My personal experience with meditation has been surprising. I took a yoga class a few days a week during college, hoping it would improve my balance, overall flexibility, and bikini bum. But, the class was not all sweat and muscle. It included a hefty meditation component that literally had me rolling my eyes during the first few sessions (while they were closed, of course). People would walk into class late, setting the door’s Himalayan bells into a jingle that thwarted our class’s collective concentration. The teacher, still deeply focused, continued guiding us in her sagely candor, “Continue with this flowing stream of concentration. We hear things and accept them, without distraction. With your eyes closed, soften your gaze and see that point in front of you.” Then, she’d hop up and help the late comer get settled. “Oh, brother!” I’d retort to myself. “I’m supposed to believe that I can magically not notice these noises?”
The classes went on, and my concentration improved dramatically. Not only was I now able to begin meditating for short periods of time, creating real focus, I was also beginning to treat and consequently diagnose a problem that had been plaguing me since high school. My tendency to run late in the morning on purpose (because I like the “rush” of it), my propensity for all-nighters and beginning assignments with just enough time to complete them, my disorganization–wallet overflowing with receipts, backpack overpacked, papers in disarray, and feelings of being dreadfully overwhelmed when I sat down to complete one single, simple task. Essentially, I had ADD.
Photo Credit: “It’s All In My Head” by Deborah on Flickr.
After meditating in yoga class, not only did I feel focused, like I could finally begin those assignments that had actually scared me earlier, but I felt so happy –like a baby after a nice, warm nap. The things that I felt sensitive to before–people cutting in front of me, too much sunlight, horns honking, neck tension–had melted away, and I was literally tingling from a deep, internal place like I had butterflies or a good laugh. In short, I was rejuvenated. And, it only took between 40- 80 minutes to achieve that with yoga and meditation.
Photo Credit: “meditation_edit” by Megan Hemphill (Prairie & Co.) on Flickr.
I’ve used meditation as a powerful tool for dealing with emotion, as well. I have meditated after a breakup that left me frantic as to how I’d study for finals and juries. I’ve certainly used meditation for managing undesirable roommates that I had no choice but to accept. Meditation has helped the rebel in me stop feeling as though I have to change everyone. As a result of meditation, I am more focused on how my actions impact others, and there is less drama and sadness in my life as a result. Friends, coworkers, and even bosses know me now as someone that can stay calm and manage conflict well. Instead of sitting, wishing, and waiting that people in my life would care more about me, I take the more calm approach of assessing how I can help them instead.
So, how can you get to this zen place?
Guided Meditation: You can’t escape the techno-age. But, you can make it work for you. Itunes offers great guided meditation compilations and single recordings. On days when I’m particularly distracted mentally or emotionally, these seem to do the trick.
Restorative Yoga: Everyone is different, but restorative yoga following an active yoga sequence seems to help me the most. That time to decompress does something for your mind as your muscles completely let go and you’re told to release your worries. Try a class, and keep in mind that a good restorative yoga instructor should both verbally and visually cue you to release tension. You can also try a dvd or cd (with verbal instructions).
Slow Down: Sounds counterintuitive, but if your thoughts are faster than you can keep up with, the disharmony between thought and action will make you less productive. Find yourself getting angry at someone? Slow down your words, slow down your thoughts, take the person in again, and reassess your feelings.
Exercise: Amongst its numerous benefits, working out also helps the body express what the mind cannot. Instead of complaining to others or shacking up with the t.v., go for a walk or a jog, go swimming, climb onto the stationary bike–or better yet, drive your bike in the fresh air. Can’t jog in the office? You will feel the benefits of exercise all day when you make it a regular practice, so fit it in before or after work.
Kate Bader-Autoimmune Ally
1. Wonderlane; “Meditation Garden” – Self-Realization Fellowship, Encinitas, California, USA 3594.
2. D. Sharon Pruitt; “Peaceful Meditation” – on Flickr.by