Zen and the Art of Car-horn Maintenance:
On the path to inner peace with our resident “fiery redhead”
By Emily Van Zandt
This may have been a setup. I harbor lingering doubt that being tasked with finding inner peace was not so much an assignment as an intervention of sorts put into motion by my co-workers.
After all, they’ve been around long enough to know the truth: I am a Type-A personality. I’m a worrier. A short-tempered redhead. A moody Scorpio. I get road rage, and I get hangry. As the Internet would say, I have no chill.
Full disclosure: I’ve seen a therapist. There’s been medication off and on. But generally, I’m told my anxiety is the kind of thing I can control through various behavior-modification techniques. High on that list? Meditation. Just sit still long enough, and your brain will shift out of overdrive.
Of course, for me, it’s always been something along the line of “sit still long enough, stop making lists in your head, stop going over the conversations you had today, and then you’ll feel sort of more relaxed than when you started.”
I’m much more accustomed to finding my inner peace in an after-work glass of wine and Netflix than I am examining my breath. But no one has found Zen by refusing to try something new. And so for seven days, I launched myself down the rocky road to peace.
After eliminating self-guided meditation (too much pressure) and listening to meditation podcasts in the car (too dangerous), a friend suggested something wholly 2015: a meditation app called Stop, Breathe & Think. Using my iPhone and some headphones, I could be on the path to successful meditation within five minutes.
The application encourages users to close their eyes and think about how they’re feeling before answering a set of questions on their mental, physical and emotional states. Then, boom—three or four short guided-meditation recordings. The app calculates what you need based on your responses, which in my case usually equates to something about mindful breathing. Users choose between three, five, 10 or 20 minutes of soothing lady voice encouraging them to find their center. In true app style, the program tracks your progress through stickers and stats like your total time meditating.
The best thing about SB&T is its flexibility. When you can carry a class around in your pocket, you make meditation fit your schedule. I could listen first thing in the morning or in my (parked) car over lunch. I could take my practice with me to the Arkansas House of Prayer or to a park.
But did I? Not usually. More often than not, I found the most convenient time for meditation came approximately 15 minutes before bed. But if the length of time it took for me to fall into a deep sleep is any indication, that soothing lady voice is on to something.
As it turns out, there’s nothing peaceful about yoga the first few times you try. Dropping into a by-donation Sunday class at Floating Lotus in Little Rock seemed like a good way to kick-start a week of Zen. But while our class instructor was very mellow and kind enough to smear some peppermint oil on my neck, I spent most of the hour wondering what “hip distance apart” means. And how are you supposed to breathe deeply while standing on one foot, anyway?
At the end of two sessions, I’d only found myself truly relaxed in Corpse Pose, which is exactly what it sounds like. Splayed out on a borrowed mat, I focused on my breath and found myself overwhelmed with gratitude that the class was over. The sessions felt more like exercise and less like a study in finding my center.
The problem here may have been the choice of class. There was no one to correct my posture or technique, leaving me in a constant state of panic. Think yoga is your path to enlightenment? Try a one-on-one session first.
At the risk of sounding like someone who just binge-watched Oprah reruns all weekend, I will say this: The power of positive thinking is real, y’all. The proof is in the way I managed to refrain from honking at Little Rock drivers for an entire week by breathing and muttering to myself a newly embraced mantra of “Not worth it.”
For the seven days of this inner-peace experiment, I made a conscious effort to stop when I felt my temper welling up. To turn around conversations that were sinking into the well of “life is terrible.” To take a break and breathe when panic set in over an unchecked to-do list.
Of course, it didn’t always work. My personality is my personality, and I wouldn’t expect (or want) it to do a complete 180. But positive thinking did fare better than all the Corpse Poses and bedtime meditation sessions in having a real influence on my day.
But I won’t count yoga and meditation out quite yet. As everyone’s mother would say, practice makes perfect-er. A week of meditation or a few classes of yoga may help you develop techniques for relaxing, but they won’t change your lifestyle. As it turns out, the road to inner peace isn’t a short one. But it’s worth it. If only to save your battered car horn from the effects of overuse.
For the budget-conscious: Barefoot Studio
New to the studio? Your first week of classes is gratis.
(Little Rock; barefootstudio.com)
For the recovering: Arkansas Yoga Center
The Center’s “gentle yoga” class is centered on a practice suitable for those recovering from an injury, dealing with joint pain or fatigue, or who are pregnant.
For one on one help: Sotox Yoga & Wellness Center
This Jonesboro studio only offers private and semi-private sessions, perfect for beginners.
For the early riser: Arkansas Yoga Collective
Indulge in the early morning hours with a daily 5:30 a.m. sunrise yoga class.
(Little Rock; arkansasyogacollective.com)
For the brave: McP Hot Yoga Studio
Tired of doing those yoga moves on the floor? At McP, you can learn to do your practice high in the air on aerial silks.
(Fort Smith; mcphotyogastudio.com)