As an inconsistent meditator I re-called the following one which has renewed my practice. I was introduced to it by a young Hasidic scholar, Rabbi Stern who prefaced the meditation by relating it to the ephemeral nature of existence.
” Why”, the sages asked, “does man not breathe like a tree?” That would certainly be easier for us. Plants passively exchange gases with the atmosphere. Why is our existence literally measured from breath to breath?
“Ah” the rabbis replied, “that’s an easy one. It is so that man does not take life for granted. So that they recall that each breath is a gift from God and accept it graciously and with humility.”
Quite simply, we breath in with the conscious awareness that God is intentionally gifting us with this one particular breath. It is a gift we should accept with cosmic gratitude and joy. Since we are not in control we can let go of our pretenses. When we exhale the universe is accepting our gift with no guarantee of continued life. We simply wait without expectation for the next breath. When it comes we can peacefully and humbly accept it with the awareness that it could be our last. When our minds contemplate this basic notion of existence from breath to breath, all other concerns and fears seem unimportant.
We can surrender to the mystery of existence and release our mind’s pre-occupied by inconsequential annoyances, obsessions, frustrations and worrying about possible future catastrophes.
It is a simple but beautiful method to pay attention to the present moment, to practice nonattachment to thoughts, emotions and fears. It is a powerful tool to release everything and just be.