By MORGAN MANNS
Take a big deep breath in.
Just 30 seconds of this connection to your breath is considered meditation.
Katy Mercer, yoga instructor at Harmony Yoga in Findlay, discussed meditation, yoga and her plant-based diet during the first event in First Step’s 2018 Women’s Enrichment Series Monday evening, starting the event with a brief meditation session.
“You can turn anything into meditation,” she said. “Meditation is a form of mindfulness. You’re mindful of the food you eat, you’re mindful of the breaths you take, you’re mindful of what’s going on around you. If you take 30 seconds out of your day to breathe, that’s meditation.”
She explained many people believe meditation is simply having an empty mind; however, it’s taking those thoughts, labeling them as “to do” or “I’m hungry” and letting them float away in an effort to bring more balance into your life. This helps the mind to settle, according to Mercer.
“Then we have the thought, ‘Oh I’m meditating’ and then you get upset because you feel like you’re not meditating anymore, but breathing is meditating. Taking time to breathe is meditating. To bring silence to our never-ending thoughts,” she said, noting sometimes people use food or alcohol to bring that temporary silence. “You relax and you let it all go. You’re going to be different, but it’s going to be good. You’re going to feel better.”
Some benefits of meditating, according to Mercer, include better brain function, a stronger nervous system, a healthier immune system, living longer and being overall genuinely happy.
“You let all that stuff go and you realize your own true selves. You’re in an enlightened state,” she said.
Meditating is a form of yoga, which can be spiritual or physical. Mercer explained true yoga is going inward, connecting those breaths and taking the time to listen to the body.
The goal of yoga is not the pose or the handstand or to become flexible, Mercer said.
She continued, reciting a quote by Rachel Brathen, “The goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil the layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates. To make peace with who you are.”
She said the goal of yoga is to love you; to feel, rather than to accomplish.
“Yoga is a gift you give to the world,” she said. “It changes the way we show up in our lives and in everyone else’s. You realize the greatest way to bring happiness into our lives is to give that gift to other people. We change our perceptions of who we think we are and how we see other people.”
She continued to discuss yamas and niyamas, which represent a series of “right living” or ethical values within yoga. The first yama is ahimsa, translated as non-violence, not only to ourselves but to others as well as animals and the environment.
She said individuals are their own best friends and should not talk down to themselves, just as they should not talk down to others.
“It’s hard to shine a light on everyone. People come with their own baggage. We all have aversions to someone,” she said. “But if you see someone in the store who cuts you off down an aisle, instead, send blessings to them. True yoga is when we come to a place where we can sincerely wish somebody good that has hurt us.”
As she spoke, those in attendance enjoyed an array of vegan foods both homemade and bought from a store or restaurant. Mercer provided a variety of foods to show a vegan diet is one that sounds difficult to find foods for, but the items are out there.
She said she chose a plant-based diet as an ahimsa to animal life, being mindful of what she purchases from the store and what she puts in her body.
“I’m not telling anyone how to be or how to live. This is just my perception,” she assured.
When she took the journey to becoming a vegan roughly nine years ago, she said she took the time to learn about nutrition and what is good for the body and what the body needs to be healthy. She then answered any questions pertaining to the diet or the foods she provided.
Harmony Yoga is located at 1100 Croy Drive, Suite C in Findlay. For more information, contact Mercer at email@example.com or visit www.findlayharmonyyoga.com.
Created four years ago, the Women’s Enrichment Series is a sequence of monthly gatherings and learning play-dates geared toward taking individuals out of their normal routines to stretch their creative muscles and create a sense of community. Each event satisfies “a need to rest, recharge and nurture our souls.”
Originally created for women, the series has transformed to include activities for men and children as well.
“We are a healthy family resource center. We provide shelter for victims of domestic violence, that’s our primary thing, but we help families be healthier in general,” Terri Mercer, First Step executive director, said. “We want to reach into the community as more holistic.”
The 2018 Women’s Enrichment Series schedule includes:
• Pallet Painting at 6 p.m. May 21. Jess Lang will help guests through this design a sign event, creating signs customized to fit each individual. Cost is $25 if 10 or more people attend or $30 if less than 10 people attend.
• Slimeology at 6 p.m. June 11. Geared toward kids, fifth-grader Peyton Griffin will help other youngsters learn to make two different types of slime. This class is for children ages 5 and older. Cost is $10 and includes all supplies, recipe cards and a treat. Parents must stay on site to assist their children during the class.
• See You in the Funny Pages at 6 p.m. June 18. Patrick Lay, a cartoonist from northwest Ohio, will talk about comics as an art form, the history of comics and how they are made. Cost is $15.
• Learn to Play the Penny Whistle at 6 p.m. June 25. Learn the basics of playing the penny whistle and also learn about the etiquette of traditional Irish sessions. Cost is $20 or $30 with a penny whistle included.
• An Afternoon of Lavender at 3 p.m. July 9. Spend the summer afternoon in the garden of Ann Boyd, learning the best way for growing different varieties of lavender, the history of the herb, its health benefits and recipes that use it as well as make a lavender wand to take home. Cost is $25.
• The Jazz Age Tea at 1 p.m. July 23. Enjoy jazz music with history from the jazz era. Cost is $22.
• Cocktail Anyone? at 6 p.m. July 30. Learn how to think about and prepare classic and modern cocktails with Patrick Lay, such as muddling to stirring and shaking, necessary gadgets and glassware and more. Cost is $20. Participants must be 21 or older.
• Bare Bone Basics Ukulele Class at 6 p.m. Aug. 6. Self-taught, Don Schooner will share his story on how he came to the uke and will share tips with those in attendance, who will learn chords and practice strum patterns. Cost is $15.
• Circle of Friends Wreath at 3 p.m. Oct. 1. Compose a welcome fall wreath from fresh dried herbs and flowers. Cost is $25.
• Wizarding Afternoon Tea at 1 p.m. Oct. 8. Discover J.K. Rowling and how she created the world of Harry Potter. Cost is $22.
• Harry Potter Kids Tea at 6 p.m. Oct. 22. A hat sorting ceremony will kickoff this adventure. Youngsters will receive a magic wand to decorate with personal touches. Robes, hats and wands are encouraged. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Cost is $17.
• Heart Strings at 6 p.m. Oct. 29. This program is for those 12 and older to explore the banjo, guitar, mandolin, ukulele, violin and mountain dulcimer. Each instrument will be introduced by Tom Tobin with a brief history, basic chord progressions and techniques. Cost is $12.
• Gratitude Shadow Box Sampler at 6 p.m. Nov. 5. Worshop participants will create a 12-inch by 12-inch Thanksgiving-themed design in a fall color scheme incorporating various paper crafting trends, including rubber stamping, die cutting, dry embossing and dimensional techniques. Shadow boxes will be available for purchase for those who just starting their sampler collection. Cost is $15 or $25 with a frame.
Costs include a savory treat related to the event theme.
In addition, First Step will host the following community events in 2018: Artisan Market from 2-7 p.m. June 6; Soul Shine Blues Festival from 4-8 p.m. Sept. 22; Family Fun Day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 13; Giving Tuesday all day Nov. 27; and Spread the Warmth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 4-5.
First Step Healthy Family Resource Center, located at 1099 Columbus Ave., provides shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children, 24-hour support line, advocacy and outreach and support programs for men, women and children.
For more information, call 419-435-7300.