When we take a holistic approach to our health we’re considering not only our body but our mind and soul as well. Meditation is a growing practice that has been (and continues to be) scientifically proven to aid in all three of those areas.

Jewelia Orlick is a meditation teacher who runs our meditation classes. She is the kind of person who’s warmth, positivity, and kindness you can hear in her voice alone. Jewelia is completely committed to her craft and looks to share her passion for meditation with others.

“To me, meditation is a very healing tool and it’s a tool to connect to the stillness and silence that will always live in you,” she explained.

Jewelia first took an interest in meditation when she was just 16 years old. After diving into (and loving) yoga, her intuition and curiosity kicked in to let her know that she should explore the mental aspects of these kinds of practices more. Studying and practicing meditation seemed like a natural next step.

First came an introduction to meditation workshop which only reinforced to Jewelia that this is something she really wanted to get into. She immediately fell in love with the practice and how powerful something as simple as sitting and breathing could be. This workshop also focused on self-discovery. Their teacher asked questions during their practice that had them look at how they were feeling, how they wanted to feel, and how they could get to know themselves better.

“It was just one of those things where I just sat down there and I knew I wanted to teach it in the future,” Jewelia said. “I didn’t know how or when but I just put it out there.”

She started with a meditation teacher training program in Ottawa that laid a solid foundation for her to build her practice on. Next, Jewelia traveled to California to take part in 200 hours of teacher training at the world’s first drop-in secular meditation studio, Unplug Meditation. Under the guidance of owner and meditation teacher, Suze Yalof Schwartz, and world-renowned meditation teacher, Davidji, Jewelia learned different meditation techniques and honed the art of instructing others in such a peaceful and calming environment. Jewelia’s goal is now to help the practice of meditation grow in Ottawa.

About two years after Jewelia started practicing meditation, one of her immediate family members was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is something she has since adjusted to but, understandably, it radically shifted her practice.

“It’s okay, it’s just part of my life now,” she said. “But that changed how important it [my practice] became to me. Not only because of the brain health but it was a tool to create some space in myself and face away from all the chaos I felt going on around me … it became a necessity and a non-negotiable to practice in my life.”

The benefits of meditation are not just fluff. Meditation is proven to not only increase happiness, focus, memory and optimism but more and more scientific studies are showing just how important it is for your brain health. (Jewelia credits Dan Harris’s book, 10% Happier, as a reference to learn more about the scientific evidence surrounding meditation.)

“It can actually change the structure of your brain,” Jewelia said. “They’ve done brain scans to prove it and it helps decrease depression, anxiety, loneliness so I just know that I wanted to share this tool because of how much it helped me.”

There is an existing stigma surrounding meditation that it is strictly related to religion or that it is for hippies when the reality is that everyone can benefit from it. Early forms of meditation are found in Taoism and Buddhism and while it is still a relevant practice for certain faiths today, meditation doesn’t have to be about religion at all.

In an effort to make meditation more approachable, these sorts of stigmas need to be erased. Jewelia feels that relating meditation to our everyday lives is a way to still respect tradition while encouraging people to use it as a tool. This is why in her classes at EPIC, she mixes it up between three of her favorite meditating techniques: mindfulness, mantra, and metta.

The mindfulness practice is simply paying attention to your breathing. Anytime you drift away to thoughts or sounds you remind yourself to come back to your breathing and it’s this drifting in and out flow, giving you the time to be still, relish the silence, and allow yourself to let go.

The term “Mantra” is actually a sanskrit word for “mind instrument” or “mind vehicle.” In this practice you choose a word or phrase that you would keep repeating to yourself. There are tons of sanskrit mantras you can choose from that are primarily used for their vibrational qualities but you can also choose to repeat an English mantra (which is typically what is used in the EPIC classes). Jewelia will help to guide you in choosing your mantra which can reflect on your day, what you’re hoping to feel in class or even something as big as your intentions for life.

Metta meditation channels love and kindness so you can send good vibes to the people in your life and around the world. So, you might start with repeating something like, “May I be happy” and then progress to “May those I love be happy” and “May all beings everywhere be happy.” Jewelia feels that gratitude is really a medicinal emotion that helps you to open your heart a little bit.

But ultimately, whatever you choose to focus on in your practice is up to you.

“It’s really important to me that it resonates to you,” Jewelia pointed out. “I don’t want you doing something you don’t like. There’s always options to shift it or change it around but that’s my main concern.”

There is always something to be gained from your meditation practice. Whether you’re a beginner or have been doing this for years, every day is different. In our lives things are in a constant state of change so whatever you’re feeling on the inside or whatever is going on around you, this is a practice that is designed to meet you where you’re at.

“You can’t be a bad meditator,” Jewelia clarified, laughing. “I come into a lot of classes and a lot of people who are first-timers will be like, ‘Oh I’m not good at sitting still, I have thoughts, does that mean im a bad meditator?’ and that’s not true at all! A big thing that’s a part of the meditation practice is that you’re going to have thoughts and that means you’re alive- that’s actually a really good thing!”

The point of meditation is to gradually slow down the physical aspects of the body so that eventually the brain starts to calm as well and your mind starts to quiet. But it’s okay for thoughts to creep in. You will still feel your heart rate slow down, your blood pressure will go down, and your breathing will become deeper.

If you’re looking for a way to better connect to yourself, to relieve stress, or just to try something new, meditation will have something to offer. With so many testimonials and research ongoing, it’s easy to learn from the experiences of others.

“Connecting to that little piece of silence and stillness within you can be the most healing thing and it’s something that is so simple to do. People overcomplicate it and think that it’s sometimes scary or woo-woo or too spiritual but when you get down to it, the proof is in the practice.”

At EPIC we pride ourselves on offering some of the absolute best holistic health services that Ottawa has to offer. Such a big part of this is because we have some of the greatest people working within our community! Join Jewelia for her Meditation class every Sunday at 10:30am.