BE WELL: MEDITATION
Writer: Amelia Jeffers
My first experience with meditation was in the fifth grade. My teacher, Mrs. White (who was a bit of a “hippie” according to my parents) incorporated recorded relaxation exercises into our weekly schedule. I “looped” with Mrs. White, so by the end of our two years together, I nearly had the tapes memorized and had truly come to enjoy them. In 1980s rural Appalachia, Mrs. White was ahead of her time.
My casual interest in meditation inspired by that early exposure has felt anything but mainstream until the year that changed everything. In 2020, downloads and subscriptions to meditation apps like Calm skyrocketed, streaming service Netflix rolled out a new series by leading meditation company Headspace, and everyone from Bill Gates to Madonna seemed to acknowledge meditation as a part of a daily regimen.
The surging interest in meditation is undoubtedly linked to reports of declining mental well-being. With a global pandemic keeping them home, a high-stakes Presidential election, and historic levels of civil unrest, Americans seem ready to escape the always-on news cycle and embrace one of the world’s oldest wellness practices. Meditation has long been documented to provide innumerable health benefits including lowered blood pressure, a boosted immune response, decreased inflammation, and an overall improvement in mood and reduction in anxiety.
“[Meditation is about] being present to learn how I am interacting with the world,” Juan Alvarez, Columbus-based meditation advocate and Conscious Executive Coach, said. “Learning how to process negative energy and how to process challenging moments. And then learning how to release all the negative energy you have accumulated throughout your life.”
Alvarez has made meditation his life’s work. Trained in the practice by a Buddhist monk, he now shares his knowledge through one-on-one instruction, group sessions, and his “Mastermind” online meditation course. According to Alvarez, there are three main motivations for meditation: relaxation, personal development, and spiritual alignment. A relaxation-focused practice is effectively a type of mental triage, providing momentary escape from the stress and anxiety of present circumstances. Spiritual meditation is practiced by many religions, and generally involves prayer and work toward a deepening connection to one’s higher power. Meditation as a personal development tool is possibly the least-common and most complex approach - often resulting in incredible results, but generally practiced with the help of an experienced professional.
“In the personal development aspect of the practice, the main work in the beginning is to learn how to see. How am I interacting with the world?”, Alvarez said. “To start bringing attention inward. To see how my inner mechanisms work and how I am interacting with life. In the mind, in my emotional state, in my body.”
In addition to his private executive coaching services, Juan offers an Online Master Group for individuals interested in going deeper with their meditation practices.
Every Monday and Thursday at 7 PM, Art of Living offers “Mind & Meditation” sessions over Zoom. Their website also offers resources and courses to learn more about meditation.
Every Wednesday at 10 AM and Sunday at 7 PM, Shambhala offers open meditation sessions over Zoom. Additionally, the center offers meditation training, resources, and programs through their website.
Every Saturday morning at 8:30 AM, Zen Columbus offers meditation sessions through Zoom.
Ten Percent Happier offers guided meditation and teachings through its app for $99 a year. They also offer a free “Coronavirus Sanity Guide,” which features a number of meditation resources to help you face the pandemic.
Calm provides meditation teachings and resources through its app. They offer a free meditation course as well as a collection of mindfulness tools. For $14.99 a month, further meditation resources are available.