“Take a deep breath in…and out…” I never thought I would be hearing these words coming out of Valentina’s mouth. Valentina, one of my closest friends, had set up a meditation zone in her bedroom. We are sitting on decorative pillows on her floor next to a candle,potpourri filled Buddha head and her meditation book, Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing your Soul.
I have tried meditation before, but I was really only taught to sit quietly and clear my mind. I am a 22-year-old college student trying to decide what to do with my life and how to graduate on time—I can’t simply “clear” my mind. Valentina turned on some soft piano music and sounds of running water, which surprisingly was extremely calming. She then read aloud an excerpt from the book, and I was amazed to hear that the story was called “Honor This Time of Change”, and centered on the transition between two stages of life. When Valentina read the words “we may not know where we’re going. It may not feel like our feet are on solid ground. They aren’t. We’re crossing a bridge to another part of our lives,” it was as if these words were meant just for us, as we struggle to discover what our places in the world will be next year.
Valentina fell silent, and we both became focused on wiping away all of our thoughts. At first I kept opening my eyes, looking at Valentina and then around the room. After a few minutes of trying to focus on my breath, I finally felt myself starting to relax. Instead of trying to erase all thoughts from my subconscious, I just thought of calming and happy thoughts—like swimming through a clear blue pool in the summer . When the chimes sound played from her phone, the time was up and we had officially meditated. I was a little bit sad that the time had flown by so fast.
Valentina told me that she started meditating because of her new job at Ritual Yoga studio in San Francisco. As soon as she had arrived for her first day, her boss said, “okay good you’re here—let’s meditate.” She thought to herself, “what do I do?” but sat down and made her best effort. “I didn’t really know what I was doing” Valentina explained. “I opened my eyes a bunch, looked at them to make sure I was doing it right until finally I just let myself stop being so self conscious. I finally got to look into my own head and see how many things were going through my brain. My first meditation session is when I first understood how to get rid of all of that.”
Although I did not feel like a meditation pro, I felt much calmer after we opened our eyes. I asked Valentina if she felt as though she has changed since starting regularly meditations, and her answer was an overwhelming “yes.” She explained: “If I’m really stressed out about something, I’ll sit down and say ‘I’m really busy and I’m really stressed out but meditating is going to help me be more productive in the long run.’ And afterward I feel so much better and so relaxed and productive. I realized that I can actively calm myself down.” After just one meditation session with Valentina, I felt more balanced and ready to focus than I have in a long time, and that is just what I needed.