Introduction: How to Mediate in the Stressful World of Art and Graduate School

(An Art Student's Reason for Meditation...)
Students in Art School are often given assignments where they have to "think outside of the box." This calls for solutions of contemporary works where the underlying meaning, discovery, or expression of the piece is given more value than the aesthetics. This kind of assignment calls for a great deal of thinking and stress. As a painter, I missed the act of simply painting and these school assignments often caused me much stress and anxiety.

The solution that I found to relieve this stress was meditating. This is meditating in the ways that we all think of, as it seems from the outside, sitting quietly. Another solution to the stress that I found was painting through meditation, which was of course doing my school assignments, but painting as an act of meditating.

This instructable with take you through the steps for meditating and entering a relaxing world that will bring you back to your inner self, a world that creates a balance in your life with the factors of your life that cause stress.

Step 1: Step 1: Writing Our Thoughts

A hard thing to do sometimes is to relieve your stress into a place outside of the safe haven within you. It may seem that giving your thoughts and your stresses a physicality may make them more real, and therefore make you more vulnerable. Usually the opposite is true. Meditation has many meanings and purposes. One of these purposes is to tuned down the volume of the chaotic thoughts that rush through your head and the worries that consume you. In order to do this however, you need to connect with yourself and understand where you are coming from into the meditation.

Take any loose sheet of paper, a pen, sit down comfortably, and start writing.

Don't be afraid to write too much. Understand that this is for you and no one else, and you can very well rip it up after if you'd like.

Write down anything that comes to mind, anything that is constantly on your mind, stresses with relationships, schoolwork, or other, and really... anything. Relieve these stresses.

Write the things that you appreciate in life as well.

Think of the stresses that you write to be leaving your body. Think of the things you appreciate and all other good things to be solidified in your writings.

These writings will hopefully feel relieving. Writing is often very therapeutic.

Step 2: Step 2: Understanding Meditation

It is important to understand that meditation is a process. It often happens that students feel meditation is either not for them or is not working for them. You do not need to dress as a monk or necessarily sit in an open field.

Anyone can meditate, because meditating is the act of entering the peace that lives inside of all of us. It is also the act of acknowledging our surroundings. Furthermore, it is the act of quieting our chaotic thoughts. For some of us, meditation will also help us understand past and present situations in our lives that stressfully effect our body's and our minds. Whatever the reason to meditate is, whatever the process is that we chose to take, mediation will enlighten you and enhance your life.

Step 3: Absorbing the World Around Us

Meditation is often about escaping to the place of peace that lives inside of us all. However, before that could occur, it is important to absorb the world around us. We must be aware of our surroundings and appreciate the nature in our environment.

On a college campus, this may be a little more difficult. There are an infinite number of distractions that can be listed. In this case, take in those distractions. See them as a whole, as a life of youth on a college campus. Observe the people playing sports, the students studying, the social contexts occurring, and see them not individually, but the world that is currently surrounding you.

Now that you have absorbed your surroundings, allow yourself to feel comfortable existing in the center of them. These surroundings are now background occurrences that remind you of where you are, but they sill simply exist while you take your during to find the peaceful place within you.

Step 4: Beginning Meditation

First, begin your meditation by finding a comfortable position. If you are inside, you might want to stack pillows on the floor. If you are outside, you may like to sit on the grass. It is suggested to sit on the ground with your legs crossed and back straight. Find a position that you will be able to last long in. Often times we are used to the slouching positions, ones that are bad for our backs and necks. Try to avoid those positions so that the blood will flow easy throughout your body and pain will be avoided.

Next, start the meditation:

Close your eyes.

Feel the temperature in the room or outside. If outside, feel the wind on your body, observe it, feel if it is strong or a light chill. We are often complaining about whether temperature is too cold or too hot. Try to decide what the temperature and the wind feels like to you, but decide this as an observation and not as a determinate of how you feel. If the weather is cold, take in the chill of the wind and feel it for what it is. Allow your mind to accept this coldness and allow your body to feel comfortable.

Listen to the sounds around you.
If you are outside, notice the routine noises: passing cars, a chirping bird, or the sound of the wind.
If you are inside, observe what sounds are there but so hidden that they are find to initially notice. These may be the sounds of your roommate taking a shower, the sound of the air conditioner, or even the construction outside your dormitory.

Step 5: Continuing the Meditation-it's Okay to Take Breaks.

The most common approach to meditation is a focus on your breathing. Focus on inhaling, and focus on exhaling. Breathe comfortably. Do not put stress on your breathing, simply observe it.

Observing your breathing is the act that is most mindless. For people with chaotic thoughts, this is where you want to be; mindless.

When you find your thoughts straying to their usual places, bring yourself back to your breathing. Realize that you are observing what is keeping you alive, and that all other chaotic occurrences and stresses would not have any presence if not for your breathing. What you are observing is your life, the air in your lungs.

Focusing on breathing is sometimes difficult to maintain. If so, focus on a sound that you originally noticed, an example being the air conditioner or the chirping birds.

Now we can lead to the body. When continuing to find your thoughts coming back to you, start to feel the weight of your hands and your feet without moving your body. Focus on your positioning.

Focus on the muscles that are in use right now in your body. Be thankful for them. Do not move them. Feel the weight of these muscles and feel their presence.

As you breathe, feel the air moving into your body and circulating to your muscles. Feel this circulation within you, and feel the center or core of your body.

Listen to your heart beating, try to enter this place. Enter it as the peaceful and mindless place within you, the place of your safe haven, the place of your inner self.

Step 6: Reflecting and Understanding

Slowly ease out of the meditation when ending. Open your eyes slowly. observe the environment around you. Continue with the deep breathing.

Now, write down any thoughts that you have about the meditation. Also, try to draw images that you may have seen during the meditation, even colors or shapes.

If you are in a group of people, it can be meaningful to talk about how you felt, physically and emotionally.

It is helpful to talk about concerns with the meditation as well. As as said earlier, it is extremely important to understand that meditation is a process. Do not think that you need to take yourself into a place without thoughts. It is extremely hard to reach that place. Meditation takes practice, patience, time, and commitment. it is most important that you feel healthy and refreshed afterwards.

Step 7: Meditative Music and Guidance

As college students, graduate students, or even simple inhabitants of New York City, lets just say, it is seemingly impossible to rid your mind entirely of all of your thoughts and immerse yourself into a state of complete silence.

Meditative music and audios are designed to guide you through the steps of meditation. There are a variety of different meditative audios. One CD of mind works to focus on the muscles of your body. One places the mind onto the things in life that they appreciate. Another guides the reader to feel the air and the subtle sounds around them, working on these sounds and focusing on them for meditation.

Three Audio's I recommend are:

Deepok Chopram
Dr. Bernie S. Siegel
Nubia Teixeira

Another option is to download rainforest, ocean, or other nature sounds. These will create soothing background sounds that foster the meditation.

Step 8: Meditative Painting

The meditation that have just practiced is the common practice of taking the necessary hour or so to step outside of the daily chaotic world and sit quietly, refreshing yourself, remember who you are in this crazy place.

However, meditation can also be attained through activities in that chaotic life.

Painting is one activity that can be extremely meditative. This kind of meditation is hard to describe in steps because it is personal, a different process for each individual. The ways that I attempt to paint meditatively are sometimes to copy images when I paint and focus strictly on that reference.

Focus is the key to meditation. When I paint images from references, I and focusing mindlessly on achieving those same looks. I find that this causes me less stress because I am not thinking about what I am painting, but rather enjoying the practice of painting and observing what I am looking at.

Another form of painting meditation for me is to paint abstractly without references or any solutions expected. In this practice, there is no known conclusion for the painting. In this process, I find it extremely relaxing to focus on the colors that I am using, the strokes of the brush, and the physical movement of my body during the actual act of painting.

Step 9: Meditating Throughout the Day

It is extremely important to understand that meditation is not something separate from your life. Taking an hour, a half hour, any time that works, to sit down and meditate, quietly connecting to your thoughts in private, is very refreshing. However, that does not mean that once that hour is over, the meditation is over. Often times students feel absorbed in the chaos of school. Even the simple daily routine of walking to class can be a much more relieving activity.

Meditation can be the act of meditating while also being a way of life.

Some helpful tips:

~When walking to class, observe the campus around you. Notice the greenery of the lawn, or the people walking passed. Take in the air and smell its scent, immersing yourself in the outdoor between classes.

~When studying, take short breaks. Sit back and relax. Compose yourself. Straighten your back. Think about the world at large and what this test means to you. Understanding that your school work is important, but by no means should it seem to consume your life.

~Appreciate your company. It is easy to get caught up in a thought, even during social occasion, but bring yourself back to your company whenever you can. Appreciate your true friends and your loving family members.

~Take deep breathes. Taking moments throughout the day to lean back and take these breathes will allow you those few seconds to absorb your surroundings and refresh yourself.

~Relax. Everything will be okay.