenever I think about the breath in singing, it’s a very intentionally deep breath that prepares to sing some sort of impossibly long phrase, thinking about sustaining that breath until the end of the phrase, taking in the next breath and making it through the next phrase, and don’t forget to sound pretty while you’re at it.  There’s so much planning, so much anticipation that you have to work for years to manage and refine.  That doesn’t really translate to meditation.

I usually start off alright, but as I sit longer and feel the breath, it gets deeper and more labored, and then eventually quicker and quicker, and I find myself in a state of hyperventilation.  This morning I played around with this a bit.  I tried focusing where I felt the breath the most, which was my belly, but this wasn’t working.  If anything, it made things worse.  So I tried my nostrils, but that translated to tension in my throat.  I finally settled on concentrating on the very tip of my nose, and that seemed to provide some relief.  It’s interesting how I needed to pick something completely unassociated with my concept of breathing before anything clicked.

I sat with that for a bit, and kept coming back to the breath when I needed to, and eventually my timer went off.  I didn’t want to stop, so I sat for a few minutes longer and then slowly opened my eyes to the warm light in the room.  I was ready to start my day again.  I stood up, opened the door, and the cats stared back at me from the other side.

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