Meditation is the practice of mindfulness which enables you to turn off your auto-pilot state of mind which becomes the gateway to the conscious awareness of how your thoughts, feelings and behaviours affect your well-being.
Mindfulness is when you purposely bring your attention to what you are currently experiencing via your senses; sight, sound, taste and touch as well as your thoughts and emotions.
My Meditative Experience
For many years, I was against meditating; I did not have the time, I did not understand what it would entail and I associated it with naked hippies running through fields with flowers in their hair whilst chanting. Then I met an educated, successful businessman who had spent the last few years of his life reading various books on the subject; he committed to daily meditation and as a result, rid himself of past emotional wounds, changed his response to circumstances outwith his control and obtained various other positive adjustments to his mindset.
I must admit that after listening to a few ‘guided meditations‘ I had received from him via email, I could not help but laugh at myself for sitting in a room, in silence, whilst in some sort of ‘lotus position’ that was mostly an uncomfortable experience and not at all relaxing, as the reviews on google lead me to believe. I would also like to note, that this was all happening, whilst battling the urge to scratch, move and trying to prevent myself from getting carried away by useless thoughts. It felt forced and unnatural, therefore, it took me about 3o minutes to complete a 15-minute session; fail. Needless to say, I began searching online for guides, information and anything relevant to the topic of meditation which resulted in my discovery of an entire world I knew absolutely nothing about.
I spent various evenings thereafter, watching interviews with ‘gurus’, spiritual teachers, philosophers, doctors and multiple religious scholars who all concluded that there is a mind-body connection and through the practice of meditation; a life-long practice enables us to not only remodel the physical structure of our brain but become connected to and in control of, our emotional responses to life. Why is this important? Ultimately, those who are not acting mindfully, are therefore allowing their emotions, thoughts and behaviours to dictate the state and or impact they have on our bodies and further, our lives…good or bad.
Through my own private study of meditation over several years, I can say for sure that for all we cannot prevent bad situations from arising out with our control it has allowed me to live a happier, healthier and richer life. The more I meditate, the more I understand the importance of learning this skill as early in life as possible and sometimes feel frustrated with the lack of emotional education we receive when it is just as important as mathematics, literacy and speech.
I have compiled a meditation starter kit if you will, along with useful links and scientific based talks on the subject that will dive deeper into this subject, for your own learning. It also includes helpful tips, myth busters and what to expect during your first session.
Ultimately, meditation is a practice that only works with consistency, it is a commitment you make to yourself that will forever change the way you think, behave and feel.
It will allow you the freedom of choice, to heal, perspective, create your desired life and above all, gain inner peace and love, regardless of your surroundings. It is a practice you will love and enjoy and gain strength from and does not interfere with any current religious beliefs.
Beginners Guide To Meditation
1.Ask yourself how much time you are going to commit to meditating daily? This is important because this is the amount of time you are dedicating to yourself. You must make the time to help yourself, you are of no use to anyone if your own mind is a mess. I started with fifteen minutes; it was about all I could manage because I also kept falling asleep but fifteen minutes is a good place to start.
2.Pick a quiet place or a headphone volume that will be loud enough to drown out surrounding noise. If you are using headphones, YouTube has an array of meditation music that will help you to relax. Here are some of my favourites:
3. Set an intention for every meditation, one that is not harmful to yourself or others. Ask yourself, what do you want to achieve from this session? Is it happiness, love, more friends, abundance? Then simply, commit to the intention of saying it within your mind.
Tip: You do not have to sit in some sort of position in order to meditate. Preferably you want your spine to be as straight as possible and your body relaxed so that you can allow energy to flow easily, like good blood circulation. I now meditate lying down but for beginners, I recommend finding a comfortable chair so you do not fall asleep.
3. Do not cross your legs during meditation; find a space where you can sit or lay down, with your hands resting either by your side or on your thighs, with palms facing upwards.
4. The mind becomes quieter when you focus on your breathing which is why this is important to learn when practising meditation. Close your eyes and start by inhaling through your nose to the count of four and exhaling through your nose or mouth to the count of six. After three minutes or so, resume your normal breath and in doing so, you will feel with every exhale, your body sinking deeper into a state of relaxation. The objective is to have your body be in a sleep-like state whilst your mind is wide awake.
Tip: Thoughts will come into your mind, just observe them and let them go, do not allow them to distract you for long and do not try to force your mind to be silent either. With patience, these thoughts will become less frequent.
5. Once you have generated a calmer, deeper breathing cycle that feels relaxing and natural, take the time to just observe your breath. There is no need for you to manipulate your breath like we did in the previous step, your sole responsibility is to simply pay attention to how you are breathing; the depth or shallowness of each breath, your stomach rising and falling, feel the air coming into your body. Start to become aware of everything about your natural breathing rhythm.
Breathing is important because it will immediately tell you whether your mind is calm or agitated. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system that slows our heart rate down and relaxes the sphincter muscles. In particular, one of the most important sphincter muscles is called the sphincter pylori; the thickening of the middle layer of stomach muscle around the pylorus (opening into the small intestine) that holds food in the stomach until it is thoroughly mixed with gastric juices.
Tip: If counting your inhale and exhale of breath is not for you then there is a particular language that is used throughout various forms of meditation of which I shall go on to explain later in this blog.
Sanskrit & English Mantras
A “mantra” (/ˈmæntrə, ˈmɑːn-, ˈmʌn-/ (Sanskrit: मंत्र);) is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. Mantra meditation helps to induce an altered state of consciousness.
There are both ancient and modern mantras that people use to not only deepen their connection within the mind and or with ‘God’ but has enabled me to really connect to my body; the ‘awareness of self’ feeling is indescribable.
I find modern mantras more applicable to daily life, for example, repeating ‘I can change my thoughts. I can change my life’ in the mirror or in the shower or whilst performing everyday tasks is best.
Below is a list of the most well-known mantras in both Sanskrit and English. As stated above, if counting is not sitting well with you whilst you breathe, reciting any of the below can help you achieve a deeper meditative state. For example, the Sanskrit mantra ‘Aum’ when meditating is in practice, separated to follow the flow of your breath, repeat mentally ‘A’ as you inhale and ‘UM’ as you exhale.
“Om” is the sacred sound of Hinduism and is said to mean, variously: It Is, Will Be or To Become.
2. “Om Mani Padme Hum”
Originating from Tibet translates to “Hail the Jewel in the Lotus.” The jewel, in this case, is the Buddha of Compassion.
3. “Namo AmitaBha”
Homage to the Buddha of boundless light.
4. “I am that I am”
This is one of the Hebrew Torah’s most famous lines, and it was God’s answer to Moses when Moses asked for his name.
The Hindu variant, meaning I am THAT.
Myths About Meditating
There are a lot of myths regarding the art of meditating that some of you may have been discouraged by, therefore I have compiled a list so as to reinforce this new way of life.
‘Meditation is difficult.’
Meditation involves listening and observing and for some of us, we find it difficult not to exercise control and often try too hard to get it right the first time. Meditation teaches us patience in the beginning as well as learning to enjoy time alone in stillness. It is only different from what we are used to or in the habit of doing but it is not difficult. There is no ending to your practice, it is about the journey, similarly to life, therefore if you find yourself forcing your mind into silence, you are only demonstrating your lack of willingness to give up control. It takes time so do not allow frustration to put you off.
‘Meditating is only successful if you quieten your mind.’
The fastest way to create more stress is by forcing your mind to do something it hasn’t done naturally. If you are becoming frustrated or put off with meditation because of this then you are not alone, many have assumed that this is what it is all about but in fact, they are wrong. Meditation is a skill that you can only acquire if you are ready to again, release control and take time for yourself, only then will you find the peace that already exists within your mind. It is not about silencing your thoughts, it is about listening and observing what is taking up so much space in your mind and thus releasing anything that no longer serves your well-being. It involves facing some inner truths and getting rid of the clutter. Stillness will be achieved with ease over time. You will reap the benefits as soon as you start, even with a busy mind so do not give up.
‘Meditation is a spiritual or religious practice.’
Meditation does not require a spiritual or religious set of beliefs; it is often said that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience, nevertheless, it is ultimately up to you as to whether you wish to be guided by your faith during meditation as a form of communication with your higher power. Meditation has been used for centuries within various religions and ‘is an extension of ‘prayer’; the stillness of the mind allows us to hear the guidance within. Sanskrit mantras, repeated within our minds, can be replaced by Christian, Muslim or any other faiths terminology, for example, Ahmen instead of So-ham meaning ‘I Am’.
Sending you love and light.