In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Oasis.”
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 Transcendental 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 oranges and some almonds. He would then get into his silver Volvo 240 to drive to East New York, Brooklyn.
In my eyes (and the eyes of many others I bet) Mark was a true enlightened warrior.
Mark took his training for Transcendental Meditation 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 relieves stress. TM helps me to get things done.” I often noticed he seemed happy 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, a practice thousands of years old available to each of us in endless permutations and possibilities, has become a bit of a buzzword.And I say, “none to soon”. Mark was onto something 40+ years ago.
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 creativity and test taking abilities. In short, Gamma brain waves are those that get you “into the zone “.
To my way of thinking that can only be a good thing, doesn’t your brain deserve a spa treatment?
There are health benefits. Science has shown that meditation can reduce stress, helps to lower cortisol, adrenaline production and in turn lower blood pressure.
In recent articles in the New York Times, The Path meditation center in Manhattan focuses 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.
This is an interesting development really just a twist on ashrams. From where I sit making new friends and business contacts at a place like The Path or Suzee Yalof’s place in LA is a happy alternative to a loud bar or restaurant. People who meditate tend to enjoy being here now. There is a shared experience when meditating in a community. It’s a peaceful practice.
In another article in the NY Times 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 NYC school system. When Mark was battling cancer, meditation he remained strong , calm and uncomplaining. Though sometimes he just lost it too.
Hey he was only human.
It was because of Mark that I began my 30 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 to limber up and release excess energy and then I could sit and enjoy the stillness. I am grateful to Mark for starting me on my yogic path.
While for me, my favorite way to meditate is in a group with my fellow yoga practitioners, it is at home on my own that the practice really unfolds for me.
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.
It can be as simple as just following the breath for 5 minutes a day while sitting still. Do this: Just sit quietly, follow your breath and it will unfold. If your mind wanders to your to-do list, just come back to the breath. Five minutes a day will get you started. After 21 days of 5 minutes of focusing on the breath, it will become a habit, like brushing your teeth.
Meditation helps us to “take out the trash” in our minds to get access to creativity and our best selves. What’s not to like?
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. Look on iTunes for both free and paid meditations. Or youtube.com
One thing I know for sure, meditation is neither weird nor complicated.
There’s an APP for that.
Here are few apps to try some are free and some charge a fee: Breathe2Relax which is great for practice working with the breath, Buddhify 2 with lots of good information and various meditations that run from 5 to 20 minutes, 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.
Find your calming place, I am betting you will be glad you did.