In a world run by technology and media, it can often be difficult to cut out all the distractions and regain focus on what is truly important. In today’s fast paced environment, individuals can become overwhelmed with school, work, and their personal lives. This leaves many people wondering, “How can I silence all of this noise?”
There are so many trends in today’s society that can help someone with their mental health but clearly one of the most popular is meditation. Meditation, a practice that can help individuals gain control over their racing thoughts, has been in the spotlight for quite some time now.
According to a 2018 report done by the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, 14.2 percent of Americans said they have meditated within the past year. Because of its growing popularity and supportive research, more and more people are discovering the benefits of meditation and The Community College of Baltimore County encourages students to incorporate this practice into their lives.
CCBC is now offering a Meditation for Wellness class (PELF 144). Offered through The Wellness Department in The Athletics and Wellness Center on the Essex campus, this course focuses on the science behind the benefits of meditation and how it can reduce stress and symptoms of illness while improving attention and well-being. This class includes a wide variety of engaging practices that will appeal to all students, regardless of how familiar they are with meditation.
Devoted yoga and meditation enthusiast, Leslie Tinios, is guiding her students on their path to self - discovery by teaching this new course. A teacher of many things, Tinios’ experience, knowledge, and dedication to meditation makes her the perfect fit. Not only is she empowering students through this practice, but she also teaches health, fitness and wellness, stress management, yoga, and holistic health.
So, what sparked Tinios’ interested in meditation? While she was practicing yoga, she began incorporating it into the stress management and holistic health classes she was teaching at the time. She also attributes her desire to explore, to her love of these subjects.
“I think since I was younger, I was a seeker,” she says. “In my free time, I would look at yoga books and think, ‘What does it mean to meditate?’ So, I had something in me that was open to discovery and then when I first practiced yoga in the late 1980s, meditation and breathing practices were all intertwined with the yoga. So that led me to think about maybe we [CCBC] could offer a course in meditation.”
After taking a sabbatical to go deeper into her meditating, she came back and proposed the idea of this course to the college. The idea was brought to life in the fall of 2015 and ran as an experimental class in the spring of 2016.
“It filled up right away,” Tinios says with a smile on her face. “It was so amazing. So then The Wellness Department sent it through the process and it was approved.”
Tinios describes meditation as, “A self-reflection tool, a practice for being in your body, a centering tool, a way to calm down, and use breath for uniting body and mind which can bring us back from distraction to focus attention.”
Although everyone has their own definition of meditation, Tinios points out that anyone can benefit from the practice. It can encourage people to calm their thoughts and “ground” themselves, which means to center oneself and focus on the one thing they can control - the present moment. This popular form of meditation is called mindfulness.
“It’s [mindfulness] training your mind to pay attention to what you want to pay attention to; to not be lost in thought. Our willingness to get out of our wild minds by coming to our senses, is a tool for helping us navigate life,” Tinios says.
Too often, our minds become so distracted that we can get lost in thoughts, like getting lost in a forest and not having any direction of how to find a way out.
Tinios continues, “Mindfulness quiets the thinking mind because you are attending to the present moment through your senses. Paying attention to sights, sounds, and sensations in your body, the thoughts moving through your mind, and emotional states, call us to the present moment of our experience. And when we’re focused on the present, our stress level goes down.”
While mindfulness appears to be one of the most practiced forms of meditation, concentrative meditation is also widely practiced. This style typically involves focus on something specific. It could be an object, a candle flame, a mandala, or a mantra, which is repeated words or sayings that can be used to focus the mind.
However, too often, people who are interested in meditation can be confused by the different types. The labels aren’t important though; what’s important is one’s ability to use the practices to focus on what is able to be controlled in an exact moment.
Tinios says that with all the stresses in life and constant technology around us, it’s easy to forget to take care of our minds. “Now more than ever our culture needs an antidote to the hyper arousal and distraction that our devices have provided us.”
Taking a break from the normal routine and distractions of life is where meditation comes in and for the person who is constantly on the move, there are many smart phone apps that can be helpful. Tinios suggests 10% Happier, Waking Up, Insight Timer, and HeadSpace.
As for her final words about meditation, Tinios states, “Meditation is the antidote to the stress of modern living.”
If a simple practice can take the pressure off of our everyday stresses, why not go for it? And thanks to Leslie Tinios and the Wellness Department, Meditation for Wellness is now an active course at the college and open to all students.