by Therese Farnham
Meditation is the act of taking some time out on a regular basis in which we deliberately relax, slow down and let the distractions of our busy or stressful lives go for a few moments.
Why do we do it? Meditation is known to cause a reduction in stress hormones allowing us to feel more relaxed and more able to cope with life stresses.
The proof is sometimes said to be in the pudding so don’t just believe what you read. Find out for yourself. I’m a great believer in ‘give it a go’ and see what happens. When I started my own practice the effect was so deeply relaxing and peaceful in a time of intense stress that I began to meditate daily as a way to cope. It felt so good to have that space when my head was not spinning with anxiety and pounding with the pressure of the situation. Meditation to me felt like being in the calm centre of a storm and I was able to think more clearly and respond to situations from a more grounded and stable frame of mind.
The way meditation is described often makes it seem difficult if not impossible to achieve. We see off-putting images of ramrod straight yogis and hear that it is the cultivation of a still mind where we completely empty our mind of thoughts. In fact, it takes years of practice for most of us to achieve this. Don’t be disheartened though, you can still reap the benefits of a meditation practice even as a beginner.
Here are some tips you might like to follow to get started in a meditation practice.
To start with I would urge you to not put any pressure on yourself to get it right. What you do will be right for you. Keep it simple.
Dress comfortably; no tight or restrictive clothing. Choose a time and space where you won’t be interrupted. You might like to create a relaxing atmosphere, burn a little incense, light a candle, play some gentle music and get comfortable either sitting cross legged on the floor, sitting comfortably upright in a chair or if it’s right for you, lying down. If you find yourself falling asleep then I’d suggest you try it sitting up.
The aim is to reduce and eventually stop the incessant activity of our minds by focusing the mind on the present moment leading to feelings of peace and tranquillity. To start, what I suggest is that you turn your attention inwards. Just noticing the sensations in your body, noticing your chest as it rises and falls with each breath, noticing the air as it moves in and out of your throat, the changing temperature of the air as you breathe in, then out. Notice any warmth, cool areas, or any tingling or vibrations anywhere in your body. You might notice the sounds around you intensify; the sounds of the birds, traffic, the postman riding past, neighbours chatting. Just notice each sensation, sound, and aroma.
When you choose to sit passively and notice what is happening in and around you other distracting thoughts seem to melt away. The constant chatter of our mind starts to still with practice. If you do find yourself distracted from that present moment into thoughts of the past or the future gently take yourself back to noticing sensations and sounds.
You might choose to meditate for 10 minutes if time is limited or an hour if you are able to. Fit it into your lifestyle. For myself I have always found that a minimum of half an hour a day makes a substantial difference to my feelings of peace and calm.
I wish you all the best in your meditation practice.