Meditation is the practice of relaxing the body and elevating the mind. During the school year, mediation is a great way to decompress between classes and extracurricular activities.
While in college, I have further developed my meditative practice. Though the idea of developing a new practice may seem daunting, once begun it becomes easier to handle. Here are a three techniques I incorporate in my mediation. (Note: Many traditions exist for each meditation and information will conflict. I am providing this from my own experience.)
1. The Affirmation
The affirmation is simple. It is a short phrase that is intended to retrain the mind in such a way that it views the self differently. I personally use Deepak Chopra's album The Soul of Healing Affirmations on Spotify.
Moving from A to Z the album uplifts the mind through positive messages. For the best result, repeat the affirmation daily in the morning, evening, and before you go to sleep. Hold the message in your heart and let it act as a guide for the day.
Since ancient times, cultures from around the world have used special words that may or may not have human language translations. One may chant a mantra, sutra, or any holy text. A mantra differs from an affirmation in that it is repeated many, many times (108 times, usually).
The mantra is a short phrase often in Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, or Chinese. The mantra is said to be so powerful that the sound reverberates into the soul and even can affect the emotional troubles of life. I have found it a great asset in regaining control of my emotions. The mantra is not a distracter but rather a reminder of the peace we all have access to within ourselves.
I have a special list of three chants to use during the school year.
The Green Tara mantra for peace during a hectic experience/day/week.
The Gayatri mantra for exam periods (a long mantra, do in any multiple of 3)
The Tibetan mantra (Om Mani Padme Hum) for any daily disturbance
For best results, chant any mantra 108 times twice a day, morning and evening. Saying and or singing the mantra will work. (Note: I prefer for chanting aloud if possible. If not, then repeat quietly in the head.)
Here is the Tibetan Buddhist mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum, to try out.
3. Anapana-sati (In the Tradition of S.N. Goenka)
I would be remiss if I did not share this gem with you. For any attempt to swim across the sea of misery and reach the shore of total liberation. A Theravada Buddhist, like myself, believes this is a must to achieve purification of the mind.
While Goenkaji has been labeled by opponents as a cult leader, I have sat four Ten Day Silent Retreats in this tradition. Just follow the instructions given by Goenkaji (ji is added as a term of endearment). The power of a Ten Day Silent Retreat is profound and long lasting. However, if you are not ready to commit to a week and a half of silence, then start here.
In starting a practice, do not worry about the end of goal of complete liberation just yet. Whether affirming the self, chanting mantras, or focusing and cleansing the mind with Anapana-sati, college will bring a host of challenges and tribulations. Meditating on a regular basis at this level acts as fortifications to a mind engaged in spiritual warfare.
We spend hours gaining knowledge of the world through the eyes of other scholars in college. Carefully, we triangulate our own opinions based on religion, science, and philosophy. The meditations above ask you to hold a mirror up to yourself and look deeply. Here, these exercises change the individual not at the behavioral level but rather at the most fundamental level of analysis: the ego. This is not mystical nonsense; this is the art of living.