Meditation is not something many of us may have practiced in a pre-Covid world, and personally it is something I am only beginning to explore, but during times that can be so uncertain and sometimes scary, the opportunity to disconnect and see things from a different perspective is an inviting distraction. For a lot of people meditation is a difficult and daunting undertaking, as the ability to switch off and fully disconnect from the world around us can be incredibly difficult. For one, there are many different types of meditation and second, there are so many experts online these days that make it hard to know who is right and who to listen to.
In Wexford, there is a retreat and wellness centre called Creacon Wellness Retreat. It is a worldwide leader in all things meditation and relaxation and I was lucky enough to have contact with one of their top meditation teachers, Marcela, for feedback and information on this topic. So, what you are about to read is as authentic and true as possible.
To start, it is important to find a distinction between meditation and mindfulness. According to the book ‘Be Mindful’ by Anna Black, Mindfulness is when we deliberately pay attention to things we normally would not even notice and become more aware of the present moment experience with compassion and kindness. It allows you to become more in tune with your surroundings and notice small, calming beauties you normally might be too busy to pay attention to and can lead to reduced stress. Meditation is described by Creacon as the time taken to recharge your battery. Our phones display qualities and applications that we use every day and can easily find, and in meditation our bodies can be viewed as similar to our phones. We need to give ourselves time to recharge and access the qualities within ourselves that allow us to develop new traits and access new parts of ourselves we may normally be too busy to notice. Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand. Having a good understanding and appreciation for mindfulness will make the meditation journey much easier.
The best meditation options recommended by Marcela from Creacon Wellness Retreat were:
Mindfulness is an act that allows us to connect to your most powerful senses, which are generally very distracted and outside of ourselves. With mindfulness we are practicing being present in the moment. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere at any time and can lead to us feeling more empowered and at peace as we are less distracted and more aware of your emotions and surroundings. Marcela admitted herself that she could not sit alone with her thoughts when she first started practicing mindfulness for more than two minutes, but it was through regular practice and inclusion of mindfulness in her everyday life that led to her feel the full effects of a meditative lifestyle. Taking a few minutes in the morning or night will be effective but taking a moment while you walk or if you feel stressed in class is also the perfect example of mindfulness being used effectively.
For a lot of people it can be difficult to get started on the meditation journey. Guided meditation can allow you to exercise how to use your mind to heal yourself and awaken inner wisdom through meditation, but it is in a safe and controlled environment, which can be beneficial and much safer for beginners. I personally find that a guided meditation will also set you up with all the skills and surroundings you need to get into the meditative zone the first few times, as the concept and relaxing environment can be alien to us all especially when we are used to a high pressure and busy lifestyle.
Helps us to relax and allows us to master the mind. Marcela says that every person enters meditation for different reasons, whether it be stress or anxiety, but either way everyone is pulled to meditation for a release and greater understanding of their feelings. Deep relaxation allows us to fully immerse in the process, with some people at first falling asleep or even running from the experience because of how unnatural it feels to relax in our hectic everyday life, but the good news this is a natural and positive reaction as it shows the body is relaxing and entering a more meditative state and with practice can lead to a strong meditation mind. A lot of people use deep relaxation to master the mind and help us to tap into our subconscious thoughts, which is why it has been recommended to students. It will help us to take the focus away from the stress we feel as a result of college and other life factors and settle our minds into relaxation. Again, it is recommended this type of meditation is completed with a guide who helps you through it, especially the first few times.
A lot of people use deep relaxation to master the mind and help tap into our subconscious thoughts, which is why it has been recommended to students
Due to restrictions, Creacon is now offering all of its meditation and mindfulness classes over Zoom, so this is the perfect opportunity to get in touch with some experts and have a professional there to help guide you through the process! It’s important to remember there are so many free options to practice mindfulness and meditation right on our screens, so meditation does not have to be out of reach for anybody. HEADSPACE is a free app that will guide you step-by-step through the process, not to mention the countless videos and tutorials on YouTube, but be careful which ones you trust.
Always read the reviews. Take the time to find the one that suits you best and makes you feel most comfortable, then stick to it for a period of time. They say it takes 28 days to build a habit, so practice the meditation that most suits you for even two minutes every day and you will soon notice the differences and find your stress levels will be easier to control. The important thing to remember as well, is that you don’t need to be sitting in one position to practice mindfulness or enter a meditative state. Simply walking and noticing all the beauty and nature around you can reduce stress levels considerably and help you enter a more relaxed mindset.
Marcela talks about two myths surrounding meditation that students should be aware of before practicing. First, it is often said that while you meditate your mind should be empty, this is not true! Marcela has been practicing and teaching meditation for years now and says it is simply impossible to ‘fully empty your mind’, as is often described. Instead, the time for meditation should be used to recharge our batteries as you would your phone and acknowledge the calmer feelings or relaxed way of life we may start to feel as a result of this time being devoted to ourselves. Another myth … ‘it is always fully possible to meditate alone’. Some meditation simply helps to relax the body and helps us to process or acknowledge our stress and other negative feelings, but others go deeper and involve us confronting difficult negative feelings we may have been unconsciously harbouring and entering our subconscious to see what lies within. This type of meditation can be heavy and difficult, and it is recommended that you have someone who knows what they are doing there to guide you through the process.
Meditation is a fascinating and multi-faceted practice that is available to all students, regardless of how well practiced you may be and regardless of income, as there are always free or affordable options. At the moment, in response to the pandemic, many wellness retreats, such as Creacon, are offering guided online meditations and live Zoom classes, so if this is something you feel you could benefit from, with extra guidance, this may be the perfect outlet for you. However, mindfulness and meditation can be practiced anywhere, at any time once you dedicate the time to developing the skill and give yourself the attention and ability to recharge the batteries exactly as you deserve. Considering how uncertain and stressful these times have been, perhaps a little bit of mindfulness is just what we need. A lot of people use deep relaxation to master the mind and help us to tap into our subconscious thoughts, which is why it has been recommended to students.
By Laura Callaghan,
4th year Toruism Management Student,
MTU Cork SU Entertainments Officer..