The L train in the morning is any short person’s worst nightmare, including mine. From the cityscape of passenger’s heights reaching in over my head to grab onto the last few inches of pole, to lurching with the crowd, helplessly hoping not to step on anyone’s toes, let’s just say rush hour is not for the faint of heart. In an effort to escape the chaos, I decided to start closing my eyes, initially not as a gesture of a meditative state but out of necessity. Calm it down, calm it down.
Meditation is not just for wanderlusting hippies anymore, instead it has emerged to take its place as part of the wellness movement and franchise so coveted by high strung New Yorkers looking for a mental release. Institutions like MNDFL have taken advantage of this next level consciousness, setting themselves up as “NYC’s premier meditation studio” complete with a CEO and a Chief Spiritual Officer. According to studies by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is evidence that meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, flare-ups in people who have ulcerative colitis and may ease anxiety, symptoms of depression and insomnia. In a study published in the journal of Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews, there was evidence to changes in the brain’s level of awareness, memory, regulation of emotions and communication between brain hemispheres.
I didn’t have much to lose and although the subway isn’t the best place to close your eyes for minutes on end, I was able to find short spurts of meditative disengagement if I was willing to let go. Which meant? Turning my phone on Do Not Disturb, having my headphones in but not playing any music and really making a conscious effort to tune out just as soon as I was about to tune in for the day. More than making my mind blank, I simply let my mind wander, focusing on my breath just as we were told to do in savasana (dead body pose), the final motionless pose in yoga and the stillness we worked all class for. Often I found that my mind wandered to the things I tried to block out, homesickness, the people I had forgotten to call back, a weird interaction with a coworker. I tried to breathe into that experience, filling on the inhale and deflating with an exhale, actively acknowledging it and simultaneously feeling it pass. Opening my eyes at every stop, I learned how to effectively dive back in once I avoided elbows and rogue swinging purses as I hung onto the hands of my relaxed mind.
Good sleep and morning meditation has allowed me to manage one of the most stressful parts of my day before my work day even starts. Whether it’s the only way for me to cope with the commute or its expanding my third eye, meditate like you think you know how to. As long as you’re breathing, it can’t be that bad.