Pema Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist, developed a system of mindfulness, centered on compassion. Her compassion cards are a set of 59 Buddhist mantras that one can pick from each day to live by. This weekend I purchased a set off of Amazon for just twelve dollars and for the next few months I will be using a different card each day to try and ground myself in the present moment. As a student, it is easy to get swept up in the commotion and stress of everyday life, so I will be putting each compassion card on top of my to-do list every day as to not forget it and constantly be reminded of it.
These cards derive from the ancient practice of lujong. Today my card reads, “If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained.” When I first saw this, I was a little confused. How can you practice while also being distracted? Isn’t the point of mindfulness to clear the mind of all distractions? I decided to do some research.
Through the internet I was able to learn that by noticing our distractions, we can pull ourselves into the current moment. Being well trained in meditation means not letting distractions and our emotions overwhelm us in any given moment. This is extremely important when a person is reaching “emerging adulthood,” or the period of time characterized by being in-between late adolescence and early adulthood.
Mental Health in College Students
In a college setting, many students are faced with new and confusing emotions. Some of these emotions can be characterized as mental illnesses. There are many ways to deal with issues of mental health, and one of the best ones is to practice mindfulness meditation.
Compassion cards are not for everyone. Fortunately, there are endless ways for a person to learn how to be present and aware of the moment at hand. This can include meditation. For centuries, meditation has been a tool utilized by all types of people to help ground oneself in the present moment. This means not focusing or living in the past or future but being aware of the moment you are in and not worrying about what has happened or what could happen.
Meditation is usually assumed to be in a yoga studio, with the lights dimmed and music playing. It is seen as something that is done before or after yoga, and that requires one to set out a chunk of time during the day to achieve. Many people do not know that meditation can actually be done anywhere. It can be done on a plane, a bus, or even at the office. One can meditate before falling asleep, or after waking up in the morning. The practice of meditation is very flexible, and you can curtail and create a system that works for you.
College Mental Health Resources
No matter who you are, it is impossible to avoid stress. A young person is most commonly worried about their grades, getting into college, their friends, and their intimate relationships. Adults are often riddled with anxiety about their families, money, and their jobs. No matter your age, it is almost certain that you will experience anxiety and stress-inducing situations in your daily life.
Living in the current moment and being aware of one’s place in the universe can help individuals in focusing on what is important and lessening any tensions or qualms in their mind. It is amazing the wonders that can occur when one clears their mind even for a few minutes. Roommates, coworkers, and even family members can be a source of stress for an individual. Your college can also provide you with mental health resources in the counseling center. Common mental health disorders in young adults include anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
There are many different mindfulness exercises that one can use to combat stress and anxiety in daily life. One of my favorite ways to ground myself in the current moment is to practice deep breathing exercises. As an individual recovering from a rib fracture, I was given a device from my doctor called an incentive spirometer. This is a small device that helps people with making sure they are fully expanding their lungs. I have learned that this tool is great to use for deep breathing techniques throughout the day. If you do not have access to one of these devices, you can easily look online for guided deep breathing tutorials and videos at all lengths and levels.
Every day I try to do deep breathing exercises at least three times. I keep my spirometer right on my desk, so I can see it out of the corner of my eye when cleaning, working, and doing other stressful activities. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, or like I am going to drown in stress, I take a step back and do a few deep breaths. Just taking a few seconds to focus on the body rather than the mind is all I need to ground myself in the current moment.
You don’t need to sit criss-cross on a yoga mat and say “ohmmmmmmmm” to achieve mindfulness. Each person’s experience is their own and no two people are alike in their journey to mindfulness. The more you practice mindfulness, the better you will become at it. In no time at all, you will be practicing it without even trying.
Try living in the current moment a few times each day. Starting with that you will soon be on your way to becoming a mindfulness expert. Don’t feel discouraged if it is hard for you at first, because sometimes it takes trained professional’s years to even get to the same point. Your journey is your own and other people have nothing to do with it. Keep trying, and one day it will all be worth the hard work.
Every person can benefit from practicing mindfulness, especially people who are in the period of life we call emerging adulthood. CEOs, doctors, students, and all sorts of people can learn unique and interesting ways to become more mindful no matter the environment. Ask yourself, why am I not using this tool? You have nothing to lose by trying to live in the current moment. You can only gain knowledge and peace.