Guided Meditation – Part 1
by Roxanne Williams, Deidre DeSantis & Eva Houser
There is a lot going on at Verve Wellness this summer. This month alone we will be having another Tai Chi workshop (for those who missed the last one), YogaFit Instructor Trainings, and even circuit training! I have been noticing that many of our clients do not know about “stillness”, are not fully aware of their bodies, and many do not know about meditation. Since I have been training to be a master Yogi and Sifu (Tai Chi ‘teacher’) I have learned a lot about meditation, as it is a large component of these ancient practices. When I began this training, I was not aware of that fact. I had studied meditation over the years, but admittedly had not practiced it much. What I have learned is that you can read all the books you want, but all that logical knowledge means nothing if you don’t practice it. So I began to practice as a component of my training. It has been amazing to see the results! The stuff we read is TRUE! My life and my health (mental and physical) are a testament to the fact that meditation is a necessary part of life that many of us ignore. So, I began to wonder, why do we ignore it? The conclusion I have come to is that many people don’t know how. We need guidance. That is why personal trainers exist…to show people how to train their bodies. This is also why I have chosen to specialize in Mind-Body practices. So…we are doing a lot with the body. What about the mind?
Within Yoga and Tai Chi there is much focus upon stillness of the mind as the body is allowed to move. These practices help to clear your mind to prepare for meditation (traditionally), or just the rest of your day (in today’s society). They encourage finding balance between stillness and movement, and finding strength in softness by bringing the mind to the body and the breath. I’ve had many of my clients tell me that they don’t realize how much they hold their breath through life until I remind them to breathe while training! Not only does focusing on breathing bring health benefits, it brings functional benefits. Allowing the body to relax, allows the mind to relax, which allows for clear mental focus (with more nourished and open blood flow). This helps in every area of life-work, relationships, raising children or puppies! (I find myself stopping to breathe a lot since we got a new puppy at home.)
With the upcoming addition of Tai Chi to the Verve roster, and guided meditation on the horizon, I realized that a conversation about meditation needed to be started. While you may come across a few definitions of meditation, my Sifu explained it really simply and accurately in a way that made sense to me. He said meditation is “awareness”. Bringing awareness to the breath, the body and the mind allows us to find tension and release it. It allows us to really look at our thoughts (positive and negative) and be able to release them as well. Eventually (even if only for a brief moment) you will find yourself in that quiet place, with a still mind. This is the pathway to peace. This is a Merriam Webster explanation of meditation :
Private religious devotion or mental exercise, in which techniques of concentration and contemplation are used to reach a heightened level of spiritual awareness. The practice has existed in all religions since ancient times. In Hinduism it has been systematized in the school of Yoga. One aspect of Yoga, dhyana (Sanskrit: “concentrated meditation”), gave rise to a school of its own among the Buddhists, becoming the basis of Zen. In many religions, meditation involves verbal or mental repetition of a single syllable, word, or text (e.g., a mantra). Visual images (e.g., a mandala) or mechanical devices such as prayer wheels or rosaries can be useful in focusing concentration. In the 20th century, movements such as Transcendental Meditation emerged to teach meditation techniques outside a religious context.
Meditation is not just sitting with your legs crossed and eyes closed and “trying” to quiet your mind. This is only one form. Meditation comes in many forms: seated, standing, laying down, moving, silent, with sound, etc. Therefore, there is a type of stillness practice for everybody, for every goal, and various benefits that correspond. They all lead to releasing tension, and peace of mind.
I enlisted 2 of my co-workers, Deidre DeSantis & Eva Houser to give us some insight into their experiences with meditation to be able to shed more light on the subject. Deidre is one of our newest Beauty specialists. Eva has been teaching Yoga with Verve for almost a year now, and is one of our up and coming Pilates instructors!
My inspiration to explore the world of meditation was motivated by The Mesa Creative Arts Center. Brad and Kate Silberberg, creators of the Center, guided me and a group of close friends in our very first meditation. Being in the right time, and right place, I jumped along for the ride and attended the donation based meditation that is held every Wednesday night at 7:00 pm. I was an eighteen year old, sentimentalist, afraid to research the depths of my own being. Kate Silberberg, who was my middle school art teacher at West Allegheny, was so loving and kind. She said, “Just Feel for yourself what feels right!” A rush of emotions swam over me! I began to intuitively express and explore myself through the body, without fear. My body felt invigorated and embraced. I was not ignoring what the body had to say to my spirit. For the first time I connected with the breath, in a calming manner. It was so nice to experience a relaxed, worry free environment with a group of humans all at peace and connecting to our life force- the breath (prana). All of a sudden past guidelines of structure were released and I could see a Mind, Body and Spirit unification working in extraordinary harmony.
The Ego finally released. Other beings telling me how to live my life became exempt. We engaged all of the chakras, (energy centers in the body in which we can examine, if we consciously choose to) and for the first time I was not questioning anymore. I was living and experiencing human form and our potential. Experiencing the pure effulgence of life, I was finally living in my entire body and not just my mind. I saw colors (on the trippy side, for we were playing with creativity and chakras). Energy was distributed more evenly– by clearly breathing in to the body, and anxiety dissipated. Awareness spread throughout my body, healing the disproportions of living in my mind constantly, THINKING… Who would have known freedom could taste so good? To relinquish the ego with conscious intent, diving, and flying into the potential openness of the body…
From eighteen to nineteen, I continued to practice seated meditation by dedicating the journey with Brad and Kate when I could, and increasingly, also privately at home. At the age of nineteen I became fascinated with the art of yoga, which includes breath control through conscious meditation, along with fun body shaping postures. Yoga has changed my life and inspires me to be well connected, adding movement to meditation. I went from practicing seated meditations once a week, to four times a week. Meditation was becoming my mentor, advising me through the good times and the “bad” times. Life took a different turn and I was less angered, and diligently proceeded through my daily schedule with ease and comfort!
Before I came to know the benefits of meditation through my practice, I was a sore creature– hating the world. Honest to goodness, I look back and ask, Why did school institutions not require a period of stillness, a class that practiced awareness and observation of simply being. Meditation taught me patience, and to embrace every experience thrown my way on this planet.
Today I currently work at Verve 360, as a beauty specialist, shaping art in hair, skin, and nails. I am also expanding my love for yoga by becoming certified through YogaFit, earning my 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher certificate. I feel this is a good place to be as Verve 360 specializes in not only the beauty industry, but is also a center for wellness. Taking the approaches to make the planet a better place to live, Verve 360 cares not only about how people look and feel on the outside, but also the inside. Along with salon services, the wellness center offers a system for the body including Yoga and Pilates, as well as massage and chiropractic maintenance. Continuing with my regime of being in the forty hour a week work force, I continue to meditate and practice yoga every day.
By meditating daily I am healing the body, mind, and spiritual wounds. For a few examples, I am healing: the way I cling to material things; and I am considerate of the ingestion of food, and how it manifests in the body– and the mind. Just by utilizing our present breath work to move our awareness throughout the body we alleviate anxiety, for when we stretch our awareness to dive deeper than the brain we can proportion ourselves wisely.
By loving and accepting the past formations, and embracing the reformations we choose consciously, life here on the planet can be quite a considerate experience. Meditation has increased my awareness of my body and my thoughts. This ancient practice helps me to function in coordination with all I have to work with. (Which takes work and effort!) It’s like a marriage between the mind, body and spirit. Allowing access to happiness, meditation encourages living life to the fullest.
We can surmount the negativity that flows through our bodies– from time to time, space to space, making way for the positive day. In all ways, the ritual of practicing meditation helps me remember my true purpose on Earth: To Love, Be Happy, to Breathe and to Make Awesome fun connections while I am living as a human being, here and now. . .
Notes from interview with Eva…
Eva began practicing meditation about 10 years ago. For her, it began as prayer. (Did you know meditation is akin to prayer?) She was dealing with a tough time in her life where she felt that everything was falling apart, and she began to pray and asked for a sign to help her navigate through this phase of life. What she had asked for manifested in her next interaction with a coworker. She was given a prayer card and prayer beads, and she began practicing mantra meditation saying the Hail Mary. (Mantras come in many forms also.)
Eva first received guidance in silent meditation about a year ago when she attended a meditation workshop with a monk who guided her group through some movements (she remembered them being similar to the movements she had seen in Tai Chi), which prepared them for the seated silent meditation the monk guided them into.
She has primarily practiced 3 types of meditation: Guided meditation, silent, and mantra. The CDs she practices with at home have gentle music or sounds in the background and include visualization practices to help with specific issues such as stress relief, self-confidence building, and others. She calls these guided options “the easy way out”, however she has come to appreciate the guidance as her mind tends to race and it gives her something to focus on to help bring her back to the present moment. This is her favorite form of practice.
She practices the silent meditation about twice a month, and guided or mantra at least once a week. She has spent anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour in meditation. Usually she is closer to the shorter time. She has a specific place in her home that she has designated as her meditation space and generally sticks to before bedtime as it helps her to relax and prepare for a good night’s sleep. However, she always practices sitting upright so that she doesn’t end up falling asleep during her practice. Separating the two provides the most benefit. When Eva doesn’t allow herself the time to practice, she notices that she feels stressed. She believes that teaching Yoga has helped her a lot as it has given her more opportunity to create this mental clearing throughout the week.
Eva teaches Yoga at Verve Mondays at 12:30pm, and Tuesday evenings at 7:00pm. She is also studying to be a Pilates instructor at Verve this year! Yay! Come check out one of her Yoga classes to get a just the right workout to experience some of this peacefulness for yourself! She’s here to share her knowledge and experience with you to help you reach your wellness goals.