Learning to Breathe

child blowing dandelion
Image: Emilie Hester

I’ve tried meditation a few dozen times over the years.
I was never really able to make it click, until I had to.

Early last year my brain was stuck in overdrive and I couldn’t find quiet.
So, with some desperation, I tried again.

Initially nothing was different.
Then I stumbled upon a guided meditation that made a simple suggestion.

“Pause at the end of your inhale.”

I took a breath in, paused, and everything went silent.

It clicked.

I meditated for 119 days in a row after that and have continued meditating since.

Here’s what I’m learning from my meditation practice:

  1. You don’t get “better” at meditation with effort. You get better at it with gentleness.
  2. The more gentle you are in your practice, the more gentle you are in your life.
  3. There are different levels of presence. Soft focus seems to be the sweet spot.
  4. Meditation is a forgiveness practice. Each time you notice and come back is a chance to begin anew.
  5. I still have no idea what it means to breathe a circle around your heart.
  6. The brain can go completely silent. Not hushed. Silent.
  7. A completely silent brain is something I had to experience to understand.
  8. Meditation keeps expanding my capacity to deal with life’s stressors. (see: window of tolerance)
  9. Like healing, the “results” of meditation aren’t linear. You just have to keep showing up.
  10. Some days, it seems like I can only find presence for one-half of one breath. On those days, the practice is letting that be enough.
  11. Some days, noticing and coming back can feel jarring, like whiplash. On those days, the practice is to soften the edges.
  12. Meditation has helped me begin to feel parts of myself that I didn’t know were there.
  13. It has helped me begin to heal parts of myself that I didn’t know needed to heal.
  14. Meditation builds your “pause and choose better” muscle.
  15. Being able to pause and choose better is a superpower.
  16. Knowing that you can always find stillness, even in the middle of the most intense storm, is a gift.
  17. I am as imperfect as I was when I started. But my imperfections feel less like things that need to be fixed.


Do Learn Grow ©2023 emilie hester