For years now, I’ve read about the numerous benefits of meditation. The list goes on and on and includes everything from stress relief to better sleep to improved digestion to lower blood pressure. Over the past couple of years, I’ve attempted to meditate on my own a few times and even downloaded a couple of guided meditation apps to help with the process. After a few times of trying, I quickly resigned to the fact that my mind is just not calm enough to sit there and think about “nothing”, so I would give up.
Recently (mainly since our move to San Diego), I’ve found myself getting stressed out very easily, focusing on the negative in every situation, and being extra snippy at the littlest things. Truthfully, I have no idea why I’m acting or feeling this way. Things have been going pretty well since we’ve moved to San Diego and, while I do miss my friends and family, I am happy with my decision overall and where it’s taken me, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on in that brain of mine.
After my Chakra Flow class at Happy U Namaste last Sunday, I saw that they were holding a Meditation & Mindfulness Workshop on Friday and decided to sign up for it. I’m pretty open to anything that may get me out of my rut at this point.
The class consisted of about 20 other people and the instructor, Tania Franco, is a Clinical Psychologist and Mindfulness Guide. We began the class by going around the room and saying one word that encompassed what we hoped to gain from the 2 hour workshop. Everyone’s answers varied from things like happiness to peace to serenity to joy. My word of choice was “acceptance” – acceptance for myself, for where I’m going and where I’m at, for other people, etc.
After this, she went over a few different types of meditation and how they work well for different kinds of people. One of the main things I took from her was that meditation is not a one size fits all thing. Some people like to meditate sitting up, while others like to lay down. Some like to think of a mantra and others like to focus on breathing or listen to music. It’s even possible to meditate while walking or driving (to an extent, of course).
She also stated that meditating does not mean that your mind is entirely free from thoughts like most people think. It’s impossible to completely clear your mind of any thought and you just have to focus on bringing your mind back to what you’re doing in the moment when it does inevitably wander. Even if you have other thoughts, it doesn’t mean that you’re not getting the benefits of the exercise.
After the overview, we went through a few different kinds of meditation. The first one involved coloring a mandala. We each got a paper and crayons and were instructed to just focus on the exercise for 15 minutes. At first, I found it to be kind of nice to be coloring. I mean, how often do we as adults use our time to do something like that? Almost never. After about half of the time elapsed though, I started to get stressed that I wouldn’t finish it in time. I knew it would irritate me if I couldn’t finish the whole thing, so I began to quicken my strokes so I could get it done. I quickly noticed that finishing was not the point of the exercise and it’s typical of me to make a stressful situation out of something that totally shouldn’t be. After I realized what I was doing, I tried to bring myself back into the exercise and what the real purpose of it was.
The next meditation focused on color also, but in a different way. After getting into a comfortable position, we closed our eyes and took stock of how our body was feeling at the moment and noticed if any particular body parts were calling out to us at the time. For me, it was my lower back. After that, we associated a color with that particular body part and for about 10 minutes focused on that color and noticed how it evolved during the time we were thinking about it. My orange faded into a purple color and eventually became a mixture of a bunch of different colors. During this exercise, it was the first time I could feel my mind actually doing what I typically think of as “meditation”. It was free from other thoughts and calm and I was able to really focus on the color. It sort of felt like an out of body experience. Really awesome and relaxing.
The last meditation was a “forgiveness” meditation, and I found this one to be the most difficult. We began by thinking of someone who was easy to love, things we liked about this person, and sending them wishes. After this, we did the same thing, but for someone who we found “difficult to love”. And on the third round, we did the same but thought of ourselves. I found myself feeling guilty when thinking of the “difficult to love” person and was overcome with sadness, which I really didn’t expect. At the end of the exercise, we envisioned the three of us together in a circle and mentally envisioned that circle of people coming together to spread love and kindness to the rest of the world.
We ended class by going around the room and saying how we felt after the class. Again, everyone had different answers that ranged from enlightened to serene to accepted to happy. My word was “open”.
Overall, I feel like I learned a lot from the workshop and feel like I can really start applying it to my everyday life now that I know that meditation doesn’t have to be so cut and dry. I can still get the benefits of it even if I don’t fully tune out or even if I do feel a little stressed during it.
Coincidentally, Deepak Chopra and Oprah are hosting a 21 Day Meditation Experience that begins today, so I signed up for it and really hope to complete the whole thing. I’ve applied what I’ve learned over the past few days and, even though I’m not perfect at it, I do think it is helping me in some ways. If you’re interested, you should sign up too and then we can complete it together!
Have you ever tried meditation or do you practice regularly?
What’s your go to method for coping with stress?