Wednesday December 23, 2009: I think I’m now in the thick of the “challenge” part of the meditation challenge. When I decided to meditate for 30 straight days including Christmas and New Year’s, I knew it was going to be difficult. I knew that as we started cooking for 16 guests on December 23 and prepared to host those guests on December 24th, it was going to get harder to say, “Hey, I know there are 8 leeks and 6 onions and 4 heads of cauliflower and 2 butternut squashes to be chopped and some sushi-grade tuna to be located BUT I’ve got to go meditate.” It’s one thing to know that something is going to be hard and another to experience it! Yesterday was the first day that it really, truly crossed my mind to just skip the meditation. What difference would one day make? It was really late and I was tired and anxious about all that had to be done the next day. And I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus completely. But, I convinced myself to sit down, and wrap myself in my meditation shawl, and at least try. I could feel myself sort of calm down, at least physically. My mind became steadier but by that I mean it went from arranging and re-arranging 50 things in my head down to about 10 things. I half-heartedly tried to use a mantra but it was not really helping me to focus. So, I decided to try something more simple. I just concentrated, very deliberately, on the rise and fall of my belly. And then I started to exaggerate each inhale, really pushing my belly out, and exhale, sharply drawing my belly button back towards my spine. As I did this, I was either creating or sensing waves of energy at my belly and for some reason my mind was able to let go of all its “projects” for a few minutes and just follow this sensation. After I finished, I got ready for bed. Before the meditation, I was concerned that sleep might not come easy. But, I think the meditation did have a tranquilizing effect as I was able to fall asleep.