When I did my yoga teacher training in 2013, one of my goals was to ‘figure out’ how to meditate. I had been practicing yoga for many years, but there was a piece of my practice missing. And I was so desperate to calm my mind the **** down and find some stillness for myself after a couple years of health issues and and overall stress.
I eventually found that peace for myself. And thank goodness, because the meditative and physical time I take on my mat every morning became the foundation that helped me get through more major shenanigans that the universe tossed at me, soon after. The time I take keeps me whole, and I’m still learning as I go.
Which brings me to five reasons why I meditate and why anyone and everyone needs meditation in their life:
1. Manage Stress
We live in a world go-go-go world. But whether you close your eyes and take three deeps breaths when things are fraught in the moment, or sit in stillness for 20 minutes every day, both are meditation. Meditation can reduce your stress by inevitably changing how you react to it. And this will make you happier – THAT I can promise.
In tandem with #1, meditation can shift your perspective on something stressful, or anything in general. Being able to to see, if not fully understand, the other side of the coin is incredibly helpful. Compassion and empathy follow soon after that.
3. Reflect & Reset
Meditation is a good way to start and end the day, and also express gratitude. Starting and ending the day on a positive note can make a huge difference in how your day unfolds and with your sleep. It certainly does for me!
4. It’s free!
In a world where most self-improvement tools and activities can cost a pretty penny, this is an amazing deal.
No, meditation isn’t a quick fix to make things better — How can you learn if you don’t have to figure out how to get out of the muck? — but with continued perspective and gratitude, it can aid in emotional and physical healing. Trust me.
I’ll dive a bit deeper into my own yoga and meditation journey in a future post (today isn’t a day for the amount of Kleenex I’ll go through for that writing session), but I wanted to share someone else’s story of how meditation has helped them.
I recently visited Bodhi Meditation Vancouver in Richmond, and was shown around by a lovely woman named Arlene Kroeker. A fellow writer, Arlene used to be their magazine editor and has since transitioned to handling the marketing of their English programs, training group leaders, and leading meditations for large groups at the centre. She kindly answered some questions and provided some wonderful insight.
WCCG: Prior to working at Bodhi, what brought you to the centre?
AK: In 2013 I needed a hip replacement and was in excruciating pain. I didn’t want to take narcotic painkillers and thought there had to be healing energy that would help. I attended a talk about healing energy but in the end they wanted a lot of money for a few treatments. The next day a friend called and said she found what I was looking for. I attended a free Thursday evening meditation practice at Bodhi Meditation and thereafter everything changed. After two classes, my pain decreased by at least 75% and I was able to avoid narcotic painkillers until my surgery. (I love my new hip.) Once I experienced how energy from meditation reduced my pain, I had to continue.
WCCG: We met at The Vancouver Wellness Show and then got to spend a lovely morning together at the Bodhi Meditation Centre in Richmond. What is your favourite part of your job?
AK: When I see someone come to one of our classes or retreats in physical or emotional pain and after a couple of days of practicing Bodhi meditation they can all of a sudden lift their arm over their head, or don’t need their cane, or their arthritis pain is gone, or their grief is gone, or they have a change in perspective – that’s why I love my job. I get to witness transformation. I see a smile replace sadness, a family recommit, or someone finally has hope after doctors said they couldn’t do anything for them. It’s a pleasure to apply my skills in way that helps others regain their health and feel good about themselves.
WCCG: Why is meditation important to you?
AK: It’s a crazy world in case you haven’t noticed. People are stressed. People live in fear of so many things. What meditation does for me is takes me to the eye of the hurricane where it is still and quiet. Yes, life continues to swirl and storm around me, but I remain calm. Meditation gave me a strong foundation. Years ago I went through major stressors over the course of two years that included divorce, loss of job, surgery, death of a loved one, and a move. At the time I felt like I was sinking in quicksand and couldn’t find my footing. Now I have a foundation that doesn’t let me down. I can remain calm even when slammed with one of those stressors.
WCCG: Who or what inspires you in your writing?
AK: My four-year-old godson asked me the other day, “Who is God?” That inspired me. A friend of mine who is dying of cancer asked me to speak at his funeral about his heart and soul. That inspired me. I looked at the naked trees against the blue sky and remembered what an artist once told me – that she doesn’t draw the branches, she draws the negative space – the space between the branches. That inspired me. My dying friend is still a branch, but after death he will be the negative space – no longer visible except by what defined him in life (which would be his heart and soul). Everything in my life inspires me. I often think of daily experiences and encounters as my way of collecting book material.
WCCG: If you could tell your pre-meditative self one thing, what would that be?
AK: Stop driving past the Bodhi Meditation Centre. Instead, pull in, go in, start practicing meditation. Now! Just 30 minutes of meditation will improve your life in ways you can’t imagine.
WCCG:What is your favourite quote?
AK: It has to be Leonard Cohen’s line: “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Arlene’s chosen quote is a favourite of mine because it makes reminds me how much I’ve grown from both the wonderful and not so wonderful. Cracked is a bit how I felt when I got to the centre to experience their open house and meet Arlene. I was running behind because silly me took the bus instead of the train and we had just had almost a foot of snow (in February!!) the night before.
After trekking through un-shovelled sidewalks, I got there disheveled and apologetic – no breathing exercise was going to prevent this. But the second I walked in and met Arlene, I knew I wouldn’t be feeling that way much longer. As she showed me around the very impressive centre, I could feel myself simmer down. The cute slippers, hot tea, and the smell of all the lovely vegetarian food being cooked in the back also helped!
When I laid out my yoga mat and sat on the bright red meditation cushions they provide, I felt my body sigh in relief. I am always better with guided meditation (though I’m trying to be better with sitting in silence these days – it’s hard), so I feel this is a good place for beginners as its a very accessible meditation practice with very clear instruction. You will leave feeling so much lighter. I also left feeling much more inspired and motivated for the rest of my day – even to get back through that darned snow again! One thing I meant to do was ask the Oracle a question, but that will have to be for next time.
Because they were in the middle of celebrating Chinese New Year, the centre was in full celebratory mode and decor. Everyone was given a traditional red envelope with a loonie (dollar coin) for good luck; all of which had been blessed by Master JinBodhi for the occasion. Mine is tucked in my agenda and I will never open it.
I have passed by Bodhi Meditation many times while in a car, and have always wondered what the deal was. I also had the silly misleading thought that I needed to be Buddhist in order to go in; but as previously stated, that was silly. One only needs to be curious, and everyone is welcome.
Bodhi Meditation Vancouver is located at 7740 Alderbridge Way in Richmond, BC. It is accessible via the Canada Line, and then a short walk away. They have weekly group meditation sessions and host several retreats throughout the year. Bhodi is a mostly volunteer run organizations and they also have a store that sells lovely prayer beads and Buddha statues.
Their next free open house is on Saturday, May 6, and I highly recommend it! Visit their website for more info.
Thank you to Bhodi Meditation Vancouver for hosting me, and to Arlene for sharing her story. As always, opinions are my own.
“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ~ Leonard Cohen