It’s the time of year when the specter of final exams is close enough to create a cloud of visceral fear that trails behind students. Test anxiety can grip the most dedicated scholar and ruin the end result of their month-long efforts.
When I was studying for the bar exam, I hit a wall of fear. I graduated from law school with respectable grades, had a great job at the firm I wanted and was ready to start my career. I had climbed the mountain and was ready to begin my next adventure.
But one thing stood in my way.
The Bar Exam. Just typing those words still causes my heart to race a tiny bit. It is a cruel joke on aspiring lawyers. Endure 3 years of law school, and you’re still not done. Graduate and receive your J.D. degree.
And you’re still not a lawyer.
The Bar Exam is the final hurdle. The last summit to conquer before you can practice law. You have a bit over two months to study (at least in my state), and you don’t know if you passed until four months later. You have already started your legal career, and your future career depends on passing. The first time.
To say that law graduates studying for the bar are under a bit of pressure is such an understatement I won’t even try to come up with an appropriate analogy.
Taking exams and staying calm under stress is an art and a science. When I was studying for the bar exam, I didn’t know how to stay centered, mindful and focused. I somehow managed to pass (Thank God).
I wish I knew then what I know now.
How Mindfulness and Meditation Can Help You Focus
According to Jon Kabat-Zin, generally considered to be the “father” of mindfulness in the West,
Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as nonreactively, as non-judgmentally and open heartedly as possible.
When you practice being in the moment, then the next, and the next, your experience of the moment is at its peak. The past no longer exists, and the future has not yet arrived. All that is important is the here and now, which you experience without judgment.
Doesn’t that sound like a great way to live? Research studies have proven the physical, psychological and emotional benefits of mindfulness. Peace, calm, and compassion as just a few of the many ways that practicing mindfulness can change your life.
As a student, being mindful while you study can help you understand and remember the information. Setting the intention of focus, awareness, and memory before you study is the key. And the best way to do that is to listen to a guided meditation.
Meditation is one way to achieve mindfulness. By slowing down and watching your breath, you focus your attention on what is happening at this moment. Stress and anxiety cannot exist in this space. Your mind is clear, and when the meditation is over, that clarity will help you focus on the information you are learning.
It’s using your mind to improve your mind.
The Mindful Focus Meditation
Find a comfortable place to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap. Your back should be straight but loose. This meditation is less than 25 minutes, so give yourself about 30 minutes for the entire process. No interruptions (cell phones on mute, computer on mute) and no distractions.
Listen to this meditation in the morning as soon as you wake up. It will help you stay focused in class or when you are studying. If you listen again during the day or at night, it will ease anxiety and increase confidence in your ability to understand, remember and retain the information.
It’s just another step in the Heart Dance!