We are on – always on. We watch T.V., we read the paper (well, our computer screens), we meet eccentrics and engage in conversations about anything and everything. We are flooded with visual and auditory stimulation that makes nests in our minds and surges every dendrite branch.
We are on when we’re awake and we are off when we’re asleep, but we rarely find an in-between haven; on pause, reflecting and probing into the very wires that form those dendrites branches.
That’s where meditation comes into play. It’s a concept that has existed long before we had the keyboard to write it with, an idea that has cross-checked almost every religious ideology with its focus on clarity, peace and perspective. You don’t have be a Buddhist monk to adopt those practices. You just need to have 10 minutes to spare and a quiet place to sit, the desire to be still and the desire to be present.
“I meditate in my Bikram yoga class. The instructor would call it ‘Shavasana.’ We would get into a relaxed pose and meditate after a strenuous pose,” said Adrianne Babun-Chavarria, a junior studying biology and English. “I was surprised how freeing emptying your mind and ignoring surrounding stimuli could be.”
Meditation is simply the art of training your brain to blur out all but a designated point – a picture, a color, a word, a breath. There is a collection of techniques depending on the system you’re adhering to, but the barest form focuses on staring at a candle flame or listening to a gong and redirecting your thoughts to it when they wander. The idea sounds relatively simple in theory, but can prove challenging if your roommate interrupts your Zen by waltzing in singing Adele’s “Hello” or if you are seized by an overpowering desire for pizza (which is what happened to me the first time I tried to meditate; I guess my nirvana involves food – no surprise there).
Relocating your consciousness can trigger an avalanche of mental and physical benefits that justify meditation’s popularity. It dissipates any cognitive cobwebs by promoting creativity and divergent thinking, allowing many writers, artists or anyone who feeds off right-brain activity to embrace it. It’s a little disconcerting, at first, when you realize just how cluttered your mind can be – thoughts of deadlines and dates and dilemmas might seep through the cracks, but ultimately you’ll find that prolonged practice promotes an effervescent sense of calmness – a calmness that can keep you from freaking out over every little thing, like the dining hall not serving late-night omelets.
Because we’re all stressed, overworked college students, it’s important to take the time to cleanse ourselves of our daily woes and anxieties. And though we can’t all stay in an Indian ashram for three months like Elizabeth Gilbert in “Eat Pray Love,” there’s a way to incorporate the practice into your daily life and reap its substantial benefits.
That is, of course, when you decide to finish being distracted.
words_asmae fahmy. Photo_sidney sherman.