After our morning warm up sessions at Iron Mountain training camp, Master Zach Whitson leads his students in a session of standing meditation. The mornings are a bit chaotic. The day hasn’t officially started yet. Warm up exercises prepare our bodies for what’s to come, and the meditation prepares our minds. It is a break between the unorganized pre-seminar milling around and the structured lessons. This pause is a moment for us to put away the outside world and focus on the upcoming instruction. For me, that focus is one part of it. Iron mountain is a great time, and the meditation calms the excitement. It feels like the connection to my everyday world is broken and a space for studying Counterpoint Tactical Systems has been created. Every year, when I leave camp, I have every intention of continuing the meditation practice but rarely do.
Work, even though I love it, is my primary source of stress. I imagine this is true for a lot of people. As I’ve progressed within my company and achieved more responsibility, it seems harder and harder to leave work at work. Early in my career, the drive home was time to disconnect from work. As I become more invested in my work, it is harder to put problems down. Now, I find myself mulling over repairs on my drive home or a ‘oh, I need to add this to my analysis’ will pop up while I’m washing the dishes. My employer does a yearly health survey, and stress is always in the top three areas for concern for my health. Exercise, eating healthier and regular martial arts training all help lower my stress, but I’ve noticed that they are all body focused. I’ve been ignoring the mental part of stress reduction, the mental part of healthcare.
A friend suggested that I find five minutes after work to go sit in a room with no TV, computer or phone. Five full minutes of sitting and breathing. My thoughts didn’t race from one subject to the next. Life seemed to slow down by just sitting and relaxing, nothing else. I’m constantly connected, and it feels as if my mind is continually at work from the moment I wake up to the moment that I go to sleep at night. It makes my day feel like one continuous march. My thoughts will be on where the future is going, a social situation that just happened, or simply what that night holds. Now that I’m on Twitter, I find myself reading articles that I have zero interest in simply because someone interesting put it up. I use social media as a filter for the internet, and while it does keep out news that bores me, it introduces numerous articles, websites, youtube videos, etc. that I didn’t even know I was interested in. This adds to the feeling on continuous movement throughout the day, and as part of stress reduction, I’m trying to find moments of stillness, moments of simply being mentally present. Psychologists are recommending that everyone find time to unplug from phones, TV and the internet as well. An article in the Psychology Today blog said that practicing being present “will help place your awareness back in real time, in the present, and in the space you are meant to be, which is where you are, and not where you think you should be.”
Twice last week and once this week, I listened to a CD of guided meditation. It reminded me of Iron Mountain with the cues to relax, to pay attention to my breathing and to let the thoughts go by without grabbing hold of them. At the end of last night’s session, I felt relaxed and disconnected, even a little bit lighter. I slept very deeply. I woke up this morning refreshed. Meditation continues to be part of my health improvement plan this year. My goal is to add meditation with increasing frequency to my weekly routine. I can see this as being a helpful way to calm my nerves before my second Brown Belt test at Iron Mountain camp this year. I highly recommend finding your own way to take a break from the world and pay attention to yourself.
P.S. Meditation has more benefits than just stress reduction. Webmd lists meditation as useful with other ailments: addictive behaviors, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and pain.