By: Paris Lenox
Mindfulness meditation is the stress reliever of the past, present, and future; a practice that is growing in popularity and helping people with their well-being, both physical and mental. In a world filled with so many distractions, it’s important to detach every once in a while and slow down. Mindful meditation emphasizes focusing on the breath and experiencing the present moment.
It is no longer a surprise to see mindfulness practiced in our modernized world. Though the practice is an ancient method, it’s not uncommon to know people who meditate. While touring schools in Los Angeles, it became apparent that nearly every school had some sort of multimedia room for meditation and other quiet religious practices. This becomes useful for students, as it has been proven that meditation decreases stress and depression. Illnesses that come from long-term stress can be at a decreased risk of showing up if meditation is practiced.
Tamara Levitt, the Head of Content for the popular meditation app, Calm, shed some light on the first time she meditated and the impact it had on her.
“By the end, I felt some of my tension relax,” Levitt writes on her website. “It wasn’t as though my life had changed; there was no huge epiphany or instant healing. But I was able to taste a few moments of rare and elusive stillness. For me, that was enough to keep coming back.”
Mindfulness meditation thrives on the idea of letting the mind be still and observant, as the feeling can be described as incomparable to any other experienced throughout the day.
The practice of mindfulness meditation is pretty simple, though it’s not exactly easy. It can occur practically anywhere, though it’s preferable to find somewhere quiet. People can start by sitting on the ground with their legs crossed, or on a chair with feet flat on the ground. It is encouraged to have the back in an upright straitened position, with shoulders back, head resting on top of the vertebrae without stiffness or tension. It is supposed to feel natural.
Next, arms are brought to the side of the body with hands on top of the thighs. The next step is to close or lower one’s eyes, and place all attention on the breath. This leads to being in the moment and simply focusing on the ins and outs of the breaths.
Naturally, the mind wanders, which makes mindfulness meditation difficult. When this happens, it’s important to calmly draw the mind away from where it has gone, and to simply detach from distracting thoughts (and instead observe them). Continuing this strategy of clearing the mind and listening only to your breathing is all there is to it. There is no set amount of time for the practice.
Before getting up to continue the day, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on how you want to continue your day. The main goal is to let thoughts come and go without any judgement so that life becomes better overall.
There are many pros of doing this that seem to outweigh the cons. Practicing mindful meditation can lower the amount of stress regarding the future and worries of previous moments. Meditation engages people in the present and helps with the appreciation of life’s moments. Self-esteem issues may also go away as people who become mindful can become less focused on the lesser things in life and can form deeper connections between themselves and others.
AP Government teacher Conor Callahan practices a little bit of mindfulness everyday and encourages it in his classes with a minute of silence and deep breaths after he rings the chime.
“I originally saw my sister-in-law teach her fifth grade class and she did it (the chime) several times a day and I noticed that it calmed her down. It’s also something I use at home to refocus, so it’s not only important for students, but also for me,” Callahan said. “It’s made me a more organized teacher. I’m not the most organized, but I believe I’m more organized than I would be otherwise.”
Michelle Cortez, Novato High School’s new Assistant Principal, also touched on the subject of mindfulness meditation and its helpfulness.
“I think that there’s a lot of things that worry us and keep us distracted and mindful meditation allows you to kind of simplify and think about what you have rather than what you don’t have,” Cortez explained. “So, for example, if you think about your breath instead of thinking about the long list of things that you need to do, you become so much calmer and so much more able to tackle the things that you actually need to do. So it's a way of seeing the world by its assets rather than by its deficits.”
Cortez teaches a class on Thursdays after school for MSA students from 3:30 to 4:30 and is hoping to open it up to more students. She is encouraging all NHS peers to join. Mindfulness meditation is worth trying for the benefits that can lead to a more peaceful, happier life.