2020 has been an unforgettable year, and it’s not even over yet. The entire world has been shaken up on account of COVID-19, not to mention the murder hornets, protests, and wildfires (to name just a few). This crisis has left everyone feeling vulnerable and helpless, myself included. I don’t know how the new academic year will feel amid the crisis as we grapple with new and foreign concerns. Not only are the health implications of COVID-19 a worry, the impact it has on our society makes my head spin.
As all students are navigating the changes that come with this transition online, I noticed the anxieties creeping in. How would I get through all the changes and learning curves? I needed clarity, and knew self-care was the answer. Maneuvering through this new world where life seems to push on amid the chaos can leave you feeling like the rug has been pulled from underneath you. I’ve been told it’s normal to feel anxious and stressed under these conditions, but I was growing more and more distraught and needed to find a way to alleviate and manage my distress.
An article from The University of Texas titled “The Role of Perceived Stress and Health Beliefs on College Students’ Intentions to Practice Mindfulness Meditation,” suggests stress is a part of our everyday lives, and it “has been linked to a wide variety of adverse health conditions, including mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and insomnia, as well as heart disease, autoimmune disorders, skin conditions, neuro-degenerative diseases, diabetes, and obesity.” The article states that, “[m]indfulness-based approaches have been shown to increase personal awareness and decrease emotional negativity and reactivity, leading to an increased awareness of stress and improving coping skills.”
Honestly, I don’t know much about meditation. I’ve always thought it would be a good practice to incorporate into my life, but I didn’t know where to start. It scared me. But the pressing reminder that self-care is more important now than ever pushed me to search for answers.
I came across Benjamin Bollich, a Meditation Facilitator at Inner-Attainment, on Facebook. I learned that he was hosting a Tibetan Singing Bowl and Gong Meditation in his backyard. I was intrigued and thought I might join, so I messaged Bollich. He quickly responded and assured me newcomers are welcome (attaching many smiley emojis and silly GIFs to his message).
“For me on a personal level, I found sensory integration of meditation with the [Tibetan] bowls has helped my students become grounded and centred, and within that grounding it helps [relieve] anxiety and stress,” Bollich said.
I felt at ease with the idea of joining his class. I was tired of my intrusive worry-filled thoughts and didn’t want the physical symptoms of anxiety to run my life. So I signed up for Bollich’s class.
But as I walked along the pathway leading into his backyard, admittedly that ease started to fade. I had only attended one other meditation event before in my life. With my yoga mat under my arm and water bottle in hand, I found a spot on the grass near the back and proceeded to get comfortable in my new surroundings. I saw Bollich smiling and chatting with the attendees. He grinned at me and piped out a warm, “Welcome!”
The laminated sheet of paper in front of me read:
Tibetan Singing Bowls date back 4000 years to an animistic tribe called the Bon people. As time passed, the Bon and the Buddhists began sharing some cultural practices with the Buddhists adopting the use of Singing Bowls.… Sound frequencies emitted from Tibetan Singing Bowls and Gong influence our body’s energy centres (chakras) as well as our brain wave patterns. The special vibration of these instruments train your brain from a beta to alpha and theta waveform which facilitate harmony, intuitive insight, and a great sense of well-being.
Eight people had already arrived and were looking cozy with their blankets, cushions, and pillows. Everyone seemed relaxed as they chatted away. I instantly regretted not bringing a pillow and blanket for myself!
Bollich’s backyard overlooked the ocean and mountain ranges and I could see where the sea seemed to melt into the blue skies above. Birds cooed overhead and crickets chirped happily in the background, making for a soothing, blissful ambiance. His garden was lush with trees, sunflowers, vegetable plants, and a few hammocks. His Tibetan bowls, instruments, and large gong were set up in front of us.
I lay down on my back and watched the blue sky slowly fade to sunset. An eagle soared high up above me and disappeared in the distance. I closed my eyes as Bollich began. High and low frequency sounds filled my ears. The slight but elegant aroma of a burning incense stick wafted my way. The sounds began quiet and grew louder and more powerful as the class went on. I felt a sense of calm.
As numerous thoughts about the stresses of the outside world entered my mind, I tried to focus on the sounds and vibrations. Over the course of the class, Bollich played two different gongs, an Indigenous flute, traditional Japanese bowls, traditional Tibetan singing bowls, and ended the class walking through the garden with wind chimes. It was a beautifully crafted evening that left me feeling at ease. I was on a peaceful journey away from my stress.
As a busy student, I want to incorporate more mindfulness-based activities into my life. Meditation is one that I will likely continue. After the class I spoke with Bollich about why meditation, and attending his courses, might be useful to students this upcoming year.
Bollich said it would benefit students “to unplug from studies and other distractions like Facebook and other social media as our society is so busy.” He believes, “when you have a routine of meditation it can improve concentration.”
Prior to COVID-19, Bollich taught meditations in Duncan, Ladysmith, Port Alberni, and various islands off the coast. He has had to adjust his life and business around the pandemic, but luckily he will still be offering regular meditations in Nanaimo and Parksville this fall and into the winter.
“Meditations will continue in Nanaimo at Bethlehem Centre in the chapel with a 25 person limit due to COVID, and in Parksville at the community centre,” he said.
As students, it’s important to put the needs of yourself first and practice self-care. Whether that be regularly exercising, meditating, journaling, or just listening to whatever your mind and body needs, you can discover peace while finding your new normal.
“Any time you have an opportunity to ground and come back [to] yourself, you help alleviate all types of stresses,” Bollich said
You can find Bollich’s upcoming meditations and ticket prices on Facebook at www.facebook.com/innerattainment.