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I’ve gone through every “healthy” lifestyle phase from briefly going vegan to hot yoga to cycle spinning, but I can never seem to stick to the habit. To combat the stress of a busy work week, I decided to try something that might be a little less downward dog and a little more corpse pose - meditation. And thus, I found myself in the midst of a cold and cramped room searching frantically for my inner peace.
I show up to the beginner's class early enough to have a walk around, so I gaze into the meditation room. It’s a tiny room with tall open windows facing the outside world - so close yet so far away. About 15 minutes pass until the instructor of the class walks into the building. Participants ranging from 7-year-olds to 70-year-olds continue to arrive before the class begins. Five minutes later, everyone is magically seated either on mats, chairs or on the ground itself.
Next, we’re told to go ahead and begin our breathing as the last people enter. I can’t tell what makes meditative breathing different from regular breathing, so I spend that time awkwardly scanning the room to see if anyone else’s composure will rub off on me. A few minutes after the intended start time of the class, we’re told to do independent walking meditations for about 15 minutes. I didn’t even know you could walk and meditate, but I gave it a go pretending like I didn’t just wake up this morning nearly an hour past my alarm.
Some take advantage of the nice weather and go outside, while others wander around the building. I enter a miniature library with three others, and we all walk back and forth concentrating on our inner zen. Appropriately, a tiny bell rings after the 15 minutes ends indicating it’s time to head back to the main meditation room. A wave of complete silence hits after the abrupt shuffling of everyone reinstating position. The class is told to do the same as before, only this time, a seated meditation.
Amidst my own breathing practices, there was a moment where I realized how unified the room felt. We’re a group of about 20 people who decided to do something for ourselves this morning when we could’ve been taking the dry cleaning or finishing our grocery lists. At the end of the class, a short Buddhist passage is read and the session ends with a quick Q&A. The dismissal was quick, but nonetheless courteous, with friendly farewells from everybody.
There was a defining moment during the practice where I worked hard to free my own mind from thought. My purpose became emptying my mind of all worry and vanity to enter a new state of clarity. In one short hour, I became capable of creating comfort in an initially uncomfortable situation.
I may not be up there as the next Dalai Lama, but meditation did help me go from a totally manic morning to a peaceful afternoon. Maybe it will be another phase and I’ll move on to eating wheatgrass or barre ballet, but at least for now, if I need an easy way to take a break from a busy week and clear your head, I’m counting on meditation.