If you had asked me a year ago what I thought of meditation, I would have told you that it’s probably the least stress-reliving thing in the world; I have to sit up straight, not move for a long period of time and clear my mind—what could be worse!? However, that was before I got into NT’s stress-busting program.
I remember last year when my dad mentioned something about Guidance offering a kickboxing class at lunch.
“Kickboxing?” I asked. “Why are they bringing in kickboxing?”
“Stress relief,” said my dad while rolling his eyes. I proceeded to do the same.
A few months later, I heard about the Mindfulness without Borders program, which I thought was a charity that helped Rwandan youth. The program sounded pretty cool, so I decided to go and find out more. As I walked into 215 for the first meeting, I saw two overly happy girls, who I soon discovered were the facilitators. Seeing these girls already made me uneasy—overly happy people are always secretly serial killers. But it turns out serial killers like to do breathing exercises, one of which they did with us. They said all the things you expect to hear when you do a breathing exercise: clear your mind and pay attention to your breath. After the exercise, we passed around a talking piece and said one word about how we felt during the exercise.
Sharing my feelings, especially about things that I feel are not really sharable (for instance, a breathing exercise), is something I highly dislike. When everyone was going around saying how calming and relaxing the exercise was, I was just sitting there thinking what BS this was. When the talking piece finally got to me, I faked a smile and said how refreshing it felt to just breathe. The meeting finally ended, and I vowed never to go back.
Nevertheless, the next week I was back. My friend had thoroughly enjoyed Mindfulness and asked me to come with her, and I took pity and agreed. But this session was different—it wasn’t all breathing exercises and feelings (I later learned to like them), it was almost like a guideline of how to make your life happier by doing almost nothing. Over the next 9 sessions, we learned about appreciating what we have, being in the present moment, fully listening to others when they speak (instead of doing what I did when they were passing around the talking piece at the first meeting), and how to help others. When the sessions ended, I was actually kind of upset.
Thankfully, Ms. de Braux and Ms. Middlebrook approached the Mindfulness group and told us about the new Youth Wellness Network (YWN) coming to NT in the summer. I was ecstatic to join because I knew we’d being doing things like Mindfulness once again! In the summer, the YWN leadership camp did exactly that and so much more: we meditated, did yoga and relaxed to the sound of crystal bowls (sound therapy), and we were also taught about who we are, what we want and how to make our dreams come true without our fears getting in the way. The camp has been incredibly helpful in keeping me calm and focused through my already crazy year.
I guess my enthusiasm in Mindfulness really showed, because soon after it ended I was on CBC and in the Toronto Star, and more recently The Globe and Mail, for my involvement in it. Even though I was portrayed on CBC as a mental case, and in The Globe as someone who casually meditates in the middle of the hall, I’m happy that the media is informing people that stress reduction is not something to be taken lightly.
I’ve gone from making fun of stress relief to actually enjoying it, and for a good reason: it makes my life so much happier. When I start to get scared I’m going to fail, I just take a few deep breaths and feel 10 times better. If I’m having an argument with someone, I’ll fully listen to them so I can understand their point of view. Just try one of our stress-buster workshops, and if you’re still sceptical, just go to meditation or the crystal bowls because you’ll definitely get an incredibly relaxing nap out of those.