What is Meditation?
Minds are moving things. They are designed to move. It’s good to recognise that. Our heads are constantly processing a lifetime of information derived from our memories, perceptions, experiences, sensory knowledge, beliefs and familiar understandings and thoughts.
All this, processed along with our day to day activities, makes for a busy chaotic mind. Left uninterrupted we can get duped and complicate our lives unnecessarily.
The Vedic texts talk of the chattering monkey mind.
Carl Jung says ‘the cat ignored becomes the tiger’
Exercise the mind.
Meditation exercises the moving mind in a deliberate way.
The aim is to tame the monkey mind. to give order to the chatter. To tame the tiger so to speak.
The exercise is to move the mind in a simpler way. To uncomplicated the movement for a short periods of time. To Stretch our mind beyond the jumble and relax it out of the chaos by allowing it to move but simply watching it.
Through meditation we can experience a quality or state of being called ‘pure presence’. A state of being to experience like Joy or Pain; Happy or sad; Hot or Cold; Chaos or Calm. A state of being that is available for everybody to feel calm steady and alert.
Meditation is Simple
Quite the opposite of trying to ignore or empty the mind – Meditation is more like trying to see all of the mind content. Then it becomes seen, familiar and known and can be better ordered or tamed.
Conceptually so simple but in practice it’s really difficult to do!
I regularly get sucked into a web of nonsense and thought tangents which get in the way of present watching and awareness. But that’s why I keep practicing because the more I use my mind in this way the stronger and more flexible it becomes – just like the muscles in my body.
And unlike exercising muscles, the benefits of meditation are often not immediately felt or understood which can make it difficult to justify the effort and practice – But is also the very reason why we need to keep trying.
It takes a lot of practice but in time it becomes easier and you’ll experience more and more benefits and it may well become the most delicious refreshment of your day.
Meditation tones creativity and intuition
Through regular meditation we gather insight and tap into an innate wisdom which is unique to us.
You really can’t learn it from anywhere else.
From that wisdom grows self-awareness and a greater understanding of our-self and others making us feel better, relate better, work better and live better.
Successful people Meditate! People who achieve their goals, satisfy their dreams and cope well with lifes ups and downs.
People who do yoga or mindfulness practices. People that see the bigger picture and the benefits of being more present.
People who respect humanity and feel connected to each other and all living things and promote respect to all life including our planet our space and beyond.
People who experience a strong energetic connection between their body and mind e.g. through sports, art, music, nature immersions or other sensory experiences.
People who measure their success by how content or balanced they feel in themselves as opposed to by reference to man made benchmarks such as wealth or social status.
People who struggle with their mental health. It’s now a recognised concept used in anti-stress and wellness campaigns and mental health support.
A broad spectrum of society from the corporate elite and political powerheads to kids in school, and people in prisons and hospitals.
Many religions recognise the value and virtues that come from meditation and meditation concepts have been incorporated into religions traditions such as Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.
It’s beginning to sound like everybody’s meditating these days!
Don’t miss out – Get involved – Train yourself to meditate.
The ultimate aim of meditation is to experience the quality of ‘pure presence’ or ‘pure awareness’ and everyone seems to be doing it – So why are we not living in a peaceful world of contentment, tolerance and calm?
Well here’s the thing – a daily practice of meditation is unlikely to achieve this aim. Perhaps fleetingly but generally not for the full practice – the mind is too conditioned, bombarded, bamboozled, limited, distracted etc to achieve extended periods of pure presence.
So why bother meditating?
Meditate to feel good
There are many benefits derived from the meditation process and regular meditators can expect any or all of the following BENEFITS :-
- Improved energy and immunity
- Reduced blood pressure and inflammation
- Increased memory, mental focus, cognition and creative thinking
Improved problem solving and decision making
- Improved mood, emotional intelligence, and resilience against pain or adversity
- Enhanced self esteem and self acceptance so reducing addictions, bad habits and emotional eating smoking drinking etc.
- Reduced anxiety, worry, and other negative feelings that pull us down and
- Better social skills.
So rather than meditating for world peace, why not start Meditating to improve physical and mental health and emotional wellness.
To better understand the mind
In order to tame the mind we should better understand how the mind works. So let me share this food for thought:
It’s been suggested that conscious thought and feeling accounts for only 5% of brain activity leaving the sub-conscious proportion of our mind in a position to dominate.
Since the subconscious mind stores a lifetime of experiences, perceptions and unknowns with all their related thoughts and feelings its likely to have a strong influence on our responses, reactions, desires and behaviours.
This busy mind is most definitely worth some attention and meditation gives it just that.
Through meditation we can observing our sub-conscious mind and with practice we can begin to realise the web of patterns at play – recognising patterns that support us and patterns that hold us back.
From that insight we can recognise how/when/why we react or motivate ourselves based on these hidden thoughts and feelings.
From that insight we regain some power from our sub-conscious distortia. We can prevent our subconscious from distorting our reality because the theme becomes known to you leaving your subconscious powerless against your increased conscious awareness.
From that insight we gain insight into our triggers, our behaviours and can take measured steps to be less reactive. Choosing how to respond or behave in a wiser way.
How to Meditate
There are many approaches to meditation. Largely the techniques are derived from Yoga, Buddhism, Chinese Daoism. They all have a common goal which is to experience the qualities of being present by substituting the jumbled flow of mental activity with mindful awareness.
Styles of meditation are many. Zen, Vipassana, Trataka, Transcendental, Taoist, Qigong, Nidra, Mantra, Metta, Kundalini, Chakra and many more.
There are many tools and techniques to aid the meditation experience. Breathing exercises, focussed attention, sincere intention, visualisations, use of Mantra (words), Yantra (geometrical shapes) and more.
So familiarise yourself with stillness and focussed concentration and try different methods of meditation. Get started and begin a simple practice. The more we practice the easier it becomes and the more you will begin to feel the benefits.
It’s a very individual exercise so you can chose the methods that work best for you. I’ve been meditating for over 10 years and still play with techniques and styles. I think it’s important to find your own methods but here’s some tips to get you started.
Meditation techniques for Beginners
1. Establish a routine yoga practice.
An optimum way to start meditating is to tag onto your at home yoga practice. If you don’t have a routine yoga practice now’s the time to start.
The tools of yoga are designed to support the practice of meditation (dhyana). That means we can meditate more efficiently with the combined effects of movement (asana) breath control (pranayama) focussed concentration (dharana) control of the senses (pratyahara) and integrity and positive intention. In time you can meditate anytime any place but to start with I recommend combining it with a yoga practice.
Allocate a time and place where you can do yoga. Be focussed and undisturbed with an intention to separate yourself from distractions for at least 20 mins of yoga. Add to that the intention to practice stillness for 5-10 minutes.
2. Practice sitting still.
Take a relaxed, seated position.
Basically sit however you like. On a chair or on floor. Legs can be crossed or perhaps you prefer to be on your knees.
The key is to try and keep the spine long so you’re in a balanced shape with good posture and minimum muscle strain. Lotus position is not necessary. Meditators sit in lotus only to increase the challenge and the experience.
To be honest one of the biggest challenges for new meditators is the ability to be comfortably seated for a length of time with painless good posture. So start on a chair or on a floor cushion with hips raised above knees and legs relaxed. You can back up against a wall to ease backache.
3. Establish your anchor
Choose an object to focus your attention.
This object will be your anchor to keep you present and undistracted. Focus your attention on the anchor to begin and end your meditation practice.
If you are visual, imagine an image or a colour or gaze at an object or candle flame.
If you are sensitive, choose a sensation in the body or an area of the body like the solar plexus or place between the eyebrows.
If you are intellectual, follow the motion of the breath – each inhale and exhale.
This focus will be your anchor while you exercise your mind. If you feel distracted or find yourself getting lost in a current of mind-content during your meditation simply return your focus to your anchor.
4. Establish your skills in conscious awareness
Practice being still and observing all that comes through your 5 senses.
Smells, tastes, sounds, vision, touch….
Sit with each moment and no more. Let your thoughts and feelings come and go without participation. Simply being with your thoughts, feelings, breath, sensations and sounds.
Simply let everything be as it is while you observe and notice the more subtle activities of the mind.
You may find it difficult to remain on the sideline of the active mind for a period of time.
Know that it is natural to dive in and be swept along in a current of thoughts and tangents.
When it happens, don’t panic, go with it and just return to your anchor and try again.
Accept what’s been noticed without trying to figure it out. Stay on the sidelines and be the observer of your thoughts.
This is akin to Zen meditation and is brilliant to practice any time any place.
For a while it will probably go something like this – sitting – watching – noticing – lost in a web of tangents – noticing – returning sitting – watching – lost in thought – noticing – returning – lost – returning, lost, noticing…… and so it goes on.
5. Continue the practice!
Remember it is an exercise.
Follow these steps and try to meditate for at least 5 minutes. Set a timer then begin. Continue until the timer sounds.
Do it every other day for 2 weeks then review your efforts.
Repeat if necessary or progress to 10 minutes every other day for 2 weeks then review.
Repeat if necessary or progress to 15 mins every other day for 2 weeks
Then contact Bec for guidance…..
Floor cushions are great to help you be comfortable and sit still for longer. Any cushion will do to keep you propped up and at ease although it is nice to have a dedicated cushion to meditate on. There are many meditation cushions available in shops or online. Often made from organic or recycled materials like buckwheat husks.
There are also many apps these days to help support you in a routine practice. Like a personal trainer for your mind exercises.
Head Space is particularly good if you’re new to meditating. It’s got a structured routine approach and cool cartoons and visual aids. Sign up for Free for a basic 10 mins a day content or subscribe for access to more.
Insight Timer is great if you have established a routine and need less structured support. Use it to select a cool meditation timer gong or chime. For longer periods use the split timers (eg for 30 mins meditation set it with split timer to gong every 5 mins). There is also access to many guided meditations if you’re feeling like going deeper.
And there are many guided meditations available online for you to tap into.
Here are some I recorded to get you started.