I came to Athabasca University via South Korea and a teaching job at an after-school educational facility. Leaving this job and returning to University was a shock, on top of returning to Canada to find a new place to live and work. At times it all seemed too much to handle, especially knowing that my girlfriend was waiting for my return to Korea.
As time went on the course load grew. I had committed to four courses that were to be finished in six months, and a nervous breakdown ensued. It was all I could do to keep going?until I remembered a valuable practice from my past: meditation.
Meditation was something I had done since the age of 16. Then, at 25 and back at university, the concept had not registered as I became absorbed in my work, focusing entirely on getting my degree from AU.
When I took the time to stop, relax, and sit, all the things that needed to be accomplished just happened in their right time. There was no forcing deadlines, no what if?s?just the knowledge that the goal was to finish a degree and that is what I would do.
Once I had returned to my meditation practice of old the peace between the pages began to emerge. It started when I began reading case studies and developing a plan to answer the questions on an assignment. I would begin to find those moments where I could sit still, mind completely still, and just breathe. My heart would envelop my anxiety and the breath would soothe me.
What I learned and have since incorporated into my life is a simple meditation practice that anyone can use. It is non-denominational and brings a peace between pages that is all too needed in the stress of wanting to accomplish a task as difficult as self-directed education.
So here you are:
If you must, sit exactly where you study, with everything open as it would be if you were working on your studies. It doesn’t have to be a proper seat (asana) or at the exact time or exact place every time. These are all guidelines that can be adjusted as you see the benefits of this practice, so for now don’t worry where you are.
If you are sitting on the floor, cross your legs and make sure that your knees and hip crease (hip joint) are parallel, meaning that the upper portion of your legs should be running parallel to the floor; otherwise you will develop pain in your joints and lend unnecessary stress to your body. If you are sitting in a chair, straighten your back but not in a contrived way.
Before we begin, the art of breathing is important. Oftentimes in the Western world we are prone to taking shallow breaths from the chest only. A real breath is one that has your chest rise first as the air enters and, as it fills your chest, it fills your stomach as well. The exhale happens when the air leaves your stomach first and then your chest. This is a full yogic breath. Do a few breaths like this to get into a rhythm.
Now close your eyes. If you have a mala or rosary then use the beads to follow your breath (inhale one side of the bead and exhale the other). As you inhale say ?hum? and as you exhale say ?sa.? This is the sound that is naturally made by our bodies as we inhale and exhale, and this practice is to remind us of the sound that already exists.
Find the place within yourself where the inhale rises out of and the place where the exhale falls into. Some people call it the ?spiritual heart? because it is not a physical place that one could pinpoint but emotionally and spiritually you can become in tune with this spiritual heart.
Focus on the space between the inhale and exhale, paying attention to where this is (your spiritual heart). As you begin this focus, your inhale and exhale will naturally become longer.
Continue, and as thoughts arise let them play out but focus on the breath alone. As the thoughts play out they will disappear?as long as you don’t add to them! For example, ?Huh, I wonder what time it is? Maybe I should make something to eat. I like those new pizzas they have at the store. Last time they were on special; that store hardly ever has good specials . . .? And there you go, off to the races.
The thoughts will arise but you can decide if you want to entertain them. As you start to disengage from adding to the drama of the mind then it becomes relaxed and eventually it too sides with the meditation because even the mind realizes that it is a better way to live: relaxed and peaceful.
There is no timeline. If you have a mala or rosary then you might want to breathe 27 times or 108 times. If you don’t, then just go with it.
don’t stop at the first thought of ?What the heck am I doing? I have so much work to do, I should be studying.? Just continue a little further before you stop the meditation and in the future you will be able to sit even longer with a calm mind.
The place that you will find serves to be the basis of your peace of mind. Eventually, in any circumstance you can go to this place within and communicate from there, work from there, study from there, and live from there! It is a place that has no time, where nothing can be defined, and where you can find the peace between pages that is all too needed when doing all you have decided to do, including studying at AU and getting the education you deserve.
don’t get upset. Overcome your anxiety and relax. It is just breathing and nothing more, so feel free to try it. Hope it serves you as it has me. Blessings.