Most people who’ve never come across meditation believe it is about sitting cross legged on the floor for hours on end and ‘trying not to think’. Well, certainly with lots of practise we can sit comfortably still for long periods and we can suspend thoughts for short periods.
However; learning and practising meditation is not about being able to this. There are many hundreds, if not thousands of different ways to meditate, and finding what works for you and your daily routine is the initial goal.
I like to translate ‘meditation’ as ‘concentration’. We could all do with a little more concentration, right? I challenge anyone to take a moment of quiet, sitting or standing comfortably, focusing solely on your breath in and out of the nose. How many people can take 10 full deep breaths before the mind has wandered away? I know it usually only takes 2-3 breaths for most people before our concentration waivers.
The point is: If we can concentrate more, we succumb less to distraction, boredom, irritability and that frustrating inability to focus.
We can meditate reading a book, we meditate whilst walking, whist listening to or playing music.
Meditation can be found in exercise, or in cooking! It can be found in the work we do day-to-day, perhaps typing on a computer in an office (as I type I’m reminded to focus on my breath, through the nose. Natural, normal breath, feeling it in the belly, meditating!).
This is all well and good, of course. But we very little connect to the breath when we are engaged in our habitual, routine lives. In order to bring a bit of awareness and concentration to the things we are usually on autopilot for, we need to create a daily ‘meditation practice’. Why is it a practice? Because we are literally practising concentration for when we are out and about doing our normal things. The benefits of this are endless; not least that meditation has been scientifically proven to build more grey matter in the brain.
‘Grey matter contains most of the brain’s neuronal cell bodies. The grey matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control’. Wikipedia.
Creating a daily practice takes time and commitment. There’s no point committing yourself to an hour every morning as it takes time to build up that concentration. If we have unreachable goals we tend to get disheartened quickly and give up the practise. We need to start small, 5 or 10 minutes is a good start and most (if not everyone) can find a space in their day for this. Meditation was traditional practised in the morning, in order to set us for the day. But in our modern ‘get-up-and-go’ society, this simply won’t work for everyone. The afternoon or evening holds just as much benefit.
We don’t need to be sitting cross-legged on the floor either. Sitting on a chair is fine. Standing meditation is simple and much more comfortable to get us started. Moving meditation is also a fantastic in-road to this practice. We can take a daily walk in the park, or the garden. There are, of course many forms of moving meditation. Yoga Asana (postures) are a form a meditation.
OK. So we’ve made time and space. Use a timer or an alarm to let you when the time is up. We’ve perhaps decided what form of meditation we’re going to try first, now what?
Here, there are once again many things we can do.
We can count the breath, we can use a word or phrase to repeat (mantra), we can focus on the breath in the body, we can scan the body, we can concentrate on one part of the body, we can create a mental image to focus on.
There are a myriad of different ways to practice. The key is to keep at it. Accept that the mind will wander. We have no control of the arising of thoughts, we can’t stop them, lets not try to stop them. We are merely learning to create a new mental habit of ‘becoming aware’ that the mind has wandered. And when we ‘become aware‘ that the mind has wandered, we bring it back to the practise without reaction, without frustration or annoyance, no judgement, no indulgence of the thought. We simply learn to let the thought go and come back to the practise.
This is the key. Every time we become aware of the minds wanderings and we bring it back to the practise we are firing a neuron, strengthening that habit of returning to the moment with our breath and our concentration.
Meditation is an ‘art of living’. It allows us to be more aware of ourselves, both internally and externally. This means we make better decisions, become better problem solvers and are generally able to deal with life’s challenges in a calmer more reasonable way.
I have been practising meditation, in various forms for the past 10 years. I am passionate about sharing this gift from the ancient cultures of India, China and beyond. This tool has benefited my life beyond what I thought possible.
I hold three different ‘concentration’ classes at The Full Spectrum Centre Limited.
Yin Yoga – A slow, meditative form of yoga, focusing our awareness on sensations in the body in the form of stretches and stresses. Holding postures for up to 5 minutes gives us plenty of time to ‘practice’ concentration. Class times are every Wednesday at 7pm and Friday at 11am.
Methods in Meditation– A mini meditation workshop exploring three different forms of the practise. Standing, moving and sitting. Every class we will look at new and different ways to meditate, with some guidance and some silence. There will be opportunities to share our experiences and ask questions. Classes roll once every 3 weeks on Wednesdays 8:30pm and Fridays 12:30pm.
Breathing Space – A relaxation workshop using simple breathing techniques and simple movements of the body to cultivate awareness of the joints and energy channels in the body. Usually exploring a standing or sitting meditation, predominantly based on Qigong meditation practices, this session explores the Chinese system of energy healing and brings to light its simplicity, grace and its effectiveness. Classes roll once every 3 weeks on Wednesdays 8:30pm and Fridays 12:30pm.