Make the switch

7 Days of calm and cosy: Part 6: Meditation

Young woman meditating at the big city park
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Meditation is the hot topic … still! Everyone that is doing it, raves about it and gets their friends to give it a go. Then their friends meditate too and for a time, they are happy, calm and relaxed. Then as you notice the positive benefits for yourself, you fall into the hole of not needing it anymore, or not doing it as often. That’s when the magic starts to wear off and the stress and anxieties return along with a short fuse and a mouth that can run off words like a volcano exploded. No? just me then … ok.

Practice, practice and practice (I was told once that when someone repeats something that they say or write they are hinting to you that it is very important and that it should be something to remember, so there you go). There are more than a few schools of thought about the goal of meditation. Some say it will assist with your goal of becoming an enlightened being, some say meditation switches off your thoughts, some say meditation increases your awareness and concentration, some say they do it to de-stress/ reduce anxiety. Whatever reasons you have for meditating in the first place, the reason people keep going is that they notice a positive shift within themselves. The one thing I don’t agree with is to do meditation to switch off your thoughts, it’s near impossible. If you tell your mind to stop thinking things, you just had a thought to do that… and so on. There is a difference though between being a passive observer and engaging in your thoughts. There is an analogy used in many Buddhist traditions concerning thoughts in meditation: The sky is your mind and your thoughts are like clouds passing by. Sometimes your mind is overcast and you cant see any blue sky – that does not mean that the sky is not there anymore. A state of calm and peace is always there within all of us. Just observe and don’t engage in the thoughts. Some days are cloudier than others, its how we react during those days that will affect our meditation practice as well.

I am using meditation as an umbrella term and not talking about any specific practice of meditation being better or correct over others. Do what works for you, if you believe it helps, then it probably is.

Meditation is also linked to another term called mindfulness in conversation as well. Mindfulness really is a meditative state that a person can be in that doesn’t require you to sit in the lotus position or sit at all for that matter. Some people try to practice mindfulness and they don’t meditate, this is also possible, but you will need plenty of reminders from yourself to not slip into autopilot. Mindfulness a branch in the tree of meditation. Often long-term meditators can maintain their meditative state as they go about their daily lives. Yes, this comes with practice and lots of it. I have experienced this state on a silent 10-day meditation retreat which some people may have heard of called Vipassana. It’s not for the light-hearted, its the mind gym equivalent of boot camp. So much benefit and rewards from the work I did on that course, however, it is work… not a holiday.

It may feel like work and effort to set any amount of time aside to meditate. If I’m speaking to you, then perhaps a motivator would be to find a class to attend. Then you can block out that time on your calendar for meditation.

If you are an absolute beginner and want to give meditation a go, try Yoga Nidra. Really you can’t go wrong with this one and it’s very relaxing. If you like you can try this app: Deep Relaxation – Yoga Nidra Lite By Elizabeth Papadakis. Many meditations choose a neutral object as a point of focus, like the breath. Another option is to set a timer for 5, 10, 15 or 30 mins (whatever you prefer or can manage time wise) and just sit in a quiet space and observe your breath, don’t try to control or change the rhythm simply notice. You can focus on the feeling at the tip of your nostrils, sometimes you may notice the cool air going in and warm air coming out. It sounds mundane, but give yourself a 7-day challenge and document how you feel before and after the 7 days to see if any changes to how you feel have come about.

What type of meditation do you do? comment below.


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