Meditation may sound like an ancient and exotic practice, often associated with images of Eastern wisdom and detachment from reality, but my experience has taught me that it can be a loyal companion in a hectic and often stressful life.
My first encounter with it was four years ago, when I was a student here at Leeds. Finding myself under the combined pressure of assessments, exams and personal relationships, I decided to go to a few meetings of our Meditation Society. Back then, it was probably just a means to an end (the end being successfully completing my MA with relative peace of mind). I started to experience a sense of relief to my anxiety, facilitated, I believe, by both the practice itself and the welcoming atmosphere at the Society. However, not long after submitting my final dissertation and without giving it too much thought, I left meditation out of my daily routine.
It was only a few months ago, when the first year of my PhD was well under way and I was preparing for the dreaded ‘Transfer’, that I went back to meditating (for those who don’t know, ‘Transfer’ refers to the assessment, typically at the end of the first year of your PhD, which decides whether or not you are ready to go on and complete your research project on time). But let’s face it: whether it’s Transfer or your final dissertation, exams, homework, or completely different, non-academic types of stress, life can be quite challenging. That’s why finding inner relaxation, that ‘place’ which is only yours, to recharge, unwind and be yourself, becomes crucial.
When I decided to go back to meditation earlier this year, I downloaded the Headspace app. Now, only 4 or 5 months in, I feel like I have already learnt a lot and cannot wait to see the positive changes that it will continue to bring into my life. This is how I would probably summarise the key takeaway points so far:
- Modern-day meditation combines ancient traditions with recent research on how to rewire our brain and train the mind; it can then appeal to both those who seek a more spiritual approach and those who are more interested in the science behind it.
- Inner peace is already within us. It’s there from the moment we are born, but it can get clouded by the fast world we live in and our hectic schedules. It is then up to us to go back to that original state of mind.
- Meditation can be a real ‘study buddy’ and help you find focus as well as take some of the pressure off; more generally and perhaps more importantly, I think it’s an example of self-care and awareness that can facilitate the conversation about our mental health, especially on an institutional level.
If you would like to give it a go, you can have a look at the Headspace website (https://www.headspace.com) for more information. Headspace is not free, but they do offer the first ten sessions before requiring a subscription. More importantly, they have joined forces with Spotify and they now offer a student bundle with Spotify Premium for £4.99 a month (https://www.spotify.com/uk/headspace/student/).
If you want to explore other options or would like to embark on this journey as part of a community, I would also recommend our Meditation Society (https://www.facebook.com/groups/luubudmed/), or the Leeds Buddhist Centre in town (https://leedsbuddhistcentre.org/).