When I moved to Chicago for school, my other off-campus friends told me that the first couple of weeks of commuting are exciting, an adventure, and you can’t get enough of it. But then, they said, once you’re settled in and used to the buses, the trains, and the long walks down the streets where buses don’t run, you become quickly disenchanted. It happened more quickly than I expected it to. After just a couple days of adjusting to my new semester’s class schedule, I started closing my eyes to make myself feel like I was getting just a little more rest because the coffee or tea or whatever form of caffeine I was using hadn’t kicked in yet. I would stare out the window and wonder why the traffic had to be so heavy, why everyone had to pile on the bus at one stop and get off at several others.
I started, in short, to think of my commute as a waste of time. I don’t like wasting time. As a student, I have plenty of things I need to get done during any given week. Sitting down to relax and recover from the stress load of the week is one of those things.
So how can a commute, typically stressful in itself, help us to get more than heap after heap of stress out of our work week?
Using that time for meditation is one possibility. Meditation as a relaxation technique is gaining popularity in research studies. Yale University Researchers have explored the relationship between sleep and meditation, in an article published by Psychology Today. Researchers found that people who meditate on a regular basis can more easily tune out the parts of the brain associated with anxiety and other mental health issues. Meditating can help lead to a greater mental alertness and clarity of thought.
The type of meditation ideal for fifteen to twenty minute intervals is called transcendental meditation. It relaxes the mind and body by releasing stress and tiredness, and can be practiced simply by sitting comfortably with eyes closed.
Zen meditation may take more time than transcendental meditation, but if practiced it includes closing the mind to any thoughts or images that might occur to it in order to escape from the constant talk of one’s mind.
Taoist meditation is typically seen as a more practical meditative form. Its purpose is to focus a person’s flow of breath by expanding and contracting the abdomen. Through this, anybody practicing this type of meditation will gain a focused attention that may be applied to situations in everyday life. This is the type of meditation that encourages focusing on the positive when a negative situation arises.
Mindfulness meditation, in contrast, is involved with being alert of everything that’s going on in the present situation, forcing our bodies to focus on what we can’t change. It’s all about being aware of things you don’t have any control over.
These are only a couple of the many different varieties of meditation, though nearly all of them can be utilized for the purposes of relaxation or increased well-being, both mentally and physically. The Maharishi Foundation outlines specific meditation health benefits including reduced high blood pressure, increased productivity, and decreased anxiety among practitioners of transcendental meditation. The most important thing when deciding which type of meditation to practice is deciding what works with your schedule and what you need to get out of it, because, like a lot of other things, what you get out of it is what you put into it.