Although my one hour meditation was both challenging and a bit terrifying, it ended up being a remarkable experience. During my time there, I met some amazingly kind people, made it through a one hour session, and most importantly, I was shown the importance of practicing mental kindness, as well as the pitfalls of setting expectations. This is significant because the more mentally relaxed I am, the more I am better able to connect with others and enjoy piece of mind.
Fifteen minutes before the session began, I entered the Shambala Meditation Center with a racing and hesitant mind. With all my new classes, assignments, readings, and due dates bouncing around in my head, I highly doubted I was going to be able to sit in silence for one hour straight. Then I realized the same reasons for my hesitation with meditation are the very same reasons why I should be practicing it. When the session started, my mind shifted thoughts throughout my head and I tried my best to label them and then clear my mind again, but it didn't quite work. Not long into the first twenty minutes I wondered what I had gotten myseld into. I thought there were surely other events taking place at that very moment that I would have enjoyed far greater than this. However, before I knew it, the session was over and I made it a full one hour. Afterword the meditation leader said I did a great job and was also pleased that I was successful in completing my first one hour meditation. We chatted for a few minutes and she said she was looking forward to seeing me there again, and I truly felt the same way.
Reflecting on my experience at the Shambala Meditation Center I came to some remarkable conclusions. I thought about my stressors the day of meditation and realized how they affect my everyday life, and this helped me find a course of action to combat this stress. One of my major stressors is the search for perfection. Coming from community college with less than stellar high school grades, I spent the last three years of my life frantically working on getting into a four year university. This ment spending nearly every minute of my time studying and worrying about maintaining an exceptionally high grade point average. In retrospect, while I am most satisfied with my educational accomplishments, I am realizing that I shouldn't set such harsh expectations on myself. Shambala teachings suggest that these expectations lead to my anxieties, and I agree with this completely. My search for perfection is very similar to the lesson of Natanial Hawthorne's work, “The Birthmark;” in which Alymer becomes so fixated on eliminating his wife's supposed blemish, that he becomes obsessed and eventually destroys her, and essentially himself, in his search for perfection. This holds true to me as well. In fear of coming up short on my educational demands, I become over stressed and unable to enjoy my time here in Baltimore. While it will not be easy, I am going to keep going to meditation, and trying to be easier on myself. This means still trying my best, but not demanding excellence if it means sacrificing my mental state. I believe through meditation and practicing kindness to myself, I will be less stressed and better able to connect with others, and better enjoy my time at Loyola.
Through meditation I have also come to the conclusion that much of my educational anxieties are also due to my attempts to please my parents. Coming from a family of educational overachievers, I usually feel a pressure to fit a certain role for my parents . Their words of encouragement usually conform to an all work, and no play, work ethic. While well inentioned, this role creates great anxieties for me as well. I see this use of roles, albiet gender related, in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Gillman. In the story, the narrator conforms to gender roles and is highly submissive to her husbands' demands, and in turn, falls deeper into neurosis and insanity. This is true for myself, because if I were to study the way they preferred, I would spend my remaining time at Loyola with my face in a book-completeley cut off from the world-and end up being an educated, yet mentally disturbed person. Not wanting this, I hope to use meditation as a tool for filling my own role as a student, friend, and individual.
My experience with meditation has opened my eyes to a better way of living. I am realizing the importance of gentleness with myself, and fitting into my own place academically. This does not mean slacking off on school work, but rather doing my best and being ok with the results. This is important because by decreasing my stressors I am better able to connect with others, enjoy the wonders of Baltimore, and fullfill the very ideologies of Jesuit education: education of the whole person. While this course of action may be easier said than done, I hope to continue working on it and continuing with Shambala meditation.