14 Dec Reach new heights with meditation
What is your first reaction when you hear people talk about meditation?
What is your response when people ask you if you meditate?
Practising mindfulness and meditation has been a new addition to my life in the last 12 months and I was hesitant initially about trying it because to be honest I thought it’s just something else I needed to fit into my day – how could I possibly? I would hear meditation advocates say do it in the morning or the evening or when you need a break during the day. I thought holy moly, so at what point do I squeeze this in and ensure that I get the most out of it.
The thought each day that I need to meditate would sometimes grind at me and then I would feel guilty that I hadn’t done it. I put so much pressure on myself to do it that the value in it was lost. I tried it a couple of times and then I stopped for a few days. I started again and then I stopped, again! I went on like this for a little while, until it became a new habit for me like getting out of bed or brushing my teeth at night. It became something that I enjoyed and it surprisingly became second nature. It has made a profound difference to my ability to remain calm and relaxed throughout my day and particularly at times of stress. I feel I sleep a lot deeper, it helps gather my thoughts before bed and I use it to invoke inspiration and visualisation for a positive day ahead.
So what is with this meditation and mindfulness buzz? It’s been around for a very long time, it is not new and it’s not something that is completely out of this world. We all have the ability to meditate and practise mindfulness no matter our age, physical ability, gender etc. In fact the results of meditation are so profound, according to meditation coach, Tom Evans ‘meditation helps improve productivity, vitality and our luck’.
It was most certainly new to me and like all new experiences it has been exciting learning about it and meditating. I even took on doing a mindfulness teacher training course because I think the value of it is too good to ignore. There is bad stigma around meditation and it is definitely a misunderstood practise. I think there is a level of judgement or perceived judgement that if you admit to meditating that you are weird and perhaps have too much time on your hands. Or the other thing I hear a lot is that “I won’t meditate because I will just fall asleep” or “I won’t stop thinking so what’s the point, I know I won’t be any good”.
The dictionary definition of mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”.
The definition of meditation “is a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualisation, the breath or movement”.
To summarise it is a practise of being fully present and aware of where you are and what you are doing. When you put it this way, it means that when you are doing an activity you are completely immersed in that moment without distraction, you are taking the time to be fully aware of what you are doing without thinking about what you haven’t done, should do or need to do.
If you think about it there may be activities that you do today that are already helping you with your mindfulness without actually realising it, i.e. walking, running or even relaxing.
I use a couple of apps for my guided meditations such as
– Smiling Mind – a great app for beginner meditators. A range of different meditations, that are easy to use and listen to.
– Buddhify – a paid app which offers a wheel of different type of meditation options – i.e. can’t sleep, feeling stressed, travelling etc. There are shorter and longer meditations, the choice is yours.
– Insight Timer – gain access to over 7,000 meditations from people across the world. You can choose specific genres, times and types. My favourite and go-to app at the moment.
There is a lot of research around the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and the list is exhaustive from reduced stress and anxiety, improved concentration, increased happiness, it can improve heart and immune health and it can physically rewire your brain.
It requires a consistent practise and like we go to the gym to exercise our physical body, meditation is exercise for our brains. I have learnt through my practise that you do not need to meditate for 30 minutes, twice a day. Particularly when starting, even a couple of minutes has a profound impact on your mind and body. I started slow and have now built up to meditating for 10-15 minutes a day, sometimes adding a second shorter meditation. If you can remove the thought process that you need to do it and just relax into it you will enjoy it more and start to experience the benefits of it.