Overworked doctors in Wuhan, China. Anxious academics in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Weary first responders in New England. In every corner of the globe, a growing number of people in the midst of these challenging times are discovering the gently transformative power of iRest Meditation. While some folks are cautiously gathering in small, socially distanced groups, far more often, meditation practice and instruction happens online.
What does that look like, exactly—and are there benefits to this emerging online connectivity? To find answers, we talked with five iRest teachers in different countries. They described a range of applications of iRest, along with techniques they use in these uncommon circumstances and trends they detect.
Take the tour below. Then join an online practice of your own.
Margaret Guerra Rojas | Caracas, Venezuela
"The anxiety produced by the pandemic crisis has highlighted the importance of creating meaningful connections during times of social distancing. Offering free meditations online allowed me to bring people from different parts of the world together in a way that reduced the health risks of loneliness and isolation. Our relationships have transcended the limitations of space and time. In this new form of container, we have held our uncertainty, sharing the same emotions and fears while accepting that the world is adjusting to a new reality, and understanding that it is perfectly okay to feel this way.
The human experience includes challenges as we navigate the unknown. The way a person reacts to their environment can inform us of their mental and emotional state. It makes a big difference when someone is willing to access a free resource and create a discipline around healing and mindfulness.
One of my favorite teachings of Richard Miller is when he says, 'We must take care of our own garden.' I knew tending my garden meant offering free daily meditations online at a time when the world needed it most."
Astrid van Wesenbeeck | Tienhoven (Pr. Utrecht), The Netherlands
"I saw great opportunities in offering online iRest meditation for my colleagues at the National Library. I thought some meditation with a focus on dropping into the body could be of help for our utterly academic organization.
So since March 22nd, I meet daily with a handful of colleagues—sometimes 20 sometimes 4—from all working areas and levels in the library. We sit or lie down for 30 minutes, and when we have some time left, we chat about what’s going on. These moments became quite special.
One colleague recently said: 'I am living alone, and these meditations give me the opportunity to be with others without having to talk about work. See some faces, look some people in the eye. It really helps in feeling socially engaged.'
I recently worked with the home space a bit more. For example: We start with looking around. Let the eyes go through the room, meet objects that are familiar or perhaps forgotten, connect with them, then rest attention on an object you love, gaze with it, explore the periphery of what you see and explore your feeling of being grounded when in connection with that object. I also experimented a bit more with integration of soft somatic movements, because I often hear people say that their bodies become sore after working at home for such a long period.
In the end, I always try to make these meditations as nourishing as possible, with a lot of time spending on sankalpa, BodySensing and BreathSensing. When people feel really bad I suggest we do a dyad, I think this offers more space to meet and greet difficult stuff. Also the dyad works perfectly online. It’s altogether very nourishing, for them and for me."
Sean Weir | Connecticut, United States
"Through a program called Mindful Responder, which I run with Alistair Sweeney, I share practices for veterans, first responders, and other underserved communities. In Connecticut, the Department of Veterans Affairs still has not given approval to return to in-person classes. Our program has just been approved for insurance telehealth programs, so our plan is to try the practices online with the clinicians and staff, and then, when approved, to share with veterans online. Soon, we hope to return to in-person classes.
In New England, most of the retreat centers and yoga studios such as Kripalu and Omega Institute are closed for in-person classes and retreats. Himalayan Institute in Pennsylvania is open, and I was able to spend sometime there recently sharing the practices with staff. They are open to hosting to veterans and first responders in small groups.
In places such as Vermont, we can run events in smaller numbers with safety guidelines. Alistair and I have been able to share the practices with folks who have attended our retreats for first responders."
Dr. Lauren Tober | Byron Bay, Australia
I've been teaching iRest Meditation online for several years now. My students are all over the world. One of the things I love about sharing meditation online is that students can practice from wherever they are in the world, at whatever time works for them. So the course suits people from all different walks of life, including nurses on shift work, parents with young children, people in corporate jobs, or those living in regional or remote areas who wouldn't otherwise have access to iRest. And they don't even need to get out of their pajamas if they don't want to (which can be handy, as after the class you can roll straight into bed!).
I joke, but actually the feedback I've received from my students is that it's a real bonus to be able to relax where they are after the meditation class. They don't need to get up or drive home after the meditation practice, they can stay exactly where they are. This is especially beneficial for those with sleep difficulties, as they can practice in the evening, and smoothly transition off to bed and then to sleep.
Jing Qian | Huntsville, Alabama, United States, and Wuhan, China
"In February 2020, when China was busily fighting coronavirus, Amy Liu contacted. Ms. Liu had a charitable project in China focused on supporting the frontline doctors and nurses trying to save people’s lives. They were very stressed from the devastating situation. She asked me if iRest would like to help.
I talked to iRest founder Dr. Richard Miller, who had a very quick response to offer help. After a few online meetings with Ms. Liu, we formed an iRest volunteer group to work with the charitable project. Under Dr. Miller’s guidance, we chose some iRest recordings to support Chinese communities. With another volunteer, I translated the recordings and then recorded again in Chinese language.
In March, the articles about iRest and recordings were ready to offer to the healthcare workers. iRest effectively helped the frontline doctors and nurses reduce their stress and helped them sleep better to continue their work. In order to help more Chinese people who were suffering from loss of family members and under significant stress, Ms. Liu put the recordings to the biggest audio platform in China, Himalaya APP. By September, the number of visits on the recordings was nearly 1 million clicks.
iRest is continuing to support the Chinese community today."