By Rebecca Kerzner
In the constant buzz of our humming New York City Midtown campus, it can be very hard to find a place of quiet. Even on the 12th floor of Brookdale Residence Hall, you still have to wear earplugs to bed if you want to shut out the noise of the 34th Street traffic. Schedules can often become frightfully busy as we pen down meetings, schedule Shabbat plans, text friends about Thursday night plans, hunker down in the second floor library to study for that terrible midterm, and lay awake at night stressing over the ever-compounding to-do list. How many of us really take a moment for ourselves through the buzz of it all? No, I’m not talking about a subway ride uptown, or the seven minute walk from Brookdale to 245. I’m talking about an uninterrupted ten minutes of complete silence. Most of us can’t imagine what ten minutes could really even do. But for me, I can’t imagine my life without them.
In my final year at Stern, I modified my morning routine slightly, and added something new: meditation. For ten minutes every morning, I give my mind some much needed rest, and focus on myself and my state of mind on that given day. I’ve only been doing it for about four months now, but I can confidently say that the practice of meditation has genuinely changed my life. And it’s all thanks to my newfangled app, called Headspace.
A couple months back, a friend suggested the app to me. I’m an art major – I have emotions. I get stressed. And I like hippie culture. So I thought meditation might be something I would get but it always seemed like something that I wouldn’t have time for or really know how to do.
She said, “No no, that’s why it’s so great! It’s guided meditation. This guy named Andy, with this amazing British accent, narrates exactly what to do and there are ten free sessions on the app! She gave me her android and said, “C’mon, do it. Use mine!” And I did. And then I downloaded it myself!
Headspace is an mobile app that was created by a man named Andy Puddicombe to bring meditation to the masses in a way that would cut the hippie-dippiness out of its reputation and “demystify the mystical.” He started by opening a meditation consultancy and worked with politicians, athletes, and business leaders to teach them the ways of inner calm and stability. One day, he met an advertiser who needed help dealing with the stress of his business world. His name was Rich Pierson and the two of them became fast friends. They would swap ideas and, together, they developed an amazing idea. That idea was Headspace.
Originally Headspace was an events company. But the people who went to the events wanted more. They wanted to take the knowledge they gained and enjoyed home with them. So an app was born. It was filled with guided meditations, animations, articles and videos, all in an adorable Headspace style. The shapes are simple and the colors are vibrant and bright to create a nice, neutral, positive look. Headspace has one single mission: to improve the health and happiness of the world. I think they are doing a pretty good job! There are millions of users in over 190 countries.
So how has this daily practice really changed my life?
- Meditation helps me be honest with myself. As I breathe in and out, I think about how I’m feeling on that given day. I ask myself honestly what’s bothering me, even if what comes to the surface is something as small as a measly Facebook like or slightly-off conversation with a friend. When I allow myself to express how I’m truly feeling in my mind, I am able to put those thoughts to bed, and continue my day with a brighter, clearer mind. In this way, the stressful point doesn’t brew within me to come out at random moments throughout the day as an unforeseen outburst.
- Meditation helps me recognize which of my problems are and aren’t worth stressing over. When I meditate, I can watch my problems from a degree of distance. The act of breathing in and out surrounds my daily problems with a haze of warmth and calm and the quiet helps me think clearly. It helps me recognize the reality of the stress and not get caught up in my own made-up story line. I am still my usual delightfully dramatic self, but I am able to laugh about it and not be too serious, or wallow in my sorrows.
- Meditation has genuinely made me into an overall happier and more balanced human being. It helps me understand me, and by understanding myself, I feel enlightened. I am able to figure out what triggers my stress and I talk it out with myself. I am more patient with others and maintain a calmer state of being because I’ve delved into and contemplated my inner qualms.
Of course, the stresses of being a senior in college, and the blank pages in my future, often swim their way up to the surfaces of my mind. But I know, that with my meditative moments every morning, I am able to wash down the lumps in my throat with the waters of clarity that inhaling, exhaling, and noticing can create. What we need most in this buzz of midtown madness, is a sense of stability and meditation gives that stability, in the light of everything around. It is a reliable, easy, and constant way to understand ourselves and the things that make us human.