Meditation. It has become a bit of a buzz word. A little trendy, and dare I say it “social media famous”. I was a little reluctant to write this post. I worried that, due to the world and his sister now apparently being meditation guru’s, it was just more noise. However….. Meditation is something that I am passionate about. It is as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth. I have practised meditation for over 20 years. I credit it for making a difference to my whole being. I will never, ever claim to be an expert or a guru. I have way to much respect for the masters who are truly qualified to be called that! But, I do get asked a lot for meditation tips. So, I thought I would share a little of my knowledge on meditation.
What is the point of meditation?
Despite what you may think, meditation is not about silencing the mind. It is not about eliminating all thoughts, sitting in silence on the edge of a mountain and chanting om. Although, I would blooming love that to be fair. Think of meditation, as sitting down and giving your mind a little r&r. Meditation is about connecting with this moment. The moment you are in at that time. Giving your self the space to lean in to yourself. This is not by having no thoughts. You will still have thoughts. But a good meditation practise helps you to be an observer of those thoughts. It allows you to accept that the thoughts are there, but to not let the negative ones live rent free in your head!
I like to think of my head as the ocean. My thoughts are the gentle lapping waves, rolling in and rolling out. Always there, as nature intends. My meditation will not stop those thoughts rolling in. But, I simply acknowledge they are there, then let them roll away again. Trying to stop the wave rolling in will just make it push its way in else where. You cannot stop the tide, you just accept.
The way we live now, is fast and furious. We want everything fast! Fast information, fast results. Unfortunately, we have come to view time not as the beautiful gift that it is. We see time now as a commodity that should only be traded for instant fixes. Instant results. Well my beauties, I have some bad news for you. Meditation is not the quick fix to your stressful life! It is called a meditation practise for a reason! You may have to try a few meditation techniques out to find your fit. More about that later!
A side note – The very fact that meditation has become so popular, shows that the world is trying to heal itself. People are stressed and looking for relief. If only we could all just slow down and live more simply eh?!
My Meditation journey
I used to stress and worry about things that took my energy. Even at 20, I was wise enough to know that worrying was of no benefit at all. I just did not have the knowledge to know how to stop! I had attended a few meditation sessions in Bali when I was there. I have spoken a little before about how Bali was life changing for me, and knew I was drawn to the way meditation seemed to unlock me. That is the only way I can think of describing it. In those meditation sessions, it was like unlocking the door to a room that was calm. I could see my thoughts through the window of the room, but they were not invading me. I wanted more of that. I wanted to be able to walk into that room whenever I needed to. I Hope that makes sense!
It wasn’t until I arrived back in the Uk though, that the situation to explore meditation more, presented itself. It was actually a chance meeting that introduced me fully to meditation and mindfulness. I was 22, and having just returned from my travelling, my Mum sent me to a holistic therapist called Jo, for a massage as a treat. Jo had a very strong interest in Eastern traditions, crystal healing, holistic and natural health. My treatments with her began to include lots of talk about mindfulness. Jo would talk about and share her meditation tips. I knew I had found the key to my room! My practise was born.
Fast forward through life. I still obviously have stress and worries. no one get’s to escape them in a normal life. However, I process and deal with them in a different way now. I can walk into my calm room at any time. Although I prefer a formal practise, if required, I can “pop into my room” sitting on a bus if I needed to! I always, without fail meditate in the morning. This can be for anything between 15 and 45 minutes. I also do an evening meditation if I am working through anything, or just feel the pull of my “room”. It is part of my daily life and I cannot imagine a time that I do not meditate. I try to go one meditation retreats when I can. Meditation is the gift I give myself every day.
Is Mindfulness the same as Meditation?
No. It is not. They are two different things, but often spoke about together. There is also a mindfulness meditation, (such as focusing on the breath), so they do overlap and are kinda linked!
Fun fact – mindfulness meditation is actually a Western adaption of meditation. It has its roots in the Buddhist Vipassana practise, but it is a western adaptation.
Just a quick note on mindfulness. It is in its simples term, being aware. As I have already mentioned, life is busy. Fast paced. Whether you work full/part time, have kids, run a home, or whatever your lifestyle is, I bet you that it always feels busy. Always manic. The craziness of our lives means we can often forget to just Be. We forget to connect with ourselves and our loved ones. We all see people walking around on their phones, oblivious to whats going on around them. Think of how many times you have been in a restaurant and half the people at the table are heads down, checking/on their phones, only half there mentally.
We can be too distracted and miss the joy of what goes on around us. If you have ever had a “moment of mindfulness”, (when the whole of your surroundings come sharply into focus, and you actually SEE what is around you, the beauty of your surroundings, everything seems clearer, you can smell and hear everything better), then you will understand what Im talking about and how amazing that is. Mindfulness in simple terms is paying full attention.
Mindfulness – it isnt a trick or a gimmick. Its being present in the moment. When Im with you, Im with you. Right now. Thats all. No more. No less.
Some Meditation techniques for beginners;
My daily meditation practise is right for me, and in truth, I would advise a daily practise to anyone. Nope, I am not weird, a bit woo woo or a throw back from the hippy-tree-hugging days of the 70’s. (although I would have probably loved that time) I know even now, despite it’s growing popularity, you say the word meditation to some, and they think a bunch of tie-dye clad, unwashed people sitting around chanting in an incense induced haze. People don’t get it, and I can understand that. But for me, it has been the absolute soundtrack accompanying my life.
There are so many various types of meditation. You may have to try a couple to see what fits. Some of the most popular are;
Primordial Sound Meditation
This type of meditation is a little different in that it tries to bring a more concentrated state. Rather than an “empty” state of other meditation styles. It is a chanting meditation, that focuses the concentration on the mantra. The mantra will be significant to the practise and you. Many teachers on youtube offer meditations of this type.
This is my preferred meditation, although I do sometimes switch it up! With its origins in Buddhism, Zen meditation could also be called a philosophy. It is about reaching an awareness of the mind, an enlightenment. It is usually a seated, silent meditation (as in, no chanting), and traditionally, practised with a “guru”. It was Zen meditation that I was introduced to in Bali, so perhaps that is why it feels the right fit for me.
We have already touched on this one. It is a very breath focused meditation, and brings awareness to the body. Often, this type of meditation involves working through the bodies 7 chakras, one at a time. It promotes total relaxation, so is perhaps why it is popular in the manic Western world! I do sometimes do a chakra meditation, especially if I feel I need to ground myself.
This meditation has its roots in Hinduism. Is is a mantra meditation, with the mantra being given usually by a guru or teacher. Again, lots of these meditations can be found on youtube. Deepak Chopra does some lovely ones.
Almost any style of meditation really, can be guided. If you struggle to find your way with meditation, guided is a great place to start. It is usually a background of beautiful, calming music, with a meditation teacher taking you through the meditation. It can involve visualisation, chanting mantra’s or simply calming talk! There is a gazillion ways that guided meditation can be done. I am not the biggest fan of guided, however, I know loads of people that LOVE it. You will find guided meditations anywhere. Youtube, podcasts, spotify, absolutely anywhere!
If you fancy looking into meditation and mindfulness a bit more, I have put some links to three of my favourite books below, that I think are great at helping get a better understanding. I would also recommend trying guided meditation if you just don’t know how to start. There are loads of fantastic apps available on your phone that could be a good starting block. “Headspace” is a great one to try.
The New Meditation Handbook – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
The Mindfulness Revolution – Various authors
Mindfulness For Life – Oli Doyle
My 8 Meditation tips
Find the Time – To start, find where you can set aside 5-10 minutes every day. That is all the time you need to start. It needs to be time that you know you will be uninterrupted, and not be distracted.
Routine – Meditation is called practise for a reason. try to set your time aside a similar time of day every day. I would strongly advise first thing in the morning, but that I appreciate that might not work for all!
Have a Space – This is really important one for me. I have an area in my house where I meditate. I walk into that room and it smells of my incense I burn. Instantly it is like my mind knows it is time to go within. Creating a space where you are comfortable, uninterrupted and secure is important.
Lower your expectation – As we have already discussed, in our fast paced lies we want instant! We want to sit in meditation for 5 minutes and feel all is right with the world. Not gonna happen! It can take time to find your groove, and find that connection to you. Be patient!
Observe – You are going to have thoughts. it may even feel like you are having a million more thoughts than normal when you start! That is fine. Just observe the thought, acknowledge it is there, and let it go.
Breath – The body responds by relaxing, when we take deep breaths. When you first sit in meditation, concentrate on taking big breaths in for 3, then breathing out slowly for 4. With each exhale, allow your body to relax more.
Be comfortable – You do not have to sit in the lotus position if this is not comfortable! You can sit in a chair with a backrest, or even lay down. You must be comfortable. As long as your “trunk” is fairly straight. You want those deep breaths to get the oxygen around the body unhindered!
Let go – Do not try to control. When you first start a meditation practise, it can be frustrating! You want to quiet your mind. You want to feel inner quiet. Do not attach yourself to the thoughts that flood in. Just let them flow away again and do not get frustrated. remember, its a meditation PRACTISE!
Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks everyday
Even if meditation isn’t your thing, I promise you, with every ounce of my being, that trying to be more mindful will be a good thing. Just try it, even for half an hour a day. Put the phone down. Go for a walk and just take in your surroundings. Recognise the beauty around you that nature has given us (Autumn walks being my absolute favourite) Don’t worry about trying to get an Instagram story, perfect picture, facebook check in. Don’t talk on the phone as you walk. Just. Be. Present. That in itself is a form of meditation!
I hope I have explained a little about mindfulness and meditation. I hope some of these meditation tips are of use! I promise that Im not sitting here “smudging” the room with sage, chanting. (Im actually sitting here with a lovely Hendricks Gin and Tonic, yum)
If you feel inspired to try it out, fab! Id love to hear if you try!