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Monday, April 15, 2024

Affordable meditations offered twice a week to help ease anxiety, suffering

Free and donation-based mantra meditation and kirtan classes bring together and uplift community members in Davis and Woodland


By ZOE SMITH — city@theaggie.org


On Jan. 10, 12 locals gathered at the Davis Community Church to participate in a weekly mantra and kirtan meditation hosted by married couple Anna Matthews and Sam Dreis. The two hold free and donation-based meditations at Davis Community Church every Wednesday from six to 7:30 p.m. The two also host a weekly vegetarian dinner and kirtan meditation at 5:30 p.m. at their house in Woodland every Sunday.

This particular mantra meditation is a series of chants in Sanskrit that praise divine Hindu deities. When these mantras are chanted in a group with music, it is called kirtan.

“It is recommended to focus one’s attention by resting your heart and mind upon transcendental mantras, which are different qualities or names of the Supreme,” Matthews said. “By resting in these healing sound vibrations, a person is able to experience relief from anxiety, an overactive mind, anger and fear. Not only that, but a person experiences their peaceful, loving nature and can gain confidence and a deeper understanding of themselves and others.”  

During the meditations, Matthews and Dreis lead the group by playing the guitar and ukulele while singing their chants to different melodies as the participants sing along. 

The schedule of these meditations is up on the website, Davis Meditation, where there is also an option to RSVP to different events. 

Two studies produced by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show the positive effects of kirtan when combatting depression and anxiety which showed notable improvement in participants who practiced these meditations regularly. 

“We may be interested in meditation because we want to sleep better or improve our focus, we may be experiencing a lot of stress from school or work,” Matthews said. “The good thing is that by practicing mantra meditation one is able to address these issues and so much more. One can cultivate spiritual love and thereby experience profound happiness that mundane material activities and experiences don’t offer.” 

Karina Veal, a recent graduate from UC Davis, has been attending the weekly mantra meditations at the community church since the summer of 2023. 

“[It makes me feel] so grounded and so clear,” Veal said. “Like I can get done what I want to get done in a very gentle and calm way. Anything I was worried about before is kind of gone. 

Veal said this type of meditation has helped them deal with recent grief in their life.

“My grandma passed away a couple of months ago, and then I was really sick with the flu and just some other heartbreaking stuff [happened] in my life,” Veals said. “I feel like the kirtan just opens you up a little bit and heals your heart in a way.”  

The mantra meditation consists of the participants sitting in a circle, getting comfortable, taking deep breaths and chanting along in a group. 

“When you surround yourself with like-minded people in this way, who are also chanting mantras, […] you feel camaraderie because you know that you’re all focusing on the solution together,” Matthews said. “And that’s a powerful message to send the world by gathering together and focusing upon the solution rather than getting together and blaming others, […] then we can go out in the world and see others through those eyes of love and see them as who they are. They also need love, they’re just like me.”

First-time meditation attendee Camille Romero talked about their experience with the session. 

 “At first, I felt kind of shy and apprehensive,” Romero said. “But towards the end, I started to remember the music lessons I got when I was in middle school […] I haven’t remembered that in a long time. So I felt very connected to that experience and also the experience we’re having.”

Romero is a part-time bus driver, UC Davis student and lab tech. Romero said that on top of their schedule, they want to make time for meditation now.

“I think the suggestion of implementing the meditation in the morning is really powerful,” Romero said. “Recently I’ve been having a lot of struggles with anxiety and depression and I’ve been using prayer in the morning to kind of ground my soul. So I think this would be nice, in addition to that.” 

Matthews has also been able to find relief from anxiety through mantra meditation and kirtan. 

“When I first began this process over 20 years ago, I experienced panic attacks a few times,” Matthews said. “It was really scary and I was always on edge, worrying that it might happen again. When I came across the chanting of mantras, my mind had something to focus on that gave it real rest and my heart began to find happiness. To this day, I have not experienced another panic attack because I practice regularly.”

Written By: Zoe Smith city@theaggie.org


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