As the alarm went off signalling the start of another day, Ann could already feel an all too familiar sensation in her stomach. A knot was forming in her lower abdomen as she anticipated her day – a day at school.
As she lay in bed she became increasingly aware of her body’s response to the thought of going to school. She recalled that as a younger child, she would often cry and complain to her parents of numerous aches and pains, often in the hope of being allowed to stay home from school. The thought occurred to her that as she got older, she learned to overcome her fear of leaving her parents, but would often feel anxious around her peers instead. Involvement in team sports and school plays were especially difficult – anticipating events involving public performance could literally worry her sick for days, weeks and even months before the actual event.
Pulling herself into a sitting position, Ann also pulled herself out of her reminiscence. “Time to get started” she said to herself. Setting the timer on her wrist watch, Ann placed her feet flat on the floor and rested her hands comfortably in her lap, she then closed her eyes and began the relaxation/meditation exercise she had learned from her counsellor.
“Deep breath in, hold for a moment, and all the way out slowly ” she repeated to herself three times as she filled, then emptied her lungs with air. Now clearing her mind of all thoughts and images, Ann concentrated on her breathing.
“Peace in” she said to herself as she inhaled fully, pausing very briefly having filled her lungs. “Stress out” she said to herself as she exhaled, again pausing only briefly as she completely emptied her lungs.
She managed to do this only twice before she found herself thinking about her day. “I hope we don’t have to practice for the play today” she said to herself as her stomach made a small leap. Noticing her body’s reaction to her thoughts, Ann also realized that her thoughts had wandered away from her breathing.
Again she recalled what her counsellor had told her. “If your thoughts wander, don’t think about trying not to think, just return to your breathing.” “That’s easier said than done” she involuntarily found herself thinking as she refocused her attention.
“Peace in… stress out. Peace in… stress out. Peace in… stress out. Slowly Ann could feel her mind and body start to relax. After about three minutes of repeating “peace in… stress out”, Ann moved to the second part of the exercise she had been taught.
“Now, let go of the words and continue to breath without any thought or image at all. Witness each breath as though it were your very first and be completely present in the moment”.
Doing as she had been instructed, within about five minutes, Ann could feel herself become even calmer. Her breathing became slow and rhythmical and the difficulty she had quieting her thoughts previously had completely died down, now replaced with a deep sense of inner calm. Slowly Ann lost track of her breathing and became aware of a deep sense of peace she felt, a peace which seemed to come from the center of her being.
Ann continued to meditate for about another ten minutes until the chime on her wrist watch sounded. “Time to go” she said to herself, almost wistfully.
Slowly Ann raised herself from her sitting position, stretched, and walked out of her room to begin her day. Smiling to herself, Ann realized how much she enjoyed the peace she experienced in meditation. It was a sense of peace she worked hard at trying to maintain throughout the day. Whenever disturbed by anxious thoughts and feelings, Ann would return to her center, and there find the calm she needed to cope.