Finding the Calm.
“Meditate Schmeditate”, my mother-in- law, Dora once said to her son, my husband, Mark as he headed off one summer day in Long Beach to find a quiet bench on the boardwalk to attend to his twice daily meditation practice. From that day on, every time Mark would go sit down to meditate he would say to me, “I am going to go meditate-schmeditate” and we would both laugh about it.
Twenty minutes a day, twice a day for over thirty years. Rarely did Mark miss taking time out to do his meditation practice. When he was an educator in the New York City Public Schools, he rose 45 minutes early to meditate then showered, shaved, dressed, made his coffee and peanut butter sandwich (for the energy he needed in his high-stress -very- hectic- job as school principal) and then pack himself an apple, a few clementine’s and some almonds. He would then get into his car to drive to East New York, Brooklyn. In my eyes Mark was a true enlightened warrior.
Mark took his training for TM in Manhattan in the early 1970’s. Once, when I asked him what meditation was for him, he said something like this, “It helps me to focus meditation rests my mind. It helps me to relieve stress. helps me to come up with solutions to problems. I get more done.”
I often noticed he seemed happier and more relaxed when he completed his daily meditations. I admire how he stuck with it day in and day out.
When I asked him if meditating meant he turned off his thoughts he said, “No, the opposite, what it does is that I just notice my thoughts and let them go while focusing on a mantra. ” A mantra is a syllable or sound to keep your mind from wandering over to list-making and looking ahead to the busy-ness of the day ahead.
Meditation has become a bit of a buzzword. In a recent interview at the 92nd Street Y, Ariana Huffington spoke about the many CEO’s who meditate including most famously the late Steve Jobs.
Studies using MRI’s have shown that the brains of Tibetan Buddhist monks who meditate daily and for long periods of time have shown brains with increased gamma wave activity, which help with many cognitive functions including increased compassion, improved memory and test taking abilities. In short, Gamma brain waves are those that get you “into the zone “.
There are health benefits too. Science has shown that meditation can reduce stress, helps to lower cortisol, adrenaline production and in turn lower blood pressure.
In a recent article in the New York Times, The Path meditation center in Manhattan is focused on networking for fashion and tech millennials, through meditation. According to the article, many post-meditation deals have been made and jobs have been found. In Los Angeles, there are “Drybar” style meditation centers popping up.
If you ask me, meeting your true love or business partner by way of meditation is more promising than over cocktails at the latest trendy bar. At least you know the person is in the moment.
Additionally in another article it was shown that meditation has the potential to help students to increase their scores on the big tests such as the SAT and ACT exams.
It seems that Mark was really onto something so many years ago. Meditation served him well throughout his life, working in some very complicated situations in the school system and when he was losing his battle with cancer, meditation helped him to stay centered and uncomplaining even when I know he wanted to just scream.
It was because of Mark that I began my thirty year journey to yoga and meditation. As someone who is high energy, active and has the need to move, I found that for me to meditate I had to do a little yoga or dance around the living room, take walk or just move in seated circles to limber up and release excess energy. Then I could sit and enjoy the stillness. I am grateful to Mark for starting me on my yogic path. He used to say, “I have great instincts. I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn that taught me plenty about people.” And I appreciate that he shared it with me.
Being a social person my favorite way to meditate is in a group with my fellow yoga practitioners it is there that the practice really unfolds for me.
But it is at home on my own it becomes something else. To do the practice is to commit myself to grace for a few minutes each day. Even for just 5 minutes to give my busy, monkey mind a break. Productivity does rise when I give my mind and my body a rest.
For those who want to give meditation a whirl there are many places to look. There are many different types of meditations to try on YouTube.com, where you can practice in your living room.
Do your best not to judge yourself. According to meditation teacher and American Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfeld, it takes many lifetimes to master meditation so why not just enjoy it? There is no right way to do it. Just sit and it will unfold.
The UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center is a good place to get some free training and introductions to meditation, marc.ucla.edu and look for the link to Free Guided Meditations. Or look on iTunes for both free and paid meditations.
There are also numerous APPS available to help you to learn.
Though when I think about it the whole concept is a bit of an oxymoron. Meditation App. Kind of like the old “jumbo shrimp”. The idea is to turn down the noise in your head. If you can do that without checking text messages, putting phone on do not disturb then here are few apps to try some are free and some charge a fee:
Breathe2Relax helps you practice working with the breath,
Buddhify 2 short to long meditations and information,
Omvana has music, talks, guided meditations and much more. Search your APP store to see what’s available read reviews try a few different types of meditation.
I have had great success being consistent with yoga nidra meditations I listen to on YouTube.com Google: yoga nidra and many variations will appearl
Yoganidra has been one of the building blocks of my being able to stand back up after losing my cherished husband Mark to cancer. Grief can be overwhelming. Yoga nidra let me be okay.
One thing I know for sure, meditation is neither weird nor complicated. It can be as simple as finding a quiet spot, closing the eyes and telling our mind to follow the breath. I say to myself, “breathe in, breathe out” until I don’t need to say it I just follow it.
My best suggestion is to find a meditation center or yoga studio where meditation practice is offered.
Some, like Yoga Nanda in Garden City, NY offer free community meditation each week.
Or just find your calming place by simply doing what Mark always did: put on a cozy hoody and sit wherever you are.
Follow your breath and give your mind a rest.
Notice your thoughts as they roll by and let them go.
Keep following the breath for 5 minutes or longer. Make a date with your peaceful self.