CAPTION: Davis Shambhala Meditation Center, located in downtown Davis, is a place to go to de-stress and refocus.
By Sophia Young,
“Our thoughts are like a waterfall,” said Lyle Larson, a meditation instructor at the Davis Shambhala Center.
The mind is constantly working, noticing distractions, overthinking and stressing. But through mindfulness and meditation, practitioners can push beyond the waterfall of simple thoughts, focus on true emotion and think with clarity.
According to Joy Snipes, a meditation practitioner, meditation bridges the gap between the two hemispheres of the brain: the analytical side and the creative, intuitive side. When the two sides are connected, it brings more clarity and focus to the mind.
“It gets rid of the fog and you really can see things for how they are,” Snipes said.
Snipes found meditation when she was in community college to help her through a difficult time. She would find herself in frightening situations with no guidance to help her understand what was happening.
When she first started practicing meditation, she recalls feeling trapped in a void, which scared her. Because the sensation was unfamiliar at the time, she stopped practicing meditation.
Several years later, when Snipes was in labor with her first son, meditation “just came back to [her].”
She recited a mantra, a Sanskrit word that is constantly repeated along with deep breathing. “You’re just really giving your mind something to do,” Snipes said. “Our brain needs something to do, that’s just who we are, we’re humans.”
Davis High counselor Elizabeth Arroyo has also had experiences with a similar method of meditation, referred to as anchor words. This is essentially labeling your thoughts, emotions and sensations as they arise.
Arroyo finds this method particularly helpful while taking care of her toddler. “During his tantrums I will take deep breaths while labeling my feelings: ‘annoyed […] overwhelmed’.”
For students struggling with anxiety and stress, Cara Messmore, a manager of the Davis Joint Unified School District Mental Health and Wellness department, encourages mindfulness because it reduces cortisol levels, which reduces stress.
She recommends doing something as simple as taking four deep breaths to try to be back in the present. “You can allow your brain to get back to some stability and be able to think,” Messmore said.
She uses a method called box breathing, or square breathing. In this method, a person would inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and hold for four more seconds.
Messmore says that this method has changed her life. She incorporates it into her daily life to gather focus and become aware of her emotions. “You won’t even notice I’m doing it sometimes,” she said.
Jennifer Mullin, manager of DJUSD Mental Health and Wellness at , recommends the application Insight Timer. Snipes also recommends this app, and suggests its mantra and breathing meditation features.
Arroyo and Messmore recommend the Calm app for relaxation, but also advise going outside and connecting with nature.
Mullin goes on daily morning walks. “I try to listen to new sounds or feel the air on my skin and pay really close attention to that,” Mullin said.