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  1. Opinion

It’s World Meditation Day. Don’t forget to breathe.

Stephanie Hayes | Fire up an app like Calm, consult an expert or just exhale... slowly...

Today we’ll be talking about the importance of inner work. Let’s start by sitting on a cushion or chair or kneeling on a stool if that’s more comfortable.

I was face down on the bed. The guide spoke in dulcet tones on the Calm app, which I had downloaded after some isolation Chardonnays and repeated viewing of that commercial with the swooshing ocean sounds.

When you’re ready, let the eyes close gently. Allow your muscles to relax freely. And we’ll begin by doing a quick check in. Just noticing if you’re feeling relaxed and present. Or if your mind and body feel active.

That’s an understatement. Every day of 2020 holds a new peril. Hurricane season is lurking. One hundred thousand cruise ship workers are trapped at sea. Veterans can’t get buried with full military honors. Pier 1 stores are closing, eliminating an affordable option for placemats.

It’s World Meditation Day, a chance for folks to get into a calm state. I am not usually a proponent of stunt holidays (Ball Point Pen Day was the last straw). But this one seems good. We should all take time to suck in air and push it out.

Remember breathing? St. Petersburg’s Dani Mae makes it her mission to help people do it better via her company Breath Guidance, which offers breath training programs. She was a long distance runner and free diver who suffered from anxiety and put the pieces together.

“In the West, we have mindfulness, and we have meditation,” she said. “For most people, both of those are still a little intangible and confusing. People are like: ‘Am I doing it right? Is this how it’s supposed to feel?’”

Breathing is the missing step, she said. Everything is breathing. When we’re scared, we gasp. When we’re relieved, we sigh. Tragically, the coronavirus is robbing so many of this basic function.

Those of us still lucky enough can direct our breath when it all feels like too much. When there are hundreds more unexpected deaths. When it looks like state staff told a manager to delete COVID data. When Pauly D grows a beard.

First, she said, extend your exhale. If you breathe in for three seconds, breathe out for six.

Mindfulness and meditation apps like Calm and Headspace have seen a surge in downloads, according to The Washington Post. I’m still getting to know the Calm app, but I have, at the very least, started to sit up in bed instead of face planting. It’s full of fun features, like “Disney Peaceful Piano” and mental fitness tips from LeBron James. Maybe this is all going to be fine!

The first thing it says when you log on?

Take a deep breath.

Let’s do that today.

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