My goodness, Times Square is a hot mess.
We always end up there when we’re in New York because my family doesn’t know how to not be tourists. Plus, mom absolutely loves all of the shimmering Christmas decorations in Midtown, so we’ve given up on convincing her to go to quieter areas of the city. You can’t argue with a determined Mama L.
In previous trips to Manhattan, I’ve gotten angry at the other people (for getting in “my” way), worried that I was going to lose my sister in the crowd, acquired headaches from the noise and smoke, and felt stressed that we’d never be able to escape the massive HERDS of people. I was livid when strangers tried to push me around, and as a fifth grader, I was anxious that the bright, TV-like billboards were causing global warming because I believed they utilized too much electrical energy. Don’t quote me on this. I was 10 years old.
I’m 20 now, and one fine day this December, we are walking through Times Square, with the goal of seeing the tree glisten and the ice skaters glide at Rockefeller Center.
While getting trampled over by all kinds of people and listening to 10 different conversations at once, I suddenly just stopped. This used to be my utter breaking point, the moment of extreme stress and anxiety. But this time, I stand still and breathe, not moving for approximately 27 seconds. I lift my eyes to the charcoal sky, past the Toshiba 2017 ball-drop spot, above the buildings and the 50-foot tall TV screens that flash advertisements for New Year’s Eve. In this second, I realize that all of the tourist attractions and their unstoppable capitalism, glittering lights, and music; the pushing, shoving, trampling and every single other person here, simply do not matter. It is all entirely insignificant. None of it is worth making myself stressed, annoyed, and anxious.
In this instance of friction, I realize that my stress does not come from these facets of Times Square, but rather my perception of them. Instantly, I calm down. I treat these 20 seconds as an opportunity to breathe, regroup, focus on my energy, and even smile — exactly what I do when I meditate in the mornings.
This was my first time to the Big Apple since I began integrating a short meditation practice into my daily morning routine. Before meditation entered my life, I was not able to have this type of breathing exercise, happiness, perception, and realization come to me in moments of total insanity. And I really do believe that because I start my days with 5-10 minutes of simple calmness, steady breathing, and awareness now, I am able to return to that tranquility any time that I need to. Thanks to meditation, I now have a toolbox which I can utilize to calm myself down, have compassion, and maintain a clear, composed perspective when shit starts to hit the fan.
And no, this is not some hippie/voodoo thing that is unobtainable for you — this is me, a millenial college student with a passion for health, who’s recently discovered the power of meditating for five minutes every morning.
If you struggle with overeating, stressing out about little things, overworking yourself, anxiety at work, or literally anything else, I encourage you to try meditation (which legitimately means sitting still and allowing your brain to shut-up its chatter for a few minutes). If it has helped me, I can almost guarantee that it will help you, too.
Over the course of the past five months there have been a few profound ways in which meditation has impacted my life. I’m definitely still a beginner, but I have come to really look forward to my 5 minutes of this practice in the morning. They truly help me throughout the day — here’s how:
1.) I experience less stress in my daily life — especially when I’m in a crowd of people, or have a lot of work to get done. To add to this, I rarely stress/emotionally-eat anymore because I no longer have a reason to.
2.) I have an easier time centering myself when I feel unbalanced and off. Overall, my daily composure and temper have drastically improved.
3.) I’m less nervous before speaking in front of a group of people, or giving a presentation.
4.) I maintain a more well-rounded perspective. Throughout the day, I’m able to think clearly and calmly, which leads me to think with more compassion and understanding for others and myself.
5.) I am less anxious before tests — now, I know that breathing deeply just three times before looking at the test questions WORKS and helps me succeed on my exams.
6.) I have a clearer, more awake mind in the early morning. Instead of starting the mornings while looking at social media, texts, & emails on my phone, I now begin it with 5 minutes of tranquil awareness with my eyes closed.
7.) I have an easier time achieving my small and large goals. Sometimes, I’ll meditate just by focusing on breathing. Other times, though, I’ll meditate to a one-word mantra or compelling phrase, particularly when I want to accomplish something that I think I need a little of the Universe’s help with.