by guest contributor Kristen Antunes
Meditation came into my life when I needed it most.
Several years ago, I was navigating life as a new pharmacist, struggling to find the coveted work-life balance. Unfortunately, the many years I spent in university did not prepare me for the inevitable “work stress” which vastly differed from the “school stress” I had grown accustomed to.
A typical day would consist of working 8 hours in a fast-paced pharmacy, coming home completely depleted, with only the energy to watch Netflix and crawl into bed. After about a year of this pattern, I was feeling uninspired and unfulfilled. I knew I needed to find a way to manage stress to create balance. I also knew I needed something else to focus my energy on outside of work, which is when I took the teacher training to become a spin instructor (and still teach to this day!).
In the winter of 2016, my best friend and I attended a festival in Edmonton called “It’s Time to Bloom.” Excited for a weekend away, we quickly realized this was an opportunity to explore meditation, which I was interested in learning more about. During our weekend in Edmonton, we attended a seminar by Mandy Trapp of Lifestyle meditation. She was intelligent, graceful, inviting, nurturing, and relatable. Mandy quickly helped me realize meditation can be created and molded to assist in various aspects of life, depending on the intention of practice. I immediately signed up for the teacher training offered from her studio. The time I spent training with Mandy completely changed my life. I knew I was not the only person experiencing stress and burn out and was excited to share this practice with as many people as possible.
As meditation became more popular in the last several years, more people are interested and willing to try the practice. Many people assume meditation is sitting on a mountain top for three hours a day, turning off your brain completely. Of course that is unrealistic. I often hear “I can’t shut off my mind!” and that is fair – no one can just turn their brain off like a light switch. The most important message I can share is “meditation is a practice”. Like any new skill, it takes time.
To simplify some of the common questions I receive, below are the “5 W’s” of meditation:
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice of focus concentrated on the breath, visualization, sound or movement. In this focus we increase our awareness to the present moment to promote relaxation, reduce stress and create an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth.
What are the benefits of meditation?
· Meditation reduces stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia
· Decreases blood pressure and production of cortisol (stress hormone)
· Aids in digestive health
· Enhances memory, concentration, problem-solving skills and creativity
· Helps you create and maintain healthy relationships with yourself and others
· And so many others!
Who is meditation for?
Meditation is for everyone! Meditation is non-denominational, meaning it does not have to be connected to religion or spiritual belief (it is not just for yogis!). Children as early as 5 years can start to practice meditation or mindfulness. The stillness and peace of meditation is the natural state of who we are as humans.
When is the best time to meditate?
You can meditate any time! Meditating in the mornings or evenings can be a great way to start the day or unwind for the evening. However, whenever you are feeling stressed, or in need of some peace and stillness, meditation can be done at any time of the day.
It is also beneficial to practice the same time every day to create a habit.
Where is the best place to meditate?
You can meditate anywhere you can find a quiet and relaxing space. Whether you are in a room or small space in your home, at your desk, in the bathroom at work, or even on an airplane.
It’s beneficial to practice in the same place every day to create a habit. Once your body gets used to a certain area, it knows it can relax in this space and will quickly drop into a relaxed state.
It depends on what your intention is, which can change as you move through different phases in life. Whether you want a tool to manage stress, an opportunity for self-inquiry, or to connect to a higher consciousness, the reason to meditate can stay the same or change over time.
And finally, how do we meditate?
Here on BARREROOM onDEMAND, I offered guided meditations. A guided meditation is a practice that is taught by a teacher like me, often guided you through a practice like a “body scan” to relax your body. There are many other ways to meditate – through mindfulness, visualization exercises, forms of movement (yes, even barre can be meditative if you are fully present!). There are many resources to discover online that showcase the different types of meditations out there. I encourage you to get curious and research some meditations that resonate with you!
Meditation has been an incredibly rewarding practice that I am honoured to share with others. One of my favourite aspects of teaching is watching someone’s eyes light up when they have an “ah-ha” moment after they learn something that shifts their perspective. Meditation is a gift you can give yourself – and after the year we had, I think we all deserve it.