"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Sunday, 9 July 2017

What is meditation? The myths, the truth, & how to fit it in.

Tree with sun shining through. Do you keep hearing people talk about meditation and wonder if you should be doing it too?

Do you struggle to clear you mind to meditate?

Do you get frustrated that you can’t find time to meditate?

According to my Oxford English dictionary, to meditate is to “focus ones mind for a time, for spiritual purposes or for relaxation.” And mediation is the act of doing this.  

There are a wealth of articles on websites, and YouTube videos about mediating. People do it daily; they make it a routine; they say they can’t live without it. Some even go away on retreats, and boast about how it alters their lives. But there are a lot of myths about meditating, and here are a few.

  • You don’t have to have special training;
  • It doesn’t have to take 20 minutes or an hour;
  • You don’t have to do it daily;
  • You don’t have to be able to sit in the lotus position;
  • You don’t have to listen to music, or burn oils while doing it;
  • You don’t need special clothing;
  • You don’t need a special place, or room to do it in;
  • The place doesn’t have to be quiet;
  • You don’t need to be alone. 

You can do all of the above, but they aren’t necessary. You can mediate in any way you feel works for you. There is no right way of doing it, and it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

I don’t mediate daily, I meditate when I feel the need, or when I have time and am in the mood to do so. I struggle to meditate for longer than 10 minutes. But there are moments during my day where I do still mediate for just a moment. I consciously stop my thoughts in my head and breathe. And I can do this several times a day when I am so busy I am overwhelmed. 

“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there - buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” - Deepak Chopra 

You can meditate in just a minute; it is simple. The first thing you need to do is breathe. It doesn’t matter where you are: you can be in your car driving, at work, or in the midst of cooking the family meal – anywhere. As soon as you feel the need to clear you mind, just think about your breathing: count 2 while inhaling, then 4 when (slowly) exhaling and then pause for a count of 2 (neither inhale or exhale), then begin again. Consciously feel your body physically relax for a moment.

And that’s it.

No really, it is.

You can continue to do this, or you can do it for a moment.

If you want to keep going you might find thoughts coming into your mind as you do it. Every time you realise that is happening, return your mind to your breathing. Imagine your thoughts running like the credits of a movie in the back of your mind. Don’t engage with them. Just leave them.

And that is meditation. 

“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.” - meditationSHIFT 

Yes, there are people that continue to do this for hours on end, for entire weekends on retreats. And there are those that go so far with it they are able to control their heart rate. And others chant too, all sorts of sounds or words, believing it will draw positive things to them and into their life – and that might well work.

If you can focus your mind for long periods of time, you can also develop the same self-discipline in other areas of your life, and concentrate on the things you are working on, which can result in a lot of personal success. But the fundamentals of meditation don’t change. It is just a matter of building up from that single point. 

“Not to be able to stop thinking is an affliction, but we don't realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it." – Eckhart Tolle



Friday, 30 June 2017

Writing it out: how to resolve a noisy mind


Quill shaped cloud in blue sky.
Do things people say or do replay in your mind?

Do they go round and round distracting you in the day, or keeping you awake at night?

Do you spend a lot of time thinking about things you should have done, or wish you could have done?

I call this a noisy mind, and it can be triggered by many things:

- A conversation with someone;
- An action someone has taken;
- An event that has taken place;
- Or an action that you haven’t taken;
- Or an event you wanted to go to, but didn’t.

These things stick in your mind
, or something about it stays with you. You might be questioning it, or worrying about it; it might cause you to feel anxious, sad, angry, or upset in some way. But most of all it distracts you from your day to day life, interrupting your concentration and causing you to forget things, or not listen properly to those around you.

When this happens to me I know I need to get whatever it is out of my head.

Sometimes talking it over with a trusted friend can help. But if it is something I feel would come across wrong, or sound stupid when said out loud, I find the only solution is to write it out; my journal becomes my friend.

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” – Christina Baldwin

Once I do this, I often find solutions and answers to my questions; seeing it in black and white on the page enables me to see it from another perspective. Just getting it out and showing it to the light of day minimizes its impact on me emotionally. I sift through it and deal with it in a more constructive way, deciding what is real and what is self-created drama inside my head.

It gives me a sense of release, but also empowers me by helping me feel as though I can handle my thoughts and emotions again and function again.

When writing it out I often make sense of my feelings, identify patterns or past events that are influencing them.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor

When connecting with myself in this way, I understand myself better. It enables me to see inside myself, explore thoughts and feelings which influence my external life. Through this process I listen to my feelings and learn to trust them – and thus trust myself.

It helps me build confidence and inner security: Once I become sure of myself I rely less on external factors, such as other people and their opinions or acceptance of me.

“Paying attention to the inside for the purpose of living well from the inside out.” – Lee Wise

To clear a noisy mind some people might try meditation, but when my head is exceptionally noisy and I have a lot of things bubbling up to the surface, I find transferring my thoughts onto paper much more helpful. Then when I meditate afterwards, it’s much easier.

Journalling doesn’t have to be a chore, or even something you do on a daily basis. There are people who like to keep a diary, or do what they call ‘Morning Pages’, which means writing out your thoughts first thing after you wake up. But I tend to only journal when I feel the need. I also do a lot of creative writing in the form of short stories and poetry, which is also a good way to express yourself. 

 “Whether you are keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it is the same thing. What’s important is you are having a relationship with your mind.” – Natalie Goldberg

Never be afraid of what might come out, or how it comes out, just write it out as it appears in your mind, letting it flow, unblocking your heart and your mind.