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How To Survive The Pandemic With Mindfulness And Meditation

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The Covid-19 pandemic has wounded us and significantly changed the fundamental functioning of our lives. From healthcare workers to the general public, we all have been overwhelmed by the demon of the virus. We have lost our equanimity by getting overwhelmed with stress, worries, uncertainty and anxiety. Patients with their pre-existing psychological or physical illnesses have become vulnerable as their illnesses have either been exacerbated by extra anxiety or with the Covid-19 infection.

Moreover, people suffering from substance abuse disorder coped by bringing their addictions back into their lives. Many people have been affected due to lost touch with their loved ones. Children and teenagers lost contact with their friends and relatives because schools and colleges remain closed since the inception of the pandemic and no one has been allowed to go outside because of the lockdown. They have lost their support structure that was previously provided by their educational institutions.

Old people have become vulnerable with their gripping fears and anxieties regarding their old age and by the situation of the external world. But with this showdown of brimming anxieties, this suffering world is trying to fine-tune itself with a sense of community, kindness and compassion. We know suffering is omnipresent since the inception of humankind. The Covid-19 pandemic has flooded us with suffering but it has also allowed us to become conscious, self-reflective and inward-looking. Through the practice of meditation, this objective can be accomplished and refined.

Meditation and mindfulness are often used interchangeably but there is a difference. Meditation is referred to the formal practice of calming the mind. Mindfulness is the practice of being in a non-judgmental awareness in the present moment. Both aim at grounding the mind in the present moment, but through a different approach. Meditation comes as an umbrella term under Mindfulness, which is a broader concept.

Meditation has been practised for ages by people from different religions and cultures. As a result, the practice of meditation has evolved as it has been influenced by different religions and their cultures. There are different styles of meditation such as mindfulness meditation, spiritual meditation, focused meditation, movement meditation, transcendental meditation and loving-kindness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation techniques help its practitioner to become fully aware of the present moment with a non-judgmental attitude. The practitioner observes their internal world and sees what is arising and what is falling away. In this manner, the practitioner develops the capability to observe their internal world consisting of their thoughts and feelings. When the practice matures with time and the practitioner becomes capable of recognising their thoughts and feelings, they eventually learn to sit with them and accept them as they are without passing any judgment.

In this way, the practitioner cultivates “awareness without judgment”, which is the fundamental goal of meditation, especially mindfulness meditation. The basic techniques of mindfulness meditation are practised by sitting in a comfortable room and starting to focus on one’s breath. For a newbie, spending a few minutes in a day can be extremely beneficial for practice. Some studies have shown that people who practise mindfulness for a few months or are long-term meditators have significantly increased activity in the brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex, cingulate cortex and hippocampus. The Amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fears, also starts showing decreased activity, which ultimately results in decreased anxiety and worry.

A woman takes part in a yoga class to learn meditation. For representation only. Image source: Katherine Hala/Flickr.

In today’s world, no one has to go up to the mountains to learn meditation because meditation apps are on the rise and freely available on the web. A massive number of meditation apps are available where you can mindfulness meditation. Some of these apps include Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer. People can learn to use these apps to support their meditation practice. Non-healthcare-based mindfulness centres are offering to teach meditation techniques at reasonable costs. There has been a large increase in the uptake of these classes by people from different cultural backgrounds.

The Covid-19 crisis has shown the world that change is being constant. By practising mindfulness meditation, we can help ourselves to effectively cope with this constant change. The crisis has presented unprecedented health challenges among every stratum of society, so meditation and mindfulness shall help us to confront these challenges with mindful, compassionate and self-loving behaviour. People can even enrol themselves in online sessions of MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) and MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) to learn mindfulness meditation and reap the benefits in their lives.

Survival skills should be taught and regularly practised to make them beneficial for patients under healthcare and also for the general public. We can bring peace to our lives through meditation and mindfulness, they shall help us to bring that light of awareness required to destroy the darkness of the Covid-19 epidemic, ultimately helping the people to survive and make this world a better place to live.

Featured image is representational.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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