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Get calm at the lab – an interview with my calm friend Joni..

November 24, 2013

(This article was recently posted on the lululemon lab’s website, in anticipation of a yoga & meditation class I’m leading tomorrow. Joni McKervey and I happily discuss meditation, fears, transformation and road rage.)

Even before the whistling screams of the last fireworks of Halloween had faded into silence, businesses all over Vancouver were stealthily hanging strings of lights and preparing their Christmas displays. And now that we’re well into November, reminders of the approaching season – and all the gifting and celebrating that await – are everywhere. But, for all the merriness, joy and good will of the winter holiday season, this time of year can also be one of incredible stress. For some it’s work, for others it’s family. Maybe you’re the only vegan in a family full of cheese-loving carnivores. Maybe you’ve been invited to too many parties on the same weekend. Everyone’s stress is different, but we all go through it.

Clara & Carolyn-113Which is why the Lab is hosting its Candlelight Yoga and Meditation workshop with Carolyn Budgell later this month. The workshop will create a space for everyone present to not only relax and destress in that hour, but to also acquire the tools to manage times of stress as they arise over the following weeks (or lifetime! Stress isn’t seasonal, am I right?)

The Lab recently sat down with Carolyn to talk about meditation, stress, and other cool stuff like Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, road rage and fruit cake.

Lab: How do you define meditation

Carolyn: I define meditation as… this is a hard one. I don’t even feel like I’m qualified, or ever would be qualified, to define it. For me, it’s a process towards finding space in my mind, space in my thoughts, space in what I think is reality. To try and hover between thoughts and expectations.

It’s also a process towards being present. For example, one way I practice often is, when I’m walking down the street I notice, “oh, I’m walking through leaves right now,” or “there’s a person approaching me, I’m going to look at this person.” It’s just constantly being present.

L: What does that give you? If meditation is a process toward these things, what do these things bring to your life?

C: More and more I try to think less about what it will give to me, and think about what it will give to my communication with others, or my experiences with others. We do need to think about ourselves a lot, but I feel like I’ve been through a lot of moments of self-growth and thinking about “I need this. I need that. I need to let go of these things, I need to give myself more of these things.” And now I’m thinking more about how will my life with others be enhanced, rather than how just my life will be enhanced.

L: What do you hear from others about what they see as barriers between them and meditating?

C: The biggest one is “not enough time.” People think they don’t have enough time. And it is kind of ironic because one of the things we are trying to change are these thought patterns, and people immediately fall into the thought pattern of “I think I don’t have enough time,” when it is a choice. This is why I praise different events, like the 21-day meditation challenge, anything that people can sign onto that helps them move through those barriers. A lot of these 20-day or 40-day challenges require only 5 minutes a day. And I think, even one minute a day is good. Any amount of time you spend working towards something is better than nothing. I get that from my mom.

Another barrier is, we can be so hard on ourselves when we start something and we can’t complete it, or distractions come in. That’s why it’s a practice, and why I call it a process. We’re not going to be perfect, we just keep trying and trying, and keep coming back. So that’s another barrier – working towards perfection. That is definitely not going to aid your process, trying to be perfect, trying to get it “right.”

L: Tell us about the event you’ll be leading at the Lab later this meditation

C: On November 25th, it’s a Monday night, we’ll be doing a meditation and yoga session by candlelight. Yoga and meditation go hand in hand. Some people try to jump into mediation and they find a lot of physical pain in their body. So, I like to tie them both together. We’ll be doing a bit of stretching, I’ll lead the group through a few short, guided meditations. I like to give people a taste of different styles of meditation – chanting is one form that we’ll try. A lot of yogis, and just people, love singing. It’s a really great way to get out of your thoughts, even if you’re bad at singing (laughs). We’ll do some chanting, we’ll do some focusing on the breath, maybe a meditation focusing on sounds [in the environment]. We’ll listen to some good music during the yoga part. Should be a good time!

L: This night is part of a holiday series, and has the intention to help people deal with the stress we all encounter in December due to the holidays etc. What kind of tips do you have for people who find themselves anxious or overwhelmed this season?

C: This is something that I’ll talk about more in the workshop, and I’ll post online on my blog about this as well. When it comes to holiday stress – whether it be family stress or work stress or whatever – there are tools that we can all use. Different tools work for different people. One thing, I’m sure we’ve all heard it a million times: stop and take a deep breath. It’s so much easier said than done.

Another thing you can do is phone a friend (laughs).

L: Is this Who Wants to be a Millionaire or meditating??

C: Lifeline, please! What’s my option right now? Flip out, or buy chocolate and calm down. Yeah, it’s kind of like, when you want to get back into a bad relationship and you call your friend to talk you out of it. Same thing with negative behaviour patterns: call your friends.

I do a lot of journaling, so I often stop and journal before I take something out on someone else. But that, again, has been a process of learning, figuring out that this tool really works for me.

There are also a lot of great online resources now, things that help you find yoga classes nearby, guided 5 minute meditations you can listen to. I like listening to classical music when I’m driving –

L: To help with your road rage?

C: (sighs) That’s something I haven’t quite mastered yet…

When I first became excited about the idea of transformation, realising the potential that I had to actually change how I acted in the world, I began every week with a different affirmation and I would repeat that affirmation in my head all week long. And I’ve talked with other students and meditators who find working with affirmations and mantras very helpful as well.

L: Right, so you could choose an affirmation that addresses your holiday anxiety.

C: Yeah, like “I love my family” or “I love fruit cake”

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