Meditation over Madness
By: Eva Mandelbaum
As we are approaching the school year's half-way mark and midterms, it may feel as though all your to-do's, schoolwork, stresses, and worries have been piling up until they fog up your brain. If you have been experiencing this, you are not alone. This year has taken its toll on everyone and has been especially challenging for students academically. If life seems to be spiraling into a never-ending cycle of stress, anxiety, and a cluttered mind, do you ever wish there was a magical solution to all these problems? What if you learned there is? This magical solution is called meditation.
When you think of mediation, the word may have connotations that make you stray away from it. Maybe you picture Buddhist monks or extremely spiritual people.
Maybe you picture nothing at all. I can guarantee that you will not need to take a vow of silence or live in isolation to meditate. Meditation is for everyone and is something that can be done anywhere and in different ways!
The solution to your problems could be as easy as a click of your computer. There are a plethora of meditation and mindfulness videos and resources at the tip of your fingertips. With a simple Google search of “meditation videos” there are millions of results (about 748,000,000 to be exact). Before you begin your potentially overwhelming decision of which video to choose, you should know a few things about different types of meditation, and how to do it.
According to Ms. Patricia Gilmartin, teacher of mindfulness and meditation classes at White Plains High School, “Mindfulness is a concept of being aware of what you are feeling and not judging it. This form of meditation is acknowledging and assessing how we are in the moment.” Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present and allowing thoughts to come and go with a nonjudgmental disposition. It is often used as a tool for stress prevention and relief. “The goal isn’t to stop thinking, or to empty the mind. Rather, the point is to pay close attention to your physical sensations, thoughts and emotions in order to see them more clearly, without making so many assumptions, or making up stories.” (David Gelles, The New York Times) Breathe, focus, and relax.
(Enjoy this 10-minute mindfulness meditation by Calm)
Focused meditation is especially helpful with relieving stress. Headspace, a meditation company whose goal is to improve the health and happiness of the world, shares on their website that focused meditation is a straightforward meditation that is meant to maintain awareness. When your mind starts to wander, simply return to the breath. According to verywellmind.com, this meditation style “allows you to focus your attention on an object, sound, or sensation rather than trying to achieve a clear mind without a specific focal point.”
(Enjoy this 10-minute focus meditation by Declutter The Mind)
Movement meditation is moving through various positions with a mindful and slow pace. “Movement meditation focuses on the movements of the body rather than the goal of the movement” (aihcp.net). According to doyou.com, “Movement meditation (just as seated meditation) boils down to presence. The key is to hone into the moment with awareness, which you can practice anywhere and anytime.” Movement meditation can be done while doing any movement activity. Simply get moving, notice the present moment, and enjoy!
There is a myriad of other types of meditation open for your exploration. Many people find what is best for them, but it may be nice to use the above videos as a starting point. Try what is best for you and the rest will fall into place!
The effect meditation has on people could not be more positive. “Meditation has honestly changed my life for the better. I used to struggle with a lot of stress and being able to have an open, clear, calm mind since beginning my meditation has allowed me to feel calm and more reassured,” shares a White Plains High School freshman.
The positive results of meditation do not stop there. According to a 2012 study, “…researchers compared brain images from 50 adults who meditate and 50 adults who don’t meditate. Results suggested that people who practiced meditation for many years have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. This process (called gyrification) may increase the brain’s ability to process information” (Nccih.nih.gov). Also, according to a 2013 review of three studies, meditation may slow changes in the brain that take place because of aging. A NCCIH-funded study conducted in 2012 suggests that meditation can affect activity in the amygdala (a part of the brain involved in processing emotions). Not only does meditation improve your short-term well-being, but it may change your brain for the better.
If you are still feeling overwhelmed with options, Headspace, a company founded in 2010 that is devoted to promoting good health and happiness through meditation, may be a good starting point for your meditation journey. Andy Puddicombe, cofounder of Headspace, changed his life for the better when he dropped everything to become a Buddhist monk. He trained in meditation all over the world for over 10 years, so he knows a thing or two about meditation. Headspace offers free videos and guided meditations. With Andy’s (or his coworkers’) soothing voices and extensive knowledge on meditation, Headspace is a considerable resource. Recently, Headspace released a Netflix series that incorporates breathing and meditation exercises while you watch. If you are interested in taking your meditation a step further by learning about the benefits while doing it, you may want to take a look at “Headspace Guide to Meditation” on Netflix.
No Netflix account or desire to use online meditations? No worries! Meditation and mindfulness are offered right here at White Plains High School! “This is the first year we are offering [meditation and mindfulness classes at White Plains High School] and we have six full classes. Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation are incorporated into every class,” says Ms. Patricia Gilmartin, physical education teacher at White Plains High School. If you are not already taking one of these classes, and if your schedule allows, try taking one in the future. You won’t regret it!
What are you waiting for? Go get comfy, turn on a guided meditation and enjoy melting your worries away as you relax into a blissful state. “Distractions are everywhere. Notice what takes your attention, acknowledge it, and then let it go.” -