Meditation: A method of controlling stress during exams

Final exams are approaching all of us here at UAA. This means plenty of cramming, distractions and stress. However, there are many different studying and relaxation techniques out there to help everyone during these times. Meditation is one such resource that we can all benefit from, whether it is Tai Chi, Qigong or whatever style you prefer, meditation can help to eliminate stress and focus your mind during exam season.

Qigong is one such form of meditation that is a bit different from the norm. Rather than sitting or lying down to meditate, this style requires standing and a bit of movement. Qigong is a form of meditation that comes from China. It is pronounced “Chi”-gong, with the word ‘Qi’ meaning life force and the word, ‘gong’ meaning working on something. So Qigong means to work on your life force. You may also hear about “Ki”-gong, and this is the Japanese style of Qigong.

DaoShima Susan, owner of Jade Lady Meditation explains the beginnings of Qigong,

“Qigong originated many centuries ago with temple monks that sat in cross-legged meditation, and one of the monks realized how weak it made them,” Susan said. “So they found that their legs started to atrophy and started to weaken. So it was actually difficult for them to move around and function. This one monk decided that they should start standing. The way the story goes, he had a vision. Once they started to stand and found their legs got stronger. As time went on, they started to add movement. This is the way that we know Qigong today.”

There are many benefits to the practice of meditation, and Qigong is no exception.

“In the process of doing Qigong, you not only relax, but you also get energy. It’s a focused energy. It clears the mind; it gives you a lot of oxygen. It helps you to better negotiate problems or “test anxiety” and things like that. It kind of helps to cut through the noise or what they sometimes call the “monkey mind,” where your mind is kind of all over the place,” Susan said.

Many instructors of meditation will focus on an idea known as ‘breaths.’ The idea is to focus on your breathing, specifically the pauses between inhaling and exhaling. As you focus on these small moments, it helps to center your mind into the immediate moment and helps you become calm and focused.

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“The breath actually contains four parts: there’s the inhale, the pause, exhale, and another pause…That’s one breath. You look for the pauses in a breath and that’s gonna calm you down. Another thing you can do is watch the clock and find out how many breaths you do in a minute. Then try to add one breath. If you focus on that, you will add oxygen to yourself and relax,” Susan said.

Qigong is not the only style of meditation that uses this ‘breaths’ technique. Even here at UAA, the Meditation and Wellness Club teaches the practice. Kyle Pace, co-founder and leader of the club, explains that using the ‘breaths’ technique can help you to focus and calm down.

“One really helpful thing people can do is to just sit and take a few deep breaths at the beginning of whatever you are doing. If you’re starting an assignment or a long study session, just sit and take even 60 seconds of deep breaths. That will really help to relax the mind and the body and just help them find a little bit of peace and centered-ness before they move on to the exercise,” Pace said.

This is not to say that there is one true way to meditate. In fact, there are millions of ways, each just as unique as any individual. Pace further explains the basics of meditation as a general art.

“Meditation is basically just settling in and paying a little bit more attention to the moment than one might normally do. There’s no formal posture, there’s no formal practices, there’s no formal anything that anybody has to do. All it’s about is finding something that helps to settle more deeply into the moment and not get wrapped up so much into the emotions of the mind. There’s a lot of different ways you can do it,” Pace said.

With all of these different methods of meditating, it can be difficult to find what is right for you. It is encouraged by most instructors to experiment with different meditation types to find what works for you. Gennyo Jana Zeedyk, instructor at Anchorage Zen Community, describes something that you can try with no formal training and within the comfort of your own home.

“Students with no experience with formal meditation may find it most suitable to sit in a chair with their ears in line with their shoulders and their shoulders in line with their hips, with your hands in your lap. Collect the body with your feet stabled on the floor. Collect the breath and become aware of it and collect the mind. Which means pulling it back from the future, which is to say you keep yourself from thinking about things that might happen,” Zeedyk said. “Pull it away from the past as well, which means to stop thinking about things that have happened. Sometimes it helps to think of a phrase or a word or even start counting and come back to this phrase and focus on the moment to produce a calm. You want to anchor your mind to these words or phrases in order to come back to them.”

Hopefully, during this busy season of exams, students can find some time to relax for a little bit and find some more focus for study. Perhaps, even a few students will find that meditation is a great resource for this task.

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Photo credit: Jian Bautista

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