At the start of 2020, Covid-19 was but a distant storm in a teacup. Today, this virus has become a clear and present threat to Malaysians — more than a thousand people are being treated, many are in ICU and our medical frontliners are fighting to stay ahead of the rate of infection.
Obeying the Movement Control Order and staying at home is the best way to flatten the curve, and it is in our collective interest to continue adhering to it. Maintaining good physical and mental health is imperative during this period, so the Options team spoke to a few experts to see how you can stay in good shape while stuck at home.
The MCO has resulted in significant changes to our lifestyle and affects our core as humans in the sense that it limits our social interactions. The uncertainty it creates can lead to stress — a fear of the unknown, a sense of isolation and the loss of control, which would trigger our fight or flight response. We may feel hopeless, helpless and anxious, which commonly manifests in irrational reactions to the smallest things. Meditation changes the focus of our awareness or attention, which tends to be centred on news, social media posts and messages on WhatsApp, in itself a vicious cycle of negativity that tends to amplify as it repeats. Look at meditation as a mental gym where we can train our “attention” muscle, so we can control where we place it, rather than be controlled by it.
Meditation is a practice of bringing your attention to the present moment — which is how life is meant to be lived — and that process allows your mind to rest, de-stress and gives you the choice to stop reacting to the stuff going on around you. You then start making decisions from a calmer, more considered and wider perspective. The mind and body are intimately connected and when your mind rests, your body will also rest and when your body rests, it will recover — you achieve homeostasis, your cells regenerate and your immunity strengthens.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what meditation is. Mostly, people think it is religious, which it is not. It is really just mental exercise. The meditation techniques I teach are actually purely mechanical and they do not require any belief — not even the belief that they work! People also tend to think that meditation is difficult because they cannot empty their minds. Well, emptying your mind is not what meditation achieves — it is about changing your relationship with your mind. You will always have thoughts and the practice of meditation will help you develop the habit of allowing these thoughts to move without identifying with them. Here is an analogy: You are a Porsche enthusiast who has never been in one and would love a ride. However, your job is simply to sit by the side of the highway and watch the cars go by. Meditation helps you stay by the side of that highway and make the choice to let each Porsche you see go by without hitching a ride in one.
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