Mind over matter!
In an era where we've been expected to be ‘ever ready’, bombarded by comparisons on social media and challenged by opportunities for Personal Best’s we are now in a unique position to carve out something for us in these chaotic times.
Our chance to step off the world for a few minutes a day, and just BE. So often we end the day reeling from what we’ve managed to accomplish, immediately followed by a self critical mental list of those things we didn’t perhaps even start, which are now at the top of tomorrow’s list!
No wonder it becomes harder to wind down and recharge when we sleep. We're used to being on the go all the time. And adjusting to a different rhythm is not going to come overnight.
I have noticed that everyone comes to meditation from different places, and recently the definition has helpfully broadened from what was quite a strict practice which was almost impossible to achieve for most mortals (so failing, yet again, was on the cards unless you were fortunate) to something which is somewhat kinder to the soul, something which is less rigid and more conscious, the more holistic approach which includes mindfulness, yoga and even, shock horror, ‘moving’ meditation!
Here’s some tips for people who can’t avoid the buzz about meditation and are curious, as well as those for whom it is a familiar and welcome part of their life.
Be Kind to yourself. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. There’s lots of routes to the destination and you need to try them and see which works for you, there’s no end goal. If you gradually enter a calmer less anxious mindset, feel more balanced and are able to offer more mindful reaction to the unprecedented number of current stressors, then you are on the right track. We can’t change what happens to us, all we can do is change how we react to it.
You can meditate anywhere and whenever. However for people starting out, somewhere you feel safe and secure is usually more conducive and first thing and or last thing are often preferred initially. I found those times were best for me and helped me start the day more calm and sleep better at night.
Preparation. Make an effort to find a comfortable seat, or position on a cushion (anywhere you can be upright and not in discomfort basically) where you are not going to be distracted, the phone won’t go, there’s no additional stimuli. Sit in your spot, and give yourself permission to just be. Be compassionate towards yourself. Be kind. Be present.
Some people find a bell or similar can help them go into a new ‘zone’, and help prepare your mind for what is coming. I find it helpful to have an alarm set, I’ve heard good things about Insight Timer, a free app for your phone, and at first, aim for five minutes to start with and increase it from there as you see fit.
Getting started. You might want to pick some simple background instrumental music, there’s loads online, and allow yourself to breathe. And notice your breath. Counting breaths to ten, over and again is helpful for some people, others like to have their eyes open and let their gaze focus on something such as a candle or a crystal, or maybe you’d prefer to listen to guided meditations (which you can find online). A ‘body scan’ is a simple and useful way to enter a meditative state. Start at your toes and take your mind on a journey all the way up your body, checking for tension or pain and noticing everything about your body.
Warning! Be aware that your brain is not going to play ball, it is working against you here. So expect that and don’t fight it or feel annoyed about it. Simply move back to your chosen method of meditation. Your brain is geared up to think all the time, even when you are asleep, and it will fight you when you wish to tame it! Don’t judge, just shelve the idea and resume.
If you enjoy the support of others, consider joining an online community – Headspace and Breathworks are good, or find a regular session with virtual groups, where peer support can be very powerful and inclusive.
The less time you think you have for meditation, the more you need it! If you are feeling more anxious than usual this is the time where you need to make more time to meditate. It seems counter intuitive but I’ve found that a few minutes clearing your mind somehow resets it, and when you return to your tasks, something you had forgotten jumps into your mind, or previously unrealised solutions become evident which make everything work more smoothly.
It’s so easy to become reactive. A few minutes ‘taking time out’ can make all the difference to your productivity.
I use meditation to solve issues, simply ask the universe before the session for help. What I call ‘Ask it then park it’. No need to dwell on it, just carry on as usual. You may then find the solution presents itself at the end or soon after.
‘Moving meditation’. You can transform a shave, shampoo, shower, or bath in to a mindfulness practice by again using your senses as a way to focus your attention on what you’re doing, not what you’re thinking. This shift in focus helps your mind get quiet so you can hear what your inner wisdom is whispering to you. You can turn walk into a moving meditation, drop your attention in to your body and feel your weight transferring, your feet peeling off and then falling back down to the floor, your body moving through space. Walk slowly, staying present to every step, and drop the tendency to think about what will happen when you arrive.
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