By: Graham Browning, Columnist
Spring is a blank slate. It is a time of beauty and new experiences. As the school year winds down and the workload increases, however, it is hard to try something new. This month, I challenge you to try meditation. Taking time for yourself in the midst of chaos is sometimes all you can do to quiet the noise.
I began meditating fairly regularly about a year ago. I will be the first to admit that it takes dedication and never really gets easy, although it does get easier. I can now tell a difference between the days when I take five minutes of silence and those when I simply push through. My mind is more cluttered and I find it harder to focus. Even when I meditate in the morning, I can feel the effects into the afternoon. The power of the mind is incredible and too often forgotten when we are filling it with information we forget that it just like a car. It needs check-ups, tune-ups, and occasional breaks from the road.
The key is starting small. If you set your meditation goals too high at the beginning, I guarantee you will get discouraged. I started with two minutes of lying on my back with knees bent and soles of my feet on the floor. The most important aspect of meditation is comfort. You do not have to look like Gandhi with legs crossed in a perfect lotus position. A chair, a pillow, and even your bed are perfect places to meditate. Pick someplace quiet and familiar at first. Before long, you will find yourself able to meditate almost anywhere.
Focus on your breath. For me, counting to five helps: five counts inhale and five counts exhale. Sometimes, imagining a fluid image helps, like a fountain or a circle. It all depends on the person. Try out a few images, counting techniques, and body positions until you find one that speaks to your soul and allows your mind to be at rest. If you are sitting, try to keep your back straight. Imagine a string attached to the top of your head, pulling it toward the ceiling. Keep your chest open so your lungs can expand to their full capacity. It is amazing how much air you can hold. Try to keep the breath flowing without stopping at the top of your inhale or the bottom of your exhale. Set a timer on your phone with an alarm that is soothing. I use “Rise” on my iPhone, but I know some people download gong noises. Yes, there is an app for that.
There are also dozens of meditation apps. I have the “Breathe” app, which leads you in guided meditations depending on your goals. For example, you can “check in with yourself” and it will tell you if you should do a meditation for “Being Present,” “Gratitude,” or “Compassion.” Sometimes it helps to have a voice guiding you through meditations when you feel particularly anxious.
My favorite type of meditation, though, is a walking meditation. Take a silent walk in a beautiful place (which is not too hard to find on our campus) and simply focus on your breath. You can time it to your steps or just let it flow freely. Some of my most creative thoughts come during these quiet moments in nature.
Whatever you choose, let the month of April be your Zen month, your “you” time, and the opportunity to, once a day, just breathe.