Catching the Horse: Meditating at UNO


Nicole Guillen, Managing Editor


I see nothing. My eyes have fallen into a dark void of shapes that want to be built, but can’t. I am able to hear everything around me, from the noise a light makes when it has been turned on too long, to the gentle tapping of a student’s foot as they nervously look through the requirements of a new class. I am awake, but I feel tired. My worries, my pain and my thoughts seem to flow out of my body with every exhale. What is this feeling? According to Hari Sharma, who wrote “Meditation: Process and Effects” from An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, I’m feeling the effects of “an increase in the regional cerebral blood flow in the frontal and anterior cingulate regions of the brain.”

Meditation instructor Elaine Agamy says, “You’re catching the lead horse.”

On Jan. 17, Agamy held a meditation session on the third floor of the Earl K. Long Library. I had no idea what to expect since my relationship with meditation was rocky at best. I arrived at a relaxed tableau of students and faculty members seated in a circle. We each shared our previous experiences with meditation: many had never tried it, while others, like me, just couldn’t get into the routine of self-meditating.

Agamy sought to highlight just how easy the concept of meditating was with a simple exercise of moving one’s big toe back and forth. With our eyes closed, we were instructed to only focus on the movement of our big toe. I found this to be simple yet oddly calming. Due to the fact that our attention was solely focused on the movement of our big toe, there was no room for other thoughts to creep in. That intense focus is what guides the capturing of the lead horse in a herd of thoughts and ultimately forces you to think clearly.

As we sat in the history-rich New Orleans Athletic Club where she teaches, Agamy makes it clear that “a creative and stable mind coupled with a sound body makes for an excellent foundation in yoga.”

Agamy has had almost five decades of experience as a yoga instructor and therapist. She was inspired by the community feeling brought on by the hippie movement at her alma mater, UNO. Though her early experiences as a student learning yoga were more “monkey see, monkey do”, she was amazed by the self-acceptance and calm nature she gained from engaging in yoga. Just to get the record straight, meditation is very much intertwined with yoga. As Agamy states, “50 percent is meditation and the other 50 percent is ethics or the things you should and shouldn’t do in hatha yoga (the physical practice of yoga)”. The reason yoga exercises are done is so that your body is comfortable enough to sit still for long periods of time when meditating. As a teacher here at UNO’s very own Recreational Center, she has the student in mind: she designed her class around the strengthening of the back, which she feels has “a lot to do with our culture of constant sitting and standing in our everyday lives”.

For those who are considering to take a yoga class, Agamy encourages it but urges that you first evaluate what kind of mind you have for physical activity. Do you like engaging in physical activity for the pure reason of strengthening muscles and moving your body or do you like using physical activity as a means to connect with more people?

“Yoga is more of a solitary practice,” Agamy confirms. As long as you’re comfortable with silence and have the desire for self-growth, this is the activity for you. To get started with meditation, Agamy suggests reading John Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living, which gives an in-depth explanation of the concept of mindfulness and how one can incorporate it into their life. Additionally, for those who have a busy schedule or simply don’t care for reading, Agamy highly recommends downloading the Mindspace app, which helps guide self-meditation.