Ah yes, meditation, such a buzz around this word these days, but what is it? What purpose does it serve? And when to use it? I am going to attempt the near impossible and describe what meditation is (because everyone experiences it differently) and give you a little insight into why it is worthy of your time and attention.
First off, let me be honest and say, I didn’t ‘get’ meditation at all, until I became a teacher of it. So if you meditate, try and meditate or are thinking about meditating and you’re not convinced about it, I have totally been there. And if you find yourself at the end of this article thinking, “I am still none the wiser”, I have been there too. In my experience, understanding the end process of meditation is pretty tricky to get your head around, but THANKFULLY, the actual application of meditation isn’t difficult to do. In fact, you may find that you already have moments when you are in a meditative state whilst you are driving your car, watching a movie or observing a beautiful sunset. The ART of meditation, is when you sit down and do your practice when it isn’t any of those situations – you do it because you either know or trust, that it is good for you. In my experience it helps you accomplish your goals quicker, with less stress and more joyously. It’s a bit like doing exercise, applied correctly it has great benefits on your fitness, body shape and tone. Done wrong, it just makes you more stressed. The work I do is all about developing the former.
Let’s start with the compelling reasons to meditate. These will be different for everyone, so I have shared some of the general ones and some of my favourite reasons too:
- Lower stress levels
- Quieter mind
- Lower levels of depression and anxiety
- Clearer mind
- Better sleep
- More harmonious relationships
- Greater intuition and wisdom
- More resilience to life’s stresses
- Ability to be a calming influence on others
- Ability to focus and achieve at a high mental level
- Better health
What would your reasons be? What would you currently like in your life? If it is any or all of the above, you’re not alone! When asked, all of my clients say something along the lines of the above. The great news is, with meditation you can have all that, AND MORE!!
What is meditation?
So what exactly is the practice of meditation? Well, to understand the practice of meditation, we need to understand about awareness and thought. If I am honest, it was only when I became a teacher of meditation that I realised there was a difference between these two – so it’s you and me both if you hadn’t till now realised there is a difference.
Awareness – is noticing something. I am aware of my body, I am aware of the sounds around me and I am aware of the feeling of my body sat on the chair I am on. This is awareness, it is always there and it is able to tell me data about what, who and where I am. Awareness is who we are.
Thought – is a story that I make up about something. I thought that I saw a spider, I thought that I overhead someone saying things about me, I thought you wanted me to be X, Y, Z. A thought is something we create, especially when we don’t have all the facts. To think requires the mind.
The mind is a curious creature. It is a creative power, that turns unmanifested ideas into action. Look around you, everything you see around you was created by thought! Furniture, electrical equipment, the teabag in my cup of tea – even my body was created by my thoughts!
If we take my tea bag as an example, someone thought it would be a good idea to take some herbs and put them in a paper mesh bag. This happened before they actually set about doing what was necessary to actually grow, collect and dry some herbs, create a paper mesh bag, put the herbs in, seal it up, box it, send it to a shop, where I, who had had a thought about a nice refreshing drink, got in my car and went to the shop to buy it. Even the process of making that cup of tea started with a “hmm, I am thirsty” thought, “I think I will make a cup of tea, that will refresh me.” So thought, which is done by the mind, has a creationary outcome.
Thoughts are very useful, we absolutely need them to function. However, when we start to think when we really should just be being aware, is when we start to experience things like a busy head, anxiety, depression and the inability to switch off and go to sleep. And this is where meditation comes in.
Awareness is who we are, thought is what we do.
Ever heard of the phrase, “We are human beings, not human doings”? Well, I believe we were designed to be both, with the emphasis on human be-ing.
To connect into awareness is to be. To think is to do. It is my experience that if we spend more time be-ing than doing, our stress levels stay in a healthy mid range and we’re more resilient and more ready for action. When we start to do more than we be then we accumulate more stress than we can release and a busy mind is the result.
Knowing this, it makes sense then, to address that be-ing/doing balance, and one of the quickest, most effective ways I know how to do this is meditation.
So what exactly is meditation? It is a way to develop our awareness.
In meditation, we cultivate awareness over thought, so that the body can rest from doing and be instead. This allows it to release stored stress and return to a state of balance. There are many different techniques for doing this, and I encourage people to find a technique that works for them. In Mindfulness and Buddhism, we develop our awareness of the breath, then expand that include the body, sounds, sensations, emotions, thoughts and feelings. Other techniques use chanting, sound, a mantra or following a guided set of instructions. My favourite technique at the moment is Mind Calm. In Mind Calm, we develop the capacity to be aware, which is interspersed with 10 Calm thoughts. These thoughts help us to develop the ability to remain in awareness, whilst bringing 10 positive attributes into our life that are both uplifting and cleansing.
In a meditation session, we practice the ability to prioritise being aware over doing thinking. Seeing as the mind LOVES to think, because that is what the mind does, it means gently putting the mind down and being aware instead, as much as we possibly can.
One of the reasons that people aren’t desperately keen on idea of meditation is because they live the majority of their life from their mind and the mind doesn’t like being put down! The mind will always try to be in constant use, so it’s important we understand that even though the mind doesn’t like meditation and being put down for 10 minutes, the body and the rest of your life does.
You have a mind, it is not who you are.
How do we know we have a mind? Because we can observe it. If I asked you to count the number of thoughts you had in a one minute, you could do it. That is because there is a mind, and then there is the observer of the mind. The observer of the mind is you! That’s your core essence – the permanent part of you that existed before you had a mind and before you had a body. Some people call this spirit, essence or source – all you need to know is that is exists and it is the be-ing part of you and it is good to give it some of your time.
When we meditate, we start by engaging our awareness. In the Mind Calm technique that I share, we do that by finding an object to look at and spreading our awareness in a technique called GAAWO to activate our full awareness and our parasympathetic nervous system. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system is important as this is the part of the body that returns us to a resting state – such as slowing our heart rate, prioritising healing and increasing our ability to digest food. By activating our parasympathetic nervous system, the body is able to start to repair, release stress and return to a balanced state. Sound good? Yippee!
Give it time
Meditation isn’t a quick fix miracle cure, it’s a slow steady practice of be-ing over doing so that we may return to balance and release the stress we’ve acquired. For many of us, it tooks us years before our life got difficult enough to make us look at a technique like meditation, and it is going to take us years, if not a lifetime to release all the stress we built up in that time. The great news is, the benefits are instant and the more you apply the practice, the quicker being in awareness becomes your new norm.
The other great news is, the practice of meditation with your eyes shut and your eyes open, means that you stop accumulating so much stress in the first place. Win-win!
So, like starting a fitness programme, a meditation programme returns us to being human beings, which is our natural state, and a state of balance. It makes us more resilient, better able to cope with life’s up’s and down’s, more relaxed and better physically and mentally. That then directly benefits our work, families, relationships, hobbies and abilities to deal with difficult situations and life events.
And that to me, sounds like something worth investing in.
Becci Godfrey is a Mind Detox practitioner and trainer, meditation teacher, Reiki Master and Teacher and Equine Assisted Learning Facilitator. From her base in Mark Cross, East Sussex she helps hundreds of people locally and all over the world overcome their life, emotional and health challenges to fulfil their potential through one to one and group sessions (also available through Skype).
Want to know more about Mind Calm? On Thursday 3rd August, I will be running a Mind Calm in Minutes Intro Talk on London Road, Tunbridge Wells.
Come and hear about the hidden causes of a busy mind and try out GAAWO yourself!
Tickets cost just £10 and £15 if you bring a friend. More information can be found at www.universe.com/mindcalm.