Four local options to try meditation, which can help fight stress, lower blood pressure and more
Larchmont resident Katie Sawyer is a busy working mom. A psychologist at the Larchmont Mamaroneck Community Counseling Center, Sawyer she sees a host of clients throughout the week. Like many working moms, she sets her alarm for the wee hours of the morning, so she has enough time to get herself and her three kids out the door.
But unlike some due at the office, her first order of business isn’t grabbing a shower or getting the coffee brewing: Instead, it’s a 20- to 40-minute daily meditation. She sits in her room, breathes deeply, and lets the quiet fill her mind.
For those first few moments of the morning—and as it turns out, most of the day—she’s at peace with her thoughts, whatever they may be.
As it turns out, Sawyer is among many Westchester and Rockland residents who have started to make meditation as much a part of their daily routine as a trip to the gym.
Given the benefits, who can blame them? According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression, even symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome.
People are also reaping mental and emotional rewards. As a result of meditation, Sawyer says, “I’m a happier person. I’m much less judgmental. I’m more compassionate with myself and others. I’m calmer.” Like many meditators, she feels more proactive than reactive. “I get to choose who I want to be.”
Like exercise, there are many forms of meditation and many places to try them out in the Lower Hudson Valley. We found four places that practice various forms of meditation—Mindfulness, Mindfulness Awareness, Transcendental, and a Meditation Combo—and while they all have their own missions and techniques, they all offer guided sessions and promise great physical and emotional rewards.
Mindfulness Meditation, 2BPresent, Larchmont
Cheryl Brause knows what it’s like to lead a stressful existence. Back in the 1990s, she worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, where she burnt out on long hours full of high-pressure deals. Needing a change, she went to NYU Law School and started a new demanding profession as a corporate litigator.
“I felt like I was on the fast train to somewhere, but I was missing things,” she recalls. Soon she became a new mom and traded the city for Larchmont. She laughs, “And I let that drive me crazy for a while.”
Needing an escape from her stay-at-home-mom routine, Brause took an interest in yoga, which introduced her to meditation. Along with yoga classes, Brause began attending meditation retreats and eventually trained to be a meditation teacher, doing one-on-one sessions by appointment and conducting workshops at schools and corporations. “I found it so rewarding, I felt the need to teach it,” she says.
This month, she opens a Mindfulness Meditation center in Larchmont, called 2BPresent, which basically defines her preferred style of meditation.
“Mindfulness is training yourself to be present in each moment and to be aware of what you’re experiencing as you experience it,” she says.
A common misconception is that the goal of mindfulness meditation is to be happy all the time, but that’s missing the point. “What you’re actually doing is learning to ride the waves of life without being overwhelmed by them. And it works. That’s the amazing part,” she says.
Get comfortable in her spacious meditation room, which is home to big windows, floor cushions, yoga mats, and chairs. Brause typically begins by leading everyone in an introduction, in which you’ll share your name and your previous meditation experience. Next, you’ll focus on your breathing, more specifically taking slow, deep breaths, concentrating on each one.
“By focusing your attention on your breath, you start to train your brain,” says Brause. “If you can’t control where your mind goes, you can’t go on to part two, which is to bring your focus to how it feels.” Brause will ask you to feel each breath, the intake, and the release and let your body really experience a reflex that most of us take for granted every day.
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Once you’ve gotten the hang of mindful breathing, Brause coaches the mindfulness of other daily habits. For example, she’ll lead you through an exercise on mindfulness eating. Here, you’ll eat more slowly than you ever have, so you can experience every single bite. For example, you might savor a single raisin. You’ll take bites of that one raisin, instead of throwing a handful in your mouth. You’ll chew that one raisin slowly, concentrating on the taste, the texture, the experience of the raisin. “You will experience that raisin in a whole new way,” says Brause.
As for Brause, meditation has taught her to slow down. “I was one of those people trying to find happiness in the next accomplishment or goal. Meditation has taught me to be present every day, to be kinder to myself, and to roll with the good and the bad,” she says. “At the end of my life, I won’t look back and say, ‘What happened?’ I’ll look back and say, ‘That was a great ride.’”
Details: 6-week meditation classes cost $300 per person; teen classes cost $500; at press time, the schedule hasn’t been set. Classes are about an hour and a half long. Contact 132 Larchmont Ave., Suite 209, Larchmont; Cheryl@2bpresent.com