“University Courses: the Weird and Wonderful”
We’ve all got that one friend who likes to eat a plant based diet, spends summers in Asia and sits amongst embroidered cushions in their candlelit, incense-filled room meditating with calm enthusiasm - probably in hippy-type elephant trousers. Well, maybe not, but you get the stereotype.
Meditation has become big deal in recent years, especially amongst our stressed out and unfulfilled generation, unable to live happily in the moment for fear of crazed university deadlines, and anxieties about those ever increasing social expectations of desk jobs and mortgage payments. When did we become such highly strung, sleep-deprived, caffeine addicted wrecks, and what do we do about it?
Having spent the majority of third year at university absolutely beside myself with fear at ‘the end’ of life as I knew it, and accepting of the fact I was horrendous at Yoga, I jumped on the meditation bandwagon – eager to rid myself of post-uni negativity for at least an hour a day. A little peace and quiet from thinking is all I’m asking for – can it be that hard?
Yes, yes it is. Apparently it’s impossible to think of nothing. It’s even more impossible to sit comfortably on the floor with your legs crossed while attempting to think of nothing. And though attempts at ‘How to meditate’ YouTube videos may work for some, they require a certain dedication, and some serious concentration. If like me, attempting to teach yourself will begin and end with the ordering of a hippy looking meditation book from Amazon which will likely end up in the back of a wardrobe, take a class. A meditation class will give you the structure and the incentive to take an hour each week to get out of the house (or the library), and do something productive and kind for your mind for once.
“ Apparently it’s impossible to think of nothing. It’s even more impossible to sit comfortably on the floor with your legs crossed while attempting to think of nothing ”
It’s not something many of us thinking about doing, giving our mind an exercise. Yet recent studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, particularly in the form of meditation, can help students to improve their memory, score better on tests, focus better and concentrate for longer. So, attempts to harness your inner Zen may actually prove to make you better at life, or at least allow you to rest a little easier at night, free from the perils of academic stress. It’s like yoga for the mind, but without any of the contorted poses and headstands.
The Buddhist Centre in Cardiff offers an affordable and spiritual way to learn meditation as a beginner, and feel totally cool and hippy at the same time. Located on St Peter’s Street just off City Road, the Centre is easily reachable by students living in Cathays and Roath, and operates on a donation system. Give what you feel the session was worth, or give what you can, ensuring this new routine of yours won’t break any student bank accounts.
Each beginner session takes place in the ‘Shrine Room’, dimly lit and filled with the kind of impressive Buddha statue found in a well adorned Thai temple. Cheaper than yoga retreats in Bali or any attempt to find ethereal peace in the Himalayas, the Buddhist Centre teaches its meditation students to free themselves from unhelpful habits of the body, speech and mind. It’s about kindness to yourself; stepping back and discovering how to bring contentment and meaning to your life.
Through simple but traditional Buddhist meditation practices – the Mindfulness of Breathing, and the Metta Bhavana, the classes aim to help you to cultivate love and kindness, and to step out of your thoughts. In contrast to the stereotype, meditation is not about thinking of nothing or sitting painfully in a lotus position chanting ‘OM’, it’s taking yourself out of the centre of your whirring mind, and allowing thoughts to pass freely and quickly through; accepting their existence without involving yourself deeply.
Most people believe that we are our thoughts, that we must listen to them unquestionably as fact, helpless to any onset the negative, the worrisome, or the downright dramatic (think self-diagnosing illness symptoms on google and accepting the likelihood of imminent death). Through many of us are pessimistic by nature, frequent meditation trains the mind to see and experience our thoughts differently and fluidly, allowing us to gain some much needed perspective. Not only do such mental exercises allow for a sustained ‘chill pill’ vibe, it makes you smarter (apparently), it makes you sleep (a big plus for all of you with messed up nocturnal-like sleep patterns), and boosts your immune system too.
It’s so easy to get bogged down in the balancing act of lectures, social lives, exercise and part-time jobs, that we forget to show some kindness for our poor little brain. Give it a rest, don your sweatpants and a fluffy jumper (hell, go in your pyjamas if you really want to) and learn how to Zen out your mind in a shrine room filled with cushions, blankets and Buddha’s. Even if you decide it’s not for you, it’s a fun and cheap activity to try, and I promise it’ll ready you for the best sleep of your life.
Written by Emily Jones, 10 months ago