ANNA FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
Modern life, with its frantic workdays and hectic routines, is stressful by itself. Now, throw in a pandemic and you have a whole new set of struggles. To cope, many have turned to meditation.
An ancient solution to a modern problem, meditation is a part of yoga which deals with mental relaxation and concentration. Here, attention is focused on thoughts and breath. Being aware of one’s breathing automatically controls the thought processes and relaxes the mind completely.
In fact, Namrata Anand Menon, the proprietor of World of Yoga, an internationally registered school of yoga and ayurveda based in Dona Paula, describes meditation as “a state of heightened consciousness achieved by understanding, controlling and finally transcending one’s mind.”
A technique used by practitioners of meditation is mindfulness. When used in meditation, the practitioner’s focus is on being “intensely aware of what they’re thinking, sensing, feeling and doing in the moment, without interpretation or judgment”.
And the amazing thing is: it works. “Meditation has completely transformed the quality of my existence… it has brought a clarity, a joy and a richness to my life that is difficult to articulate,” says Menon who has been teaching yoga and meditation for 21 years.
However, many find it hard to meditate for lack of time. “One of the common beliefs about yoga and meditation is that the practice of these takes you away from your daily life and responsibilities. In fact, they help you to be able to live life in a more integrated, healthy and joyous manner with focus in your personal and professional ventures,” says Menon.
Meditation brings clarity and calmness to your mind, she emphasises. “This is one of the most essential requirements in these stressful and uncertain times. Meditation is increasingly going to be a mandatory practice in our modern world where lives are becoming more stressful, competitive, and fast-paced,” she says.
But it isn’t only the positive impact on your mental strength – studies have shown meditation to be beneficial for your physical health as well. Priyanka Sinari, MBBS, explains that as meditation “aids in calming the mind, reducing stress, slowing down, becoming more aware of oneself and one’s surroundings, this in turn helps in improving physical health along with mental health”.
A lot of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, stroke, autoimmune diseases, etc have been proven to have a strong association with high stress levels and tend to flare up when the stress levels increase. “If you can reduce or ease your stress, there’s a better chance of preventing or managing these diseases. And that’s where meditation comes into play majorly. Of course, you can practise meditation even if you aren’t stressed,” notes the Ribandar-based doctor.
However, Sinari argues that meditation isn’t a legitimate cure, rather an adjunct to the holistic approach towards health management, be it physical, mental, environmental or social health. “Contrary to popular belief, health is not just physical but includes many other aspects. Meditation can thus help in managing some aspects which may not have drugs or other treatment modalities,” she says.
Regular meditation also increases our emotional resilience and the ability to deal with stressful situations. It increases happiness, imagination, patience, creativity, among other aspects, says psychologist and founder of Silver Linings: Guidance and Counselling Centre, Margao, Shobhika Jaju.
But as with most treatments, meditation can have side effects. “It is possible that negative feelings may arise during meditation. Particularly, when we meditate for the first few times; it’s not necessary for this to happen, but it may,” says Jaju. Because of this, many people get overwhelmed and stop meditating altogether, notes Jaju. “Instead of shying away from meditation, acknowledge the negative thoughts and work through them. Meditate on the negative feeling, try to understand the source of it, and try to figure out how you can let go of that feeling. Instead of getting threatened, embrace this as part of the process and that will help deal with the negative feelings better,” she says.
“In today’s fast-paced, technology-ruled world, meditation helps practitioners take a moment to pause and reflect, understand life with its ups and downs as well as entertain different perspectives; none of which is going to be possible if we are stressed out,” says Jaju, adding that meditation can be used by people of all ages too; be it children or adults, even ten minutes of calm can be beneficial.
And there are apps that one can look at to help you out, especially in the beginning. Declan Da Silva Pereira from Panaji for instance, turned to meditation after noticing the impact that it was having on his mental health. “I used to use an app called ‘Headspace’ for guided meditations, where you are taught the basics of meditation,” he says, adding that the app is really useful, especially for beginners. “I used to meditate before I slept so I could sleep well. And it really used to help. It also started to give me more self-control and helped me keep calm during hard times,” he shares. For the London-based student and architect, meditation is now a regular practice. “I mainly focus on breathing exercises, because that’s something that really works for me,” he says.
Gretchen Barretto from Cuncolim meanwhile started meditating when she “first experienced grief in its totality”. The singer-songwriter recalls that she was living alone and was forced to face things about herself that she couldn’t make peace with. “Determined to change things, I started reading, working out and practising yoga. This further led me to read the ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle which introduced me to meditation,” she says.
While Barretto used to practise meditation regularly when she lived alone in Bengaluru, since her shift home she admits that she hasn’t been as consistent. “I try to do it first thing when I wake up in the morning. I follow guided mediation by Pema Chodron, Louise Hay, or Adriene Mishler,” she says, adding that, for her, practising gratitude is key.
And one of the biggest transformations she’s noticed is “a sense of calm” on days that she practises. “I’ve noticed that I’m more disciplined because of an increased level of self-awareness. I’ve discovered how despite all my flaws and uncertainties, I’m still learning, and discovering who I really am. And for the first time in a long time, I love so much about myself,” she adds.
Meditation for beginners
The easiest way to begin is to sit quietly and focus on your breath. “Start with ten minutes a day and gradually build this up to 20 minutes. This has been found to be ideal for beginners,” says proprietor, World of Yoga, Namrata Anand Menon. She further suggests meditating at the same time every day and choosing one place for your meditation. To get started, many techniques for learning meditation are available, she adds. “Choose one suitable to your personality and lifestyle. Discipline and perseverance are key.”