SEREN­ITY NOW

In deal­ing with the stress of city liv­ing, the trick is to keep breath­ing

Makati Leads - - Wellness -

Rush hour. Ex­press­way. Fast food. Ur­ban liv­ing is set on two speeds: “fast” and “faster.” While city life has its fair share of com­forts and con­ve­nience, the pres­sure to keep up with its pace takes a toll on any­one’s san­ity and well-be­ing.

This is why the Art of Liv­ing Foun­da­tion (AoLF) chose Makati to be the home of its main cen­ter in the coun­try. An in­ter­na­tional, non-profit hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion “ded­i­cated to so­ci­ety by strength­en­ing the in­di­vid­ual,” AoLF would like to help ur­ban folks find peace even in the mid­dle of daily stress. “High stress lev­els push peo­ple to look for ‘quick fixes’ to re­solve their phys­i­cal, men­tal, and emo­tional dis­tress— and that in­cludes sub­stances that bring longterm harm,” Philip­pines Chap­ter head Nameeta Dar­gani says. “Our goal is to spread aware­ness about the power of med­i­ta­tion and other tech­niques that are nat­u­ral built-in sys­tems in each per­son and can help them over­come stress with­out the use of sub­stances.”

Med­i­ta­tion is be­lieved to be an in­dul­gence for those who can carve out the time and space for it, an im­pos­si­ble dream for those who can barely do more around eight-hour work­days and a two-hour-plus daily com­mute. But as Dar­gani says, it’s some­thing that the body in­trin­si­cally knows how to do when the mind lets it work its own self-heal­ing magic. “Med­i­ta­tion con­nects us to a nat­u­ral source of en­ergy within, giv­ing us more en­ergy than sleep,” she ex­plains. “The en­ergy we get is so po­tent that med­i­ta­tors gen­er­ally don’t feel the need for con­sum­ing ex­ter­nal stim­u­lants.”

This en­ergy is not a manic, scat­tered one, though. Rather, it’s a feel­ing of re­ju­ve­na­tion, bal­ance, and fo­cus, of be­ing con­nected to the body. Kim Hart­man, direc­tor of pro­grams, fur­ther il­lus­trates: “When you’re stressed or lack­ing sleep, you feel as if you’ll never fin­ish what­ever you’ve set for the day. You’re con­stantly re­act­ing to stres­sors like the heat or heavy traf­fic. But if you prac­tice med­i­ta­tion reg­u­larly, you be­come more able to tap into its pow­ers just by do­ing the proper breath­ing tech­niques no mat­ter where you are, what­ever time of the day. You be­come more re­laxed but also fo­cused, able to take on what you need to do. You feel kinder to­ward oth­ers be­cause even when you can’t con­trol what’s around you, you know the power to feel bad or good about it is right in­side.”

It isn’t only quiet spaces that are con­ducive to med­i­ta­tion. While min­i­miz­ing dis­trac­tions as much as pos­si­ble is help­ful, its sub­tleties, which the AoLF pro­grams guide par­tic­i­pants through, make it pos­si­ble for any­one to med­i­tate even in a chaotic en­vi­ron­ment with a chaotic mind. “It isn’t about ‘emp­ty­ing’ the mind,” Dar­gani says. “The mind is like a child: the more you tell it to do some­thing, the more it won’t want to. In med­i­ta­tion, we al­low the mind to think what­ever it wants. Iron­i­cally, the re­sults are less thoughts and a more ‘empty’ mind.” Neg­a­tive thoughts and even emo­tions are al­lowed to come and go, with no ef­fort to hide or push them away.

“This is how I put it when I teach kids about med­i­ta­tion,” Hart­man says. “When a cloud passes over the sun, does it mean the sun is gone? No. Neg­a­tive thoughts and feel­ings pass through the mind, but the real power lies in you.”

It’s a great re­minder when­ever you feel at the end of your tether at work, crowded in by the walls of your of­fice, in con­flict with friends and col­leagues, or just in a bad funk. You are the sun, all the stres­sors are just pass­ing clouds. Take deep, cleans­ing breaths and let your in­ner power shine.

Art of Liv­ing Foun­da­tion. Unit 2601 An­tel 2000 Build­ing, 121 Sal­cedo St., Sal­cedo Vil­lage. www.artofliv­ing.org.ph.

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