Why I Made Meditation And Mindfulness Part Of My Daily Life
Several nights ago, while listening to John Mayer's freshman and sophomore albums, I spent hours searching for activities that would enlighten my soul.
Two dozen Google Chrome tabs and several replays of "Bigger Than My Body" later, I virtually stumbled upon an event for a meditation retreat.
The trip offered four days in the upstate New York countryside for less than $250, which included meals, accommodation and assurances for spiritual healing and peace of mind.
Before I knew it, I was registered for the Kadampa Northeast Dharma Celebration.
Does it matter I'm not a practicing Kadampa Buddhist? Not to me.
Apparently not so much to the welcoming event organizers, either.
The only thing that mattered was my desire to be spontaneous, and the opportunity to be in touch with my thoughts and emotions.
The next morning, I casually headed over to Penn Station and hopped on to the NJ Transit train, en route to Glen Spey, New York.
The City was slowly receding from my existential purview, and the gradual physical extrication from it was all but cathartic.
Fast forward to the present, the last day of the meditation retreat.
Here I am, sitting on a bench, looking over a water lily-covered pond. I'm enjoying a lukewarm cup of coffee and some half-eaten pistachio cake.
Behind me is background chatter from the participants in the temple.
The cool, late summer breeze embraces me the way the Big Apple streets and subway gusts (alas) never will.
I am away from the city: unwinding, unpacking, reflecting.
Mindfulness is the go-to buzzword that describes what I have been dabbling with since I moved to NYC last year.
Put simply, mindfulness is being aware through non-judgmental self-reflection.
Imagine looking at your problems the way you would observe clouds in the sky: your mind free of judgment, but fully present and aware.
I credit mindfulness for my staying sane and zen in the concrete jungle, while juggling grad school coursework, dating, a social life and my full-time job as a Teach for America teacher.
Mindfulness was what brought me here, to this meditation retreat.
It is not mumbo-jumbo.
Research study upon research study has shown mindfulness improves one's mental, physical and emotional health.
Done correctly and consistently, mindfulness can really change the way you see yourself and the world around you.
All in all, it's a practical tool for navigating and tolerating Millennial life (or any life, for that matter), especially in New York City, which won the medal for most stressful city behind Los Angeles in a 2011 Gallup poll.
Unfortunately, mindfulness is a tool we don't use as often as we should. This probably explains why there were so few of us 20-somethings at this meditation retreat.
I suppose it's possible the event was not as schedule-friendly or accessible to others, the way it was to me.
But even among close friends, I often feel like a lone wolf in my mini-adventures of self-reflection and mindfulness. This really should not be the case.
Consider the 2015 survey released by the American Psychological Association, where Millennials were reported to be the most stressed-out generation, compared to Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers.
Their most common coping strategies are watching television and surfing the Internet.
Here's an idea: How about mindfulness, combined with a driblet of spontaneity for a change?
Understandably, not everyone will have the time and privilege to attend a last-minute Buddhist meditation retreat in Glen Spey, New York.
But I'm confident that, as a generation, we can incorporate little things in our daily routines to let ourselves become more present, aware of our emotions and better-equipped to deal with the stresses of our Millennial lives.
Thus, my anecdotal prescription is this: Be more spontaneous. Be more mindful.
You might just find yourself in a new, unexpected place, possibly jamming to John Mayer's "Why Georgia," affirming to yourself you are, at the end of the day, living it right.