For just over two months now I have been trying out meditation. I say that with no air of smugness whatsoever because I am far from a bonafide meditator, still very much learning the basics and struggling at times along the way. I am also still to master fitting it in every day.
But, I’ve done enough reading to know that meditation, or regular silence with oneself is widely attributed to a calmer and more mindful existence and this is very much appealing to me at this time of my life.
Over the past year in particular I have learned that I need to be kinder to myself. Doesn’t that sound twee. But it’s true. I am my own worst critic and then some. The pace of this modern life can overwhelm. Even before getting to our day jobs, if we are unfortunate enough to have to encounter public transport in rush hour this can knock our stress response into overdrive before we’ve even opened the first empty slide of a brand new deck.
You see, it’s only via learning the very basics of meditation that I’ve truly realised just how much internal chatter my head has been dealing with…for years. I’ve replayed past situations or conversations over and over in my poor mind and in those instances I’ve often changed my reactions and comebacks. And for what? What an absolute waste of my time and headspace. But much more interestingly for me, I have noticed just how many conversations I conjure up in my imagination, that I think could happen in the future or that I almost fantasise might occur and boy if they do, am I ready! It has dawned on me that this is no way to live.
Ironically, I have always been someone that promotes living in the now. If I have a good idea for something to do, I want to do it now. If it’s a beautiful day outside I want to go somewhere that allows me to drink it all up asap. I don’t get caught up in planning for the future like a fully fledged 34 year old (to my husbands regular despair), bar holidays and travel. I often visualise my perfect existence while sleeping and awake; a house on the side of a beautiful lake with my own little wooden jetty where I can ease myself into the fresh water. I’m surrounded by nature and magnificent landscape. My husband, babies, dogs are all there and in one dream I even saw a table full of friends dining with us al fresco into a starry evening. Dreamy huh? That kind of visualisation I welcome wholeheartedly and pray that the law of attraction kicks in.
But alas, my thoughts go backwards, forwards and all the places in-between and as a result I feel like I am in constant fight or flight mode. As succinctly explained by Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist Monk in Nepal “…our own mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy”
At the moment, after a little surgery, I am housebound and signed off from work. So I am making the most of this restful period to explore the benefits of meditation further. Often attributed to hippy dippies, meditation is being more regularly hailed as a must for just about everyone and I would like to encourage doubters, to try. At least try. 10 minutes a day is all I am committing to just now, via Headspace. But, I genuinely look forward to those ten minutes. They are all mine. Me and my head that is usually a haze of crazy chatter. I feel like I am now training it to chill and to be in the present more than ever before.
I choose to sit on the floor for those precious 10 minutes, sometimes legs crossed, other times straight out in front of me with my back against a wall. I’ve often just woken up and I open a window to have morning birdsong as my soundtrack. I enjoy the sensation of directing my awareness (note, not thoughts) from the sounds near and far, to the physical sensation of my body to the rhythm of my own breathing. And that moment when you open your eyes again, for a split second, feels like actual magic. The appreciation of vision, colour, the morning light all feel magnified in that single moment.
During my practice (ha, hark at me!), thoughts and internal natter come creeping in. But the voice of Headspace, Andy Puddicombe tells me this is ok, notice the thoughts, acknowledge them. Just bring my attention back to my breath, which sometimes makes me think he is subtly telling me it really is time to brush my teeth. When thoughts do start tickling my brain I almost have a little smile to myself as I am realising that I now know the tools to wind them down again. The words buzzing around my head start to become longer and deeper as if someone is dialling them down to nothing.
As I write this, I am finishing Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning, where the first habit he encourages to transform your life is Silence. “If you want to immediately reduce your stress levels, to begin each day with the kind of calm, clarity and peace of mind that will allow you to stay focused on whats important in your life, and even dance on the edge of enlightenment – do the opposite of what most people do – start every morning with a period of purposeful silence”
Almost as if to help cement my commitment to meditation, I receive daily emails from Elephant Journal (highly recommended) and Instagram posts from the likes of @greatist and @collective_evolution that often provoke further anticipation as to the myriad of benefits the practice offers.
Next up on the book list is How to be Here by Rob Bell where the back cover alone ensures me that “dwelling on the past or worrying about the future are obstacles to achieving our dreams. The concerns distract us from the moment, keeping our attention over there. This book will help you to be here.” I’m in.
So if you’re still not sure that you want to try meditation, because you know, it’s weird and that, below is a list of what meditation isn’t.
It’s 5.30pm and I’m already excited about tomorrows 10 minutes of me.