It Is What It Is - Meditation at 6.14
A fantastic guest post from students Vlad, Rashid, Jamie and John about practising mindfulness in their flat together during COVID.
Meditation is something that many people fail to consider and seem to dismiss, many people including myself. My relationship with the practice of tuning in and listening to your thoughts and emotions has quite the history. Following a personal event that had left me broken apart and depressed, I could not seem to find any way to put myself back together. As I was searching for solutions, nothing seemed to work, but I would constantly come across meditation, which I would throw aside as I considered it to be useless. I finally gave in when my condition was worsening and within a week of doing daily 5-minute meditations, I was back on my feet. After a month I was thriving.
Fast-forward two years and we arrive to September 2020. Covid-19 was ensuring that all of us would be tightly packed in our homes, while our work and study life would come down pressing upon us with stress and anxiety. Following my infection with the virus, I was left experiencing after-symptoms, which has affected my mental health greatly, and somehow history seemed to repeat itself, as I was constantly skipping my mindfulness practice. Luckily, I managed to net myself a spot on the Mindfulness course offered by the Chaplaincy when someone else had dropped out. Across the weeks of practice, I had managed to regain my center and be refreshed by newfound love and acceptance. It was the rebirth of my mindfulness practice. Seeing the benefits I reaped doing this practice, I would constantly bug my flat mates about joining drop-ins and doing flat meditations. One thing led to another and we started having communal guided practices. I recall this one day in which I was planning to skip on my meditation, but my flat would not have that. Jamie came into my room and nonchalantly asked “What time are we doing the meditation sesh tonight?”, which made me think to myself “Huh... well, I can’t really miss that, can I?”.
Overall, I know that this is something I want to keep with me for the rest of my life. Mindfulness does not make you happy in the Western sense of the word. It makes you content. It makes you see sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration, stress and accept them. It makes you stare down the face of adversity, take a deep breath, rub your feet against the ground and say to yourself “It is what it is. I can accept this. I can treat this with kindness and loving curiosity.”. It also makes you more grateful for what you have, for who you are, for who you are wanting to become. It makes you truly feel happiness when it comes, rather than look unto the next task. Going to the gym helps keep your physical health in check, while benefiting your mental health too. Meditation is where you practice, well, being a human. Looking at your experience and recognizing how beautifully human it is. Taking your time in accepting the moments you live and caressing your emotions, sensations, and thoughts. Truly, the one habit that will change your life.
Having been struggling with my mental health for a while, meditation has been a whole new tool to help me deal with it. I often find that my mind becomes very active and distracting which prohibits me from undertaking the things that I would like to do and the way I would like to do them. For example: Lockdown has been a massive blow to my social confidence, preventing me from seeing my friends and interacting with people in a normal face-to-face environment. I find that I have built up a small amount of social anxiety, which in turn creates a cycle of negative thoughts leading to discouragement form social settings. After being told about the benefits of meditation by my friend/flatmate Vlad, I decided to give it a shot. I must admit I was sceptical at first as I was not very familiar with the practice however after my first guided meditation, I immediately saw some of the benefits. I was able to find peace and clarity from the negative thoughts I had been having and already felt more control over the way I felt. Now, the practice has become part of my daily life when I can pull myself to do it. The battle I have with the negative thoughts feels less like an internal conflict and more like a dance, in which I accept the emotions for what they are rather than fighting them. Meditation has also shown me how to be kinder to myself and others. Normally I am harsh on myself either for the way I feel or how I behave. I realise that this is a toxic way to be and does not lead to an overall happy life. Since starting mindful meditation I now have the ability to withdraw myself from these thoughts and recognise them as just that, thoughts. Whilst I still have a lot to learn about meditation and myself, I am grateful for being shown this tool and intend to make it a part of the rest of my life.
I often have trouble concentrating and keeping my mind on a task. Meditating for a short period of time before doing tasks such as reading or doing work for university helps me to ground myself and put all my focus towards what I am doing and helps to stop my mind from wondering
-Rashid Al Marzooqi
I started meditating in quarantine. I had heard it was good for mental health, and it seemed like a habit worth exploring. I had no idea what it would bring me. Before quarantine there existed special places with their own particular sacred qualities that we feel best bring out something in us. We go to the library to study, to the gym to exercise, to the pub/park to socialize. In meditation, we have the opportunity to bring sacrality into any space at any moment. Not necessarily even during mediation either, as a well-centred mind can find a moment of gratitude and stillness where and whenever.
We created a sacred space within our flat in group meditations. In repeating a mantra of unity, hope, and well-wishes, we fostered a kinship we will not let go of and through each session became much closer friends and brothers. Sticking to a routine of meditation is difficult, but having good friends to encourage you and to share space with makes it much easier. Reflecting on how we feel and what that meditation may have brought us afterwards enriches the experience massively. I would highly recommend integrating partner or group meditation into your practice and observing what kind of difference it makes for you.