I completed a Meditation and Mindfulness Teacher Training course at the weekend and am the proud owner of a new certificate from Awareness is Freedom. To celebrate this and to start sharing the benefits of this wonderful practice with you I have decided to put together a Meditation Month. During this month I will be putting together blogs on what you may need to know when embarking on a meditation practice. If you do have any particular questions you would like answered or observations you’d like to share please send me a message via the website and I will do my best to cover it.
Now I know for me one of the greatest challenges was sitting still. The first time I tried meditating alone after a lunch time workshop I set the timer on the kitchen clock which I checked about 40 times in 5 minutes, certain that the ten minutes must be up by now. Needless to say this particular adventure in meditation didn’t last long.
So how do I find myself now, a keen proponent of meditation and mindfulness, so in love with the practice that I want to teach others how to do it and make it part of their lives? The simple answer is that I found a way that works for me, that doesn’t leave me desperate to check the time every few seconds and over time I have become more comfortable with resting in awareness with no external distractions.
Our modern world is a busy one. There is information about any subject you care to find out about from theoretical physics to neuroscience, the structure of the earth’s crust to the lives of the early Egyptians. There is music available for streaming from various sources as well as a myriad of radio stations playing everything from jazz, folk, pop, rock to classical or experimental. The television no longer stops in the evening and if there is nothing on we want to watch we can download something or start a box set. We need never be without distraction.
Work email and location independence have given us some freedom from offices but mean that we can be contacted wherever we are. On top of that there is an expectation that any of us with children are involved in “active parenting” rather than the benign neglect most of us enjoyed in our youth. Screen time is important to understand a digital world but must be limited for health benefits. There are constant reminders that we need to eat properly, cooking from scratch where possible. We must look after our planet, take better care of our litter and what happens to it. Plus we must make sure we move our bodies with regular exercise that is no longer simply happening as part of our daily lives.
This means that we are rarely still or silent with ourselves for any period of time, and so we lose touch with what we want and who we want to be, the kind of life we want to live, as we busy ourselves with all the doing we cram into our days. But humans need a balance. We need activity but we also need rest. We crave some time as human beings not human doings, not that we always recognise it as such. And then when we try to sit or spend some quiet time we can’t relax. Our bodies and minds, high on stress hormones and dopamine search for something to do. This can be extremely uncomfortable so how do we give ourselves a chance of a little peace?
There is a picture of a classic meditator that most people will have in their minds. That of a calm person, maybe dressed in the orange robes of the buddhist monks or white pyjamas, sitting cross legged, eyes closed, hands on their knees, smiling beatifically as they drift away. This is a difficult image for us to become and so we think meditation isn’t for us. I certainly felt that way as I struggle to sit comfortably unsupported for any length of time. So here are seven ways I became my own type of meditator, a few may work for you.
- Lie Down: There is no law that you have to meditate sitting up, cross legged or otherwise. True it is more likely you may fall asleep but if you lie in balanced resting pose with your feet on the floor, hip width apart, head supported to keep your neck elongated it is less likely. This is my favourite way to meditate.
- Sit on a Chair: If you are squirming or in pain then you will not enjoy meditating. I like sitting on a comfortable chair that supports my neck and back, with my legs crossed (I’m very short so my feet rarely touch the floor). This way I can focus on the meditation.
- Use Technology: I use the Headspace app which has a whole selection of guided meditations on there and it deals with the timing so I don’t have to think about when it will end, I receive a reminder to open my eyes once the time is up.
- Walk: Walking in nature without focusing on your phone or music can be a good time to pay attention to yourself and how you feel in that moment. You may want to have some music on that is not too distracting, there are loads of meditation tracks available or I quite like some calming classical music that is enough to engage my conscious mind without making it chatter or try to join in the song!
- Yoga: I love yoga. I have been a keen yoga practitioner for over 16 years but that is not because I am physically gifted or particularly bendy. I am not, though I am stronger and more flexible than when I started. What I love about yoga is that I can go to class and through the poses (asanas) I can focus on my body and my breath, how I feel, where I have space and where I have something to let go.
- Dance: Dancing and moving with your body can be a highly joyful experience and can put you into a state where you are not thinking or acting, simply being with yourself and the music moving as you see fit in the moment. There are a number of dance classes available like 5 Rhythms or you could just put some music on in the peace of your own house and move your body where it wants to go.
- Daily Activity: There are plenty of things we do out of habit: eating, brushing teeth, showering, making meals, dressing and undressing. These moments can be opportunities to pay attention to how we feel, how our breath is moving, what the process is like for us and it is an easy way to fit it into your day.
I hope that was helpful. Please let me know how you are getting on and what other guidance you might like. Xx