“Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.” Everyone seated around me settled in Vajrasana and Sukhasana postures, as I sat there, at the back of the class, feeling completely and totally out of place. I didn’t believe in the practice of sitting still and waiting for answers to come to me. “What’s everyone doing?”, I thought to myself. “This is going to be a colossal waste of time. Meditation will never work for me. It brings no peace. It cures nothing. It solves nothing.”
When I was first introduced to meditation at a well-known yoga center in 2016, I was, for the lack of a better word, lost. I did not know where I was headed- literally and figuratively. Confusion and chaos was all I was surrounded by and I found myself craving an escape. I didn’t know right from wrong or what I was getting myself into. Late as usual, I anxiously walked into a class full of unknown faces. As I awkwardly grabbed a mat, and settled in a corner on the floor by the window, our teacher said, “Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes”, I laughed- well, in my head. Never having believed in the practice of sitting still with my eyes closed, I questioned Meditation all my life. To me, it meant allowing my thoughts to run wild, in all directions possible. Little did I know the practice I considered so unreal and ineffective was a miracle in the making.
As the days passed, I began to embrace the practice of meditation, just a little, everyday. In the very beginning I was unable to keep my eyes closed for more than a few seconds. While it didn’t matter much, it began to feel disconcerting as the days passed by. Everyone around me could successfully maintain their focus, so why not me?
That evening, I went up to my mentor at the center and expressed my concerns. She smiled and said, “That’s because, in your head, you’ve decided this isn’t going to work for you.” I pondered over her words as I sat in class the next morning as our teacher asked us to close our eyes and meditate for ten minutes. “Just be with yourself”, she said. My friends effortlessly and calmly slipped into the serene state of meditation. I was looking around, annoyed and confused, as usual, when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. “Close your eyes”, my mentor said to me with a gentle smile yet stern voice. I did as was told.
That morning, something miraculous happened-miraculous enough to assure me that this practice, if followed religiously, could actually work for me. It was a feeling of peace, with myself and the world around me. The noises in the background, the ringing of the bells, the trees swaying and the sound of the fans overhead began to get softer and softer until they took a backseat and began to slowly fade away. The only thing I was aware of was me, sitting with my palms on my thighs and the gentle rhythm of my breath. “So serene! This is fun!”, I thought to myself. Nothing else seemed to matter, until, of course, a series of thoughts came dashing to my head. Oops! I tried to brush them off, but in vain. So I opened my eyes. My classmates and friends were still meditating. “How do they do this”, I thought to myself as I sat there, almost at the verge of throwing a tantrum.
In a world like the one we live in today, people and situations can mess you up. Life can get hard, terribly hard. But amidst all the chaos, you’ve got to remember your worth-your self-worth. It’s something I had forgotten a while back, and something meditation and all the beautiful human beings I was surrounded by gave back to me.
Meditation has since, become an integral part of my life, and I couldn’t wait to share this experience with you-our readers.
Benefits of Meditation
Stressful situations are inevitable. We cannot possibly predict a bad day that’s probably chosen to come our way. Although stressful situations are hard to avoid, it is up to us to handle it in the best possible way. Meditation helps change our perception and shift our focus from everything our brain would perceive as negative.
• Meditation has been linked to lesser cases of postpartum depression and is also said to cause changes in the brain, thus protecting the body from future mental illness.
• It is shown to improve focus, compassion, awareness and help better performance at work, school and day-to-day life.
• It is a drug-free, cost-free treatment that helps an individual live a calmer and more peaceful life.
The Power Of Meditation
How does the body respond to meditation?
The regions of the brain specifically affected by meditation are: The Parietal Lobe, The Frontal Lobe and the Thalamus.
• During meditation, the Frontal lobe i.e. the part of the brain in control of problem solving, emotional expression, memory, language and judgement, is believed to go offline, thus reducing brain activity.
• The activity in the Parietal Lobe i.e. the part of the brain in charge of processing sensory information about the surrounding world slows down.
• Meditation has been shown to reduce the flow of the incoming information to the Thalamus, which is a gatekeeper for the senses, and helps us focus.
• Overall, meditation helps reduce the brain activity which has shown to have several benefits such as reduction in disorders associated with attention (ADHD), anxiety and even diseases related to memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s.
• While meditation helps lower brain activity, it helps improve attention and awareness, and enhances positivity, emotional stability and better focus. It helps individuals recognize their emotions and react to situations calmly.
Where and How to Begin?
Yes, initially the mind does wander, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. The key to meditation is non-judgement. Stressful thoughts can cause extreme anxiety, and they do come up every now and then. After all, the mind does function in mysterious ways! Well, try not to judge them or pay any heed to them. A quick and easy way to ward off the thoughts is to accept them and slowly shift focus back to the practice. As you incorporate meditation in your daily routine (regularity of the practice is key), you will notice a reduction in unwanted thoughts and, sooner than later, you will notice them disappearing on their own.
• Select a place and time
Choose a place that brings you peace and calm and some time you can spare before or after your daily chores, work and responsibilities. Attempt to pick a place that’s calming, relaxing, and free from all chaos and surrounding noise.
• Choose a comfortable position, like the Vajrasana or Sukhasana. Remember to keep the back straight. Place your palms on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Those who prefer to lay down can choose a comfortable mattress or a yoga mat. You can choose the all-too-famous Shavasana pose, too, or gently bend your knees and place the feet firmly on the mat. This position works for people who are dealing with lower back issues as it reduces the strain on the back.
• Before beginning my meditation session, personally, I prefer to do a few hand and arm stretches and gentle neck rotations to prep the body for relaxation.
In case unwanted thoughts cause distractions and hinder your practice, here’s a few affirmations I swear by to ease the stress:
As you inhale, recite the following in your mind:
• I am inhaling positivity, calmness and strength
• I am attracting loving, caring and trustworthy friendships
• As I inhale, I cleanse my mind, body and soul of all the negativity, and purify my mind to attract nothing but the good.
As you exhale:
• I am exhaling negativity, judgments, illness and sadness.
• I am letting go of attachments, hatred, pain and deceit.
• I let go of all self doubt, second guessing and unsurety in myself.
Given below, is a video of a peaceful and calming guided meditation session by The City of Hope to give you a broader idea of what a meditation session for stress relief feels like:
Remember, there is no good or bad time for the practice of meditation and no fixed time duration, either. Anytime is a good time.