By Amy Ballin, LICSW, Ph.D.
In college, I first tried meditation with the hope that it would ease my stress. I went to a workshop and learned how to meditate. It seemed easy enough. I understood that all I had to do was repeat a word or phrase over and over again in my head and that was mediation. So, I started a meditation practice. After two weeks, I decided it did not work and never thought about meditation again until seven years ago when I attended a workshop at the Benson Henry Institute of Mind Body Medicine. It was at this workshop that I understood what did not work in my previous attempt and how meditation can be life altering.
After learning the science of how meditation changes cell structure and gene pathways and reading the research that reports dramatic changes in stress levels, increased focus, and improved health and relationships, I started meditating with a commitment to do it every day for at least ten minutes for a minimum of eight weeks before I judged it. I kept to my commitment but after about four months I stopped my daily mediation. What happened after that was amazing. I noticed a change in the way I responded to people and events. I was more on edge than I had been when I was practicing meditation. Things happened in my day that got me more upset. I was less able to let bad things go and move on. I went back to the Benson center and started my practice again. I am more patient with my children and husband and I feel overall better able to handle disappointments, anger from others and other stressful situations. In addition, some chronic health problems have disappeared. So I now know from first hand experience that the research is true.
My colleagues in the counseling department and I are introducing the practice of the relaxation response to Landmark students. We know that students with LBLD tend to have higher rates of anxiety compared to the typical education population. It is with this information along with the high level of anxiety that we see with our students that we are implementing this practice.
Recently I got a call from the nurse saying a child had a stomachache. He has been practicing meditation at home and wanted to come to my office to meditate. We did a ten-minute meditation. He went back to class and stayed in school for the rest of the day. The stomachache disappeared.
The science on the benefits of meditation is clear and from my own experiences and those of others that have tried it, it seems that a daily practice of the relaxation response is highly beneficial. We look forward to bringing this program to our students.