Meditation: A tool for managing chaos

I have been following a popular meditation program called “Headspace”, which is available as an app on both Android and iOS. It contains a 10-session intro for free, and if you become a paying subscriber another 100 or so sessions are unlocked for you. The programs were developed by a British guy named Andy Puddicombe, who became a Buddhist monk at one point in his life and has now made a name (and a fortune, presumably) as a mindful meditation expert. He’s been the subject of a BBC documentary, spoken at TED, written a book, and so on.

His claim is that spending 10 minutes a day meditating will tangibly improve your mental performance and bring a sense of calm to your life. Interestingly, there are a handful of large-scale academic studies that show measurable improvements in those who practice meditation.

So far, I’ve completed the first level of sessions, I’m working on level 2, and I’ve done a handful of the short, single sessions on sleep. I have also been sporadically supplementing this with meditations at the Buddhist temple on Crawford Street.

My meditation practice first started back in November before my dad was admitted to hospital. While he was in hospital, I probably should have continued with it, but I didn’t. By the time my mom was admitted to hospital two weeks ago with chest pains, I was pretty much on the verge of a break down. As I drove from the hospital to check on my paralysed dad at home, I eventually found myself standing in a parking lot of a strip mall in Scarborough with a nail in my front passenger-side tire. The first person I called was my hubby. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry at that moment.

That was on a Monday. The rest of that week was a complete mess. It also happened to be the week when I had a massive client project due and I would had to grade papers for my class. That day disrupted not only my usual self-protective emotional walls, but also my week’s work schedule.

The following week, I made it in to the Buddhist temple for a meditation session — the first since my family’s health issues began in November. By then, the previous weeks’ drama had subsided and I thought I was back to “normal”.

I settled in to my seat and followed the practice leader’s guidance to close my eyes and visualize white healing light entering with my inhalations, and black toxins exiting the body on the exhale.

I’m not sure how long we meditated for, but when I finally opened my eyes again, I felt like a different person. I hadn’t realized how much tension I was still carrying in my body and I also hadn’t realized how much “stuff” I was constantly bombarding my mind with. I felt a moment of calm and clarity that I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

So that was part of the reason why I committed to making these lifestyle changes, with meditation becoming a large part of my nightly pre-bed routine. I now crave and seek to recreate that sense of calm that I experienced that evening at the temple.

Needless to say, I haven’t been very good at it. My ability to focus through 15 minutes of meditation is still limited. My mind wanders to things like “should we get a Doberman or a Rottweiler?” “I forgot to start the dishwasher.” “I need to add argan oil to my moisturizer formula.”

The ability to focus in meditation doesn’t happen overnight and requires a lot of practice. But I feel like I at least have a tool available for those times when I truly feel like everything is caving in on itself.

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