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