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Lately I’ve been dipping my toe into the meditation pool.. and having a good ol’ splash around. As I mentioned earlier in the week (HERE), meditation is something I’ve dabbled with before (you can read about my initial experiences HERE) but never really fell into a committed relationship with. I’d dive right in to start with, googling the crap out of the benefits, downloading apps, merrily making promises to myself about regular practice, then, like the subject of many a teen romance, I’d fall out of lust and start making excuses. Meditation and I would reach a ‘I’m just not that into you’ state and that would be where I’d leave things.
Ironically, I probably picked the worst possible time to back away as, like with so many things, it’s usually when the going gets tough and the initial spark fades, that you actually need to put the hard yards in with benefits just around the corner. Regardless, I would retreat and add ‘meditation’ to the list of things I knew I probably should do, but didn’t.
The New Year brought with it some real shifts in the way I approach living life. A jumble of wisdom from texts like ‘Spirited’ (more about that HERE), ‘Path To Wellness’, ‘The Desire Map’ and ‘Buddhism For Mothers’ and one of the things that kept popping onto my radar was the positive impact meditation can have, if you give it a chance. The books weren’t telling me anything that a bunch of psychologists and counsellors have hinted at over the years, basically ‘You are an over-thinker. Your mind often gets way too busy. You need to chill the hell out and try meditation.’ (though they usually put it in nicer terms than that).
And so, at the beginning of January (because that’s when all resolutions in the history of the world start), I decided that it was time to heed to call. My intentions for 2012 centred around the word ‘Contentment’ and I’d heard through the grapevine that meditation was kind of the go-to guy for helping you achieve that sometimes elusive state of being. So I dove right back in.
I didn’t do any new reading. I didn’t download anymore apps or tracks. I used what I had and what felt instinctively right. It’s been 21 or so days now and though I set the goal of meditating a few times a week, I’ve managed it everyday. I’m fairly stunned to make that proclamation to be honest but there you go. Sometimes I do a couple of five minute bursts. Sometimes I do a longer track. Sometimes I whack my earphones in when I’m walking the kid and the dog and listen to something then, which kind of contradicts the ‘stopping and being still and silent’ thing but I figure that doing it, even while battling a stroller/leash/multiple plastic bags, is better than not doing it at all.
Here’s the main stuff I’ve learnt…
1. Just start – It sounds silly but the more I prepared, the less the actuality seemed to live up to what I had expected. I used what I had at hand and went with it. ‘Just starting’ was almost the hardest step. It meant being still with all the noise in my head. It meant trying to learn something new. It was a bit intimidating but by taking that first step, and just starting, I moved forward. Perhaps it was a minute step but it was a step.
2. There is no ‘wrong’ way to meditate – I’m not actually sure if this is true as I’m sure there are ‘rules’ out there but by following my instincts and going all Nike and ‘just doing it’, I found that I was able to relax into the process a lot more without worrying that I was doing it wrong (and subsequently giving up). Maybe listening to Gabby Bernstein (have you checked her out? You should. She’s a bit of a meditation guru) while pushing the stroller isn’t exactly ideal but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.
3. You can’t switch off your thoughts – If you’re like me, your mind will be a crazy labyrinth of tangled thoughts. I extend my multitasking to multi-thinking most of the time and usually have a number of things brewing away at any one time. I initially thought the purpose of meditation was to STOP the thoughts outright. How I thought that was supposed to happen, I’m a bit unclear, but that’s what I thought. So when I was unable to shut down my thinking, I’d get disheartened and annoyed and want to run in the opposite direction. I’ve now come to learn that the purpose of meditation isn’t to stop thinking but to gently disengage from your usual thought patterns and direct your focus back to your breathing/your body/a mantra, whatever it is that you’re focusing on. It’s about giving your mind breathing space and the chance to focus on a single, completely simple and unloaded ‘thing’. I struggle to stop my mind drifting off during my meditation but have found that I’m slowly getting better at re-focusing quickly and frequently remind myself when I do start to battle an avalanche of ‘real life thinking’ that I can ‘think about that later.’ It seems to help me get back on track.
4. I work well when guided – Though I’ve experimented with meditating purely with my breathing, I find a guided meditation much more effective. Whether it’s to focus or relax, there’s something about having my mind gently directed that just seems to work for me. I’m sure other people find another persons voice in their ear annoying as hell but I really don’t mind it. I think it also comes down to choosing someone you’re happy to listen to. A jarring or really abrasive voice isn’t really going to do it for you so seek out something else.
I’m slowly working towards developing my meditation practice and exploring all the different avenues that involves. I’ve even signed up for a 6 weeks Meditation course at the local wellness centre, starting next month, which I’m stupidly overexcited about. Being led by a teacher and having the support of the class should be a really interesting experience and I’m keen to see how I find it.
In the meantime, I’ve listed the resource I’ve been using below, just in case you want to check them out!
– Path To Wellness – FREE guided meditation
This is one of my favourite evening time meditations as I find it so relaxing. It focuses on your breathing and relaxing different parts of your body and is great before bed.
– Gabrielle Bernstein Meditations
I downloaded a number of tracks from Gabby’s ‘Gabrielle Bernstein’ and ‘May Cause Miracles’ albums from iTunes. The ‘morning’ and ‘evening’ meditations and the ‘receiving abundance’ tracks are my faves at the moment.
Are you a meditation fan?? What’s your top tip for beginners?
Image found HERE