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Meditation: Antidote in a pandemic

By on May 25, 2020 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
Linda Kelly: De-mystifying meditation

By Linda Kelly

I write this in the peak of the pandemic and as the world looks for a cure — miracle or scientific — for the physical ravages of COVID-19. 

But what about a cure, or at least a prescription, for the mental health effects of this historic health crisis? 

 I recently enrolled in an online meditation series created by local Leavenworth yoga and meditation instructors Joanna Dunn and Kelli Riddle.

I wondered: Being a middle-aged mom and now online schooling coach to my youngest, could I really learn to deepen my inner world and decrease stress during this pandemic through an online meditation class? 

While I’ve personally made half-hearted attempts at meditation in the past, I had not given it a serious try and knew more about the image of meditation rather than its real benefits: you know, the stereotype of a guru sitting for hours, seemingly having no chores or Zoom meetings to attend to, and obscured by a fog of burning incense?

For years I had heard about the benefits of meditation, including enhanced focus, decreased anxiety and better sleep. A pandemic seemed like the perfect time to try something that would help tune out fears and worries and bring more emotional balance and peace to my day. 

And, as it turns out, I had a lot of misconceptions about what meditation was and what it took to be successful at it. Going into the class, my trepidation included these thoughts:

n Meditation must be done a certain way or it does not “work.”

n Any meditation session less than at least a half an hour is not real meditation and has no benefit.

n Meditation requires buying into an Eastern religion or deity.

During the class, which was taught over four weeks to a group of about 20 of us via Zoom, I learned how wrong I was and what I had been missing.

The reality is that the physical act of meditation does not need to be fixed, and can be done in the traditional floor seated position but also while simply seated in a chair, or can take place while walking and conducting other routine activities. 

What’s most important is your intention, focus and state of mind.

Some very practical benefits of meditation can be achieved in as little as 5-10 minutes per day. In fact, a Yale study cited by Inc. Magazine (2018) found that 10 minutes of meditating before a test boosted cognitive performance of college students.

Meditation is accessible to everyone and does not need to be tied to any religion. It can be a means to connect to your God, if you have one, as well as a way to pray and cultivate your inner life. In fact, meditation is mentioned in the Bible 23 times. 

One common meditation is actually called the metta prayer, which is a prayer of protection and peace for ourselves, others and the world — kind of like a golden rule prayer.

 I learned about many mind-traps and distractions that can keep us from quieting the mind while we try and tune out the world. 

Ideally, working your way to a place of mental stillness and openness is the goal but perfection is not the objective. After all, that is one reason why it is called the “practice” of meditation. 

And, I learned that everyone struggles with these distractions, yet the benefits of meditation are still accessible to any less-than-perfect meditator like me. 

Once I was able to release the self-judgment about how I was “performing,” I was able to truly enjoy the benefits of focusing on my intention of fostering a positive and compassionate mindset.

It is a free gift of self-care you can give to yourself in minutes a day and requires no membership fees, special equipment or apps.

For me, this has personally meant a greater acceptance of — and finding joy in — “what is” rather than lamenting about what “should be.”  

For the rest of this pandemic, I’ll now be sending up prayers for our safety, health and peace. 

Joanna and Kelli make this positive mental health learning available to all during this global health catastrophe. Visit joannadunn.com for more information. 

Linda Kelly is a semi-retired local government manager and lives in Leavenworth. Joanna Dunn lives in Leavenworth and Kelli Riddle lives in Cashmere.

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