Meditation is something that I can first-hand say, is absolutely life-changing. And I don’t throw around the words “life changing” very often, FYI.
Many people associate “meditation” with bald-headed monks in orange robes. Just to quickly clear this up – I’d like to put it out there that I practice meditation, and I have hair and am very much into regular clothes.
So what exactly does meditation do?
Or rather – let me give you a very clear example of how meditation works for me (AND HAS CHANGED MY LIFE)
I consider myself a rather “creative” being. Apart from being a yoga teacher, I run a graphic design and illustration business indieBerries and I have various online stores selling stationery. Every day, I have different requests from clients – asking for different designs, illustrations, art work and mock ups. Putting yourself ‘out there’ creatively and offering up your work to others can be daunting, no matter how big you are in the business or how long you have been doing it. Below is an illustration of a “typical” kind of creative exchange that I have been known to experience in the past –
“I must have mis-read the brief.”
“I have no idea what I’m doing”
“What I’ve charged her is way too much”
“I’m not good enough for this job”
“I should never have accepted this brief”
“I must just give her everything for free now”
“She HATES it”
Exchanges like these are not limited to people in the creative fields.
What I’m alluding to is the constant stream of worry, anxiety, thoughts, mental chatter-boxing that goes on in our brains on a DAILY basis.
REGARDLESS OF WHO YOU ARE.
These thoughts don’t necessarily have to be filled with worry or anxiety – it could merely be the barrage of things you have to do/ the shopping list you’re writing in your head/ the thing you should have said in the meeting/ the un-ending analysing of the convo with a particular ‘love interest’/the ‘should-haves’ and the ‘if-only’s.
More often than not though, the wild stories we construct are completely self-destructive.
(note: extreme case of mental activity pictured above)
Let me first say that there is no way to STOP these thoughts. (Sorry buddy).
It’s part of the feature of having a mind. (Kind of a package deal)
Yep, you’re stuck with them.
The good news is – meditation can provide (in my best analogy for it) a kind of uber force-field around you – that gives you a little bit of space between you, and your thoughts –
It’s kind of like having a Dementor constantly floating around you – but the good kind. The warm, happy, bright and shiny kind.
Having this floating little glow around you, a glowing bubble if you like, gives you a bit of space between you and your thoughts. The thoughts will still reach you (make no mistake) but – while they are permeating the glowing Dementor force field, it gives you that extra time to notice the thought, process the thought and then act in a way that is proactive, calm and alert. Rather than:
“THOUGHT! AAH! REACTION!”
The beauty also of meditation, is that with a regular practice, the thoughts themselves seem to spread out a little more and your whole brain becomes a little less crowded.
With your thoughts having more space between them all , it is not to be confused with “air-headedness” – meditation merely gives you the opportunity to process each thought as it comes and to decide which are important, eg:
“What do I need to remember for my day tomorrow” and those which are not “Should I have sent that text message? I probably should have waited. No, it was right to send it now. No, I definitely should have waited” and to deal with them accordingly.
Generally, you just function better as a human being.
SO, HOW DO YOU MEDITATE?
The most challenging thing about meditation is the idea of not doing “something”. In our lives we are constantly on the go, doing stuff, making stuff, working on stuff. Meditation is just sitting and observing – without judgement, without analysing, without doing.
- You can start meditating by sitting comfortably in a chair (or if you’re going “FULL HIPPIE” you can sit on the floor)
- Gently close your eyes (although, read through the rest of the instructions before you do that. ha)
- With the eyes closed, in a comfortable seated position – start to become aware of the physical sensations of the body connecting you to either the chair you are sitting on, or ground beneath you. Notice the weight of the body, a sensation of feeling grounded. Stay a few moments noticing this- allow the body to soften, whilst maintaining a sense of alertness.
- Start to observe the breath. Notice every inhalation and every exhalation. Is the breath slow, deep and steady, or is it short, sharp and erratic? Count the breaths 1 to 10 and repeat.
- When you notice that your thoughts have wandered, gently, guide the mind back and allow it to rest on the breath. Every time, you notice that your thoughts have wandered, gently guide it back to the breath.
It sounds relatively simple – but, given our fast-paced always on the go minds – this can be extremely challenging- especially starting out! Set your timer for 5 – 10 minutes and give it a go!
One of the MOST useful apps I have found for meditation is the Headspace app. Headspace is a guided meditation app and they have taken this “mystical” thing of meditation and turned it into something that is modern, easily accessible and fun to use. Plus – they have a whole host of cute animations – which OBVIOUSLY, I’m a fan of. haha (Note: this is not a sponsored post).
Two of the (many) great things that Headspace offers is the ability to set how long you want to meditate for ranging from 10 minutes (or SOS bundles of 3 minutes) all the way up to 60 minutes. I also love that the Headspace app, has the option to include meditation “packs” that are geared towards certain topics for example, change and appreciation or focus and creativity. You can choose to focus on health, happiness, work or relationships. You can sign up for ten days free (my guess is though, that once you experience the goodness, you’ll sign up for the whole shebang). Headspace also has great “practical” meditation segments like a mediation for falling asleep (and if you know my partly hysterical/partly HORRIFIC ACCOUNTS of insomnia – you will know how great I think that is!)
I absolutely love this app (I am on my second yearly subscription)
and in fact, I am actually GENUINELY surprised that they have not called me up to hire me as their brand ambassador – because I literally blab off about them to anyone with half an ear.
Uh, Andy, hello?
Another good resource is the book Sane New World by the comedian Ruby Wax. The entire book is based on mindfulness/meditation and gives a (comedic) overview of how it works scientifically in the brain. Which areas of the brain are affected by which hormones, which hormones create which reactions and how it all works (or doesn’t work) together to form our busy little minds.
For anyone who is interested in meditation, I’d really encourage you to give it a go – it will literally change your world.
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You may also enjoy this post: “What is yoga?”
In other news, I still have some places left for the ‘Bandhas + Bubbles’ yoga brunch in Wimbledon on 13th June as well as a few spots left in the 6 week intro to Yoga course starting June 1.
Get in touch if you’d like to book a spot!