Starting your meditation practice
The Oxford English dictionary’s definition of Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing ones awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting ones feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Now I don’t think that’s far off the mark, pretty good – 7 out of 10!
The OED definition of Meditation: focus ones mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.
Mmmm… I’m not so sure about this one, so now let’s look at what mediation means and see if we can’t do better than that
First of all ‘why meditate?’ Well for one it beats sitting about doing nothing, ha ha ha I thought I’d get the joke out of the way early!
There is now a lot of scientific proof of a whole host of positive things to come from having a meditation practice some of these are:
Helps you sleep
Lower blood pressure
Strengthens immune system
Helps intelligence and concentration
Greater sense of connection
Now if that’s true then why is everyone not doing it?
Here are some simple answers… the most common are:
Finding the time/space
It’s something new
To challenging (ego)
Monkey mind (difficult to concentrate)
Prefers the way things are (it’s for monks and hippies)
These are all common pitfalls to starting and maintaining a practice and I think often people try a method, don’t get on with it and give up. I know from my own experience that I never knew how many different methods there were! When most people think of meditation they presume it’s about sitting in the lotus position keeping silent or chanting ‘Om’ but what I have learned over the years is that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure there are wonderful meditations in a seated position just following the breath but there are also some amazing dancing, screaming, singing and shaking meditations all designed to get you to that place in you that was there before you were born and will still be there when you leave this physical body, you can call it oneness, consciousness, nirvana, moksha whatever you like – the words just get in the way.
Some helpful tips would be start small – maybe 5 mins a day, and see how you get on. After a week try 10 mins and so on until your practicing for 30 mins to an hour. Some people start too hard – meditating for an hour, that doesn’t work so they go down to 30 mins that’s still doesn’t work and all of a sudden they give up because nothing is happening. Be gentle with yourself and just notice your thoughts as you sit there, it can be quite alarming when you first start to watch your crazy monkey mind. Don’t start your practice (and that is what it is – practice) believing your going to just drop into this wonderful space and tune into the universe, that is maybe a bit too much to ask. What you may find is that the mind seems busier than normal, it’s not, it’s always been like that you’re just noticing it. Sometimes it can be very uncomfortable just to sit with yourself and what you may find is feelings and emotions rising to the surface as you become still, this is good but also challenging. In meditation you get what you get – in fact meditation happens to you when YOU get out of the way.
So my advice would be :
Start small and build up
Regular practice, set a time and stick to it
Try different methods until you find one that works for you
Maybe find a class or a teacher (I can recommend the Now Project)
Be kind to yourself, I’ve never met anyone who can’t meditate after some practice
Try to sit with whatever comes during meditation
Give it at least a month – don’t do it for a week and give up (you maybe pleasantly surprised)
Enjoy it this is your time out from the outside world
And finally, if you need any help or advice we are here to help.