Health and wellness expert emphasizes curiosity and “the power of pausing” in anticipation of upcoming meditation session
“How often do you get in the shower and you come out and you have no idea what happened in there?”
Let's face it: modern life is frantic. We were promised that the advent of technology would free us up to spend more time doing the things we love, but the opposite often seems to ring true.
Our inboxes are overflowing. We can't keep up with texts. Our social media accounts continuously beep and buzz. We're alerted to breaking news every few minutes, causing us to feel that we’re constantly sprinting to keep up.
Thankfully, health and wellness expert Linda Naini is here to help. Turns out the secret to feeling less crazy is pressing pause on the influx of notifications and paying more attention to our surroundings.
“We are in a place where there is a lot of suffering, and a lot of the suffering is created from our disconnection from our own heart, body and mind and one another in community,” Naini says.
She says people now tend to adopt an automatic “fight, flight or freeze” mode in these troubled times. The struggle is returning to a state in which the parasympathetic nervous system is able to respond when a reaction is needed.
“If there's a car accident I need to react, but then what will happen is we continue to be in that reaction mode,” she says. “When we pause, it allows our nervous system to settle down.”
While our inbox may not be quite as dramatic as a car crash, it can sometimes feel that way.
Naini has been practicing myriad meditation techniques since she was first introduced to the Insight Meditation Community of Washington D.C. when dealing with a family tragedy. World-renowned meditation leader Tara Brach and many other IMCW teachers have served as mentors for her since then in both her personal and professional life.
“They’ve opened me up to the teachings by just their presence and their way of being,” she said. “Their encouragement is what has gotten me to teach.”
Naini now serves as an affiliate teacher at ICMW and holds a health and wellness certification through the Maryland University of Integrated Health.
Some might spite meditation, deeming it too time consuming or boring, but Naini says life only becomes boring when one is not curious. She believes that infusing mundane tasks, like washing the dishes or taking a shower, with curiosity is a simple way to involve oneself in meditation.
“How often do you get in the shower and you come out and you have no idea what happened in there?” Naini says. “But the smell of the shampoo and the feeling of the water hitting my face – that can kind of be exciting.”
Mindfulness can still be a helpful practice to those whose schedules are packed to the minute. Naini personally believes there are two overarching forms of meditation practice: formal and informal.
Formal practice is when someone specifically blocks out a chunk of time for a certain type of mediation, like concentration meditation or awareness meditation.
Informal practice can be a saving grace for people who are busy indefinitely: one can bring mindful awareness to activities like brushing their teeth or waiting to pick up their child at school by taking a few moments to notice their breathing pattern or acknowledge the smells and sensations surrounding them.
“I find that when people start doing informal practice they start bringing in more and more time to do a little bit more of a formal practice,” Naini says.
Naini notes that everyone’s meditation experience differs, but most often meditators realize how powerful taking two minutes to notice their breathing pattern is on their level of awareness of their surroundings. She said often meditators will form a connection during the session, either with others in the class or with their own beating hearts
Naini says mindfulness meditation aims to fully engage meditators in what's happening despite their surroundings, but some locations can be more conducive to taking a pause than others.
She says hosting a session outdoors and among greenery at The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum can allow one to be more receptive to mindfulness teachings. Placing the class in nature facilitates a deeper alignment with other organisms, like bonsai trees, on a cellular level, Naini says.
“If we actually pause and take some time gazing at the bonsai, you might see, "Oh wow, I really am connected to this other living being," she says.
Technology creates a disconnect from others and keeps us in contact with only people who are like-minded, Naini adds.
“At the end of the day we are all humans, we all have the heart, mind and body,” she says. “These practices really help us to see that humanity in each other that can otherwise be very difficult to hone in on.”