Tag Archives: meditation journal

Day 1 – Meditation Journal

It’s that time again—I’m grading end-of-semester projects and as is always the case, I was struck many times, by moments of  gratitude and delight. It’s the gratitude of being able to introduce stressed-out students to meditation and the delight of witnessing what is sometimes nothing short of a personal transformation. Taking up a personal meditation (sadhana) for a week, as this student chose to do, is one of their project options. As I’ve done before, with the student’s enthusiastic permission, I’m sharing a portion of the one that brought the biggest smile.*

*Note: Following the entry, I have added the instructions to the meditation she did, along with a link to the recorded mantra she used.

Meditation Journal: Day One

It was Day One of my new sadhana commitment. I was woken up by a Rihanna song blasting out of my Iphone, and a few minutes after that, by my ten-year-old brother urging me to get ready and take him to school. After the hustle bustle of my early routine, I arrived at SMC and tried to fit my car into a parking space that would need a plier to get out of. I sat through class after class, took notes, stared at the clock, and made about thirty lists of things I had to do.

After the long day had progressed and I was finally in bed, I found myself nervous, as usual, and lost in my monkey mind of excess thoughts. I have quite a neurotic habit before I sleep, where I replay all the little, unimportant negative moments of my day that stuck out to me, like when my history professor poked fun at my question, or when a friend said something that hurt my feelings. Before I know it, I am usually so involved in the replaying of these scenes and distracted by other thoughts that remind me of other negative scenes, that I am up all night, with only a couple hours of sleep to spare.

But on this night, before I started this tedious process, I remembered it was day one of my new sadhana and I was committed to practicing the Sa Ta Na Ma meditation every day for the next week. I put on the mantra recording I had downloaded from amazon and sat calmly with my eyes closed. I breathed deeply a few times and then started whispering SA TA NA MA, then singing it, then singing it in my head. I chose this sadhana because I love singing and I loved the element of music and chanting that this sadhana had. As I sang the words, I alternated connecting my thumb fingers with each of my other fingers.

I started to feel more relaxed as I felt the anxieties of my day being sung away. My mind felt more focused and at the same time, more clear. I felt like I had created a peaceful sanctuary in my quiet room. I felt connected with my body and felt it get lighter as I let go some of the worries I was bottling up all day. As the meditation came to an end, I found that my mind was lighter than usual, and to my surprise, I laid my head on my pillow and fell asleep.  

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Sa Ta Na Ma Meditation

  1. Sit with a straight spine, either on the floor or in a chair. Rest the backs of the hands on the knees.
  2. Eye Focus is at the Third Eye (look up toward forehead).
  3. Inhale deeply and begin to chant aloud the mantra: Sa ta na ma.
  4. On the syllable sa, touch the index finger of each hand to the thumb; on ta, touch the middle finger to the thumb; on na, touch the ring finger to the thumb; on ma, touch the pinkie to the thumb. Continue with these finger movements, with a firm pressure.
  5. First chant the mantra aloud, imagining that the sounds come in through the crown and exit through the third eye in an L shape. Then, chant in a whisper. Finally, chant silently (mentally), before reversing the order (Follow the recording).
  6. To finish, take a deep breath and reach your arms overhead. Exhale, and draw your hands to your chest in prayer position.

This meditation is one of the core Kriyas in our tradition of Kundalini Yoga and has been duly researched and lauded for its measurable benefits to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and related brain disorders.

Here is one of my favorite short recordings of it, on amazon: Sa Ta Na Ma.

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The Paramedic Has a Lifeline, Too

Every once in a while, a student sends me something that is not only heartwarming, but serves as a reminder of why I do what I do. Here is a story of a modern day medic and an ancient Yogic technique. I hope you are just as touched by my student’s story, as I was.

My Sadhana (Daily Practice)

As a young man living in the 21st century my brain is constantly being rushed with all sorts of stimuli. It is quite difficult going about my day with out being affected by social media, subliminal messages, and other avenues of gaining my attention. Due to all of this my mind is essentially never present or clear. I am always thinking about what to do next and move ahead. However, about two weeks into this class, I was introduced to a breathing technique that quickly brought me back into the present.

This technique is called alternate nostril breathing. The first time I tried this in Professor Quesada’s class, I did not fully feel the effects. My brain was not used to being in the present moment, so I started to feel a little restless. At first, I had no faith in this technique because I did not see results immediately. Again, my brain was used to getting things done fast and seeing results quickly. Later that day I went home and looked up the benefits of this ancient breathing technique; everything that was listed was what I needed.

I have had a problem with anxiety for many years. I can now say that alternate nostril breathing has significantly helped me with that.

alternate nostril breathing
About a month or so ago when I started alternate nostril breathing, I started doing it for 15 minutes every morning to get me ready for the day. Those first few days were pretty challenging – it was difficult to stay focused because after sitting for 5 minutes my mind started wandering. Eventually my brain was able to stay focused for longer periods of time. I eventually figured out that this technique could be used any time I feel stressed or anxious. I currently practice alternate nostril breathing multiple times throughout the day in addition to the 15 minutes I do every morning.

I work as an Emergency Medical Technician for a private ambulance company where I deal with life and death constantly. There is a very high level of stress everyday and I take on a huge responsibility while the patient is under my care. Prior to learning this breathing technique, I would get butterflies every time I was dispatched and they would last the whole ride to the scene. The lights and sirens just made me more tense and even though the adrenaline rush was too much at times, I thought I had no choice but to force my body adapt to the stress and disregard it.

However after becoming comfortable with alternate nostril breathing I now use it when responding to calls. My performance and mental clarity has drastically changed.

For example, a few weeks ago my partner and I responded to a call for a traffic collision. When we arrived on scene I found an 11 year old child in the back seat trapped, with no pulse and no respiration. The patient had suffered a traumatic full arrest and it was the first time I had ever witnessed this. The family was crying and pressuring me. I felt a little dizzy, and just extremely overwhelmed. As my partner pulled out the patient and started compressions I ran over to the ambulance to pick up the defibrillator. On the way to the ambulance I forced my brain to focus on my breath and I quickly slowed down my respiratory rate which almost instantly calmed me down. My whole sprint to and from the ambulance was maybe 30 seconds but in those few moments I was able to stay calm and regain my focus just from focusing on my breath. The patient came back after 2 rounds of CPR and 3 shocks.

In school I have also used alternate nostril breathing before exams. By using this technique prior to exams I feel a sense of calmness and a major reduction in angst. It has also taken away tension throughout my body. Overall it has been useful to me in my work, school, and personal life. It has also made me more aware of living in the present. Thank you so much Professor Quesada for teaching me this breathing practice.

An Asian Boy’s First Yoga Class

I am making my way through a huge stack of end-of-semester project books. Some are incredibly thoughtful and well-presented and many are truly heartwarming. This one not only warmed my heart but made me laugh at the same time. It contains a raw mix of innocence, honesty and shaky English, which together, produce something unintentionally charming. Here is one boy’s extra credit write-up—left unedited—that is both sweet and comical in its unadorned bluntness. In it he describes his first Yoga class—with me. 

My first yoga class with prof. Quesada is unforgettable, because it’s my first yoga class in my lifetime. To be honest I came to this class for my extra credit. I arrived at Yoga West at at 11:45 am then met my classmate Peng. He came here for same reason as me. I have never been interested in yoga because we Asian boys don’t like this kind exercise, we are more interested in playing computer games. Before the class, I try the yoga tea which is taste like ginger soup. Then my first yoga class is begun. I’m looking around the yoga room, there are only a few man that came to this class. But there are some beautiful ladies attending. Their appearance seems very interested in yoga. I’m very interested in this yoga room. It’s the same look as our Chinese temple, it’s kind of dark in this room, because there are only a few lights around prof. Quesada. Some of the yoga movements are so hard for me, I think it’s because I seldom exercise. So, this class is kind of hard for me. Time goes by fast; my first yoga class is over. I thought when I got home I would be very tired; on the contrary, I feel the body is easier and lighter. After a few days, I even bought a book called 26 day yoga plan. All my friends ask me why I bought this book; I think my first yoga class made a good impression on me. So that’s why I am going to my second class with prof. Quesada on Friday. If I have opportunity after, I will take part in more yoga.

An Insightful & Honest 10-Day Meditation Journal

One of my students turned in a 10-day journal, chronicling her first sustained attempt at meditation. It was one of their options for a 50-point feature project. This particular journal was penned by a Japanese girl of about 18 years old. She presents such an amusing, accurate and insightful account—with all her struggles and modest rewards delightfully narrated—that I am reproducing it here without edit, as some of the awkwardly translated phrases only add to its overall charm.

First Day.
Sitting still for ten minutes was the toughest thing in meditation. After five minutes, my legs started to feel numb and my concentration faded away. Breathing is what humans do without even realizing, but I could not breathe well when I tried to focus on my breathing. Moreover, I felt difficulty to even hear the sound of my breath. Another thing I realized was that something that never bothers me could really bother me during the meditation. Sounds of people talking, noise of my neighbors, things in nature really tick me off during the meditation. The more I tried to focus, the more I became distracted. During the ten minutes of meditation, my hatred towards meditation grew and I even started to blame the existence of meditation itself. After the meditation, it made me realize how immature I am.

Second Day.
As I expected, today’s meditation was as tough as yesterday’s. During the meditation, I was wondering how I can improve my concentration during the meditation. I know that meditation helps to purify my foul mind, but only disturbing thoughts came up during the meditation. I just remembered what professor said, that people are rushing and rushing. I think this is a necessary practice in the life. To shorten the time makes more time that I can do other things. Therefore meditation gives me more relax and steady.

Third Day.
Still meditation is not enjoyable for me but I believed that I could find something through it. Today I meditated while listening to music from Youtube for meditation. I could relax and hold steady mind. I used to understand what meditation is, but it was so irritating to my existence on the first day. I read the text book to feel Buddha’s spirit more deeply. It said bodies and minds are strongly related. I feel like I understand the meaning of this. For example, we say “pain is from the mind,” in Japan. For example, if someone trod on my foot and the person was who I like, probably I would not mind and the pain would go away soon, but in the case of someone who I hate, I would feel pain longer than in the previous case and with hatred. Moreover, I might give the same back to the person. I felt that I have to practice meditation in order to control my devil spirit.

Fourth Day.
I don’t feel pain with sitting anymore, although sometimes I started thinking and can not focus on being empty and my mind moves around. 10 minutes passes more quickly than before. It may just be my imagination, but I feel I’m able to be kinder to others than I was. Because I can rethink how I am after meditation.

Fifth Day.
On the fifth day, my attitude towards meditation finally became positive from negative. I was willing to start to meditate to find out what kind of outcome I will be getting out of this session. Once I started to meditate, I realized how clear my mind was. To be honest, I was not thinking about anything during the meditation. I was not enjoying the moment nor hating the moment. I was neutral. When I opened up my eyes and checked how long I had been meditating, I found out that I was meditating for 20 minutes without any thoughts. My mind was so clear that I felt like my brains were washed out. My breathing was so natural and smooth that I could not even tell if I was really breathing. I was so happy with the effects of meditation that I finally started to look forward to the next mediation session.

Sixth Day.
I had a bad day at school and I felt like I didn’t want to do anything. I was chilling on the bed all day after school because fortunately I didn’t have any homework for tomorrow. Still, since I continue to meditate, I did so before I go to sleep. Then I came to realize that meditation gives me opportunities to face myself when I become deflated or have an anxiety. At times like that, I tend to escape from the matter and try to get them away from my mind; though I have learned the importance of facing my problems, not turning away from them. My feeling has become great, even though I was depressed before meditation.

Seventh Day.
Period of wax and wane of the moon.
Cycle of period.
Period of revolution of the moon.
Period of rotation of the sun.
28 days.
28th is cycle of the time of the universe. After I meditated, I was just muddling about the universe, and I came up with these. If we live the life according to the rhythm of nature, physical and mental would be healthy more and more. Live along with universal providence. It is beautiful.

Eighth Day.
I did meditate on the eighth day. I felt great and refreshed. By listening to the sound and wind of nature, I realized I was part of the universe. Human beings are not the center of the universe. If everyone can realize that, confusion and worry would be diminished in the world because all human beings are connected by a big bond.

Ninth Day.
I assumed happiness was always felt when we achieve some difficult goal, though actually, it was not. Truthfully, happiness is always nearby; in addition, it costs nothing and is fuss-free. I was meditating for 30 minutes today. Meditation makes me comfortable, and I can see myself from the third person. If I can keep this sense, I would be able to act with making transgressions because I believe people make transgressions only when they can not see themselves. There is really a lot to learn about meditation.

Tenth Day.
Today is the final day for meditating for this assignment. Before I started the final session, I was thinking how far I’d come already. I could not even stand the idea of meditation on the first day, but I was already addicted to the idea of meditation on the tenth day. I was surprised at how clear my mind was before the last session started and how good I felt about my achievement. Finally, I started my last meditation. Everything was going well until I realized the strange noise my neighbor was making. At first, I tried to shut it off and concentrate again. Funny, I could not. After I failed to concentrate, I started to get mad at the noise because it is ruining my precious last meditation session. I was surprised at the fact that I got ticked off so easy again, just like the first day. I was satisfied with my mental growth just before this session started, but here I am acting like myself as I was on the first day. After I finished meditating, I was embarrassed and decided to be more humble. Another lesson taught by meditating. I have to be humble. A lesson is something we are taught by others. It is amazing how meditation can create a lesson out of myself. The lesson is coming from the deep part of my mind. I really think that is beautiful. I am fascinated with meditation now and I will practice meditation more and more in my life.