Are you one of these sceptics who thinks meditation looks like you're taking a power nap or going into a trance more than anything else? Don't worry, we get you, but it turns out there's a whole lot more to it than you could imagine. Switch on your Zen attitude and chant your OMs as you discover the secrets to attaining (and maintaining) inner peace and mindfulness...
“From meditating, I have gained nothing. However, let me tell you what I have lost: anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, fear of old age and death” - Buddha
An ancient remedy
Before you start screaming “bullshit” out loud, ask yourself this : how has a Buddhist tradition managed to stick around since 5000 BC? Clearly it’s been doing something right – some say it’s even changed their lives- since the zen vibes have continued to flow through to the present day. To sum up, the practice mainly revolves around quieting your mind and learning how to control your thoughts as opposed to them controlling you. And the best bit? It’s free, healthy, accessible to everyone everywhere AND only needs a few minutes of dedication per day. Jackpot.
So, what’s all the fuss about?
Perhaps unsurprisingly meditation is recognised as a type of psychotherapy. It’s been proven that training your mind to stay in the present moment and focusing your attention on your breathing can bring about all types of health benefits to your body.
What you gain : a greater ability to focus and stabilise emotions, improved memory, improved quality of sleep, greater levels of creativity, productivity & immune system, improved confidence, energy levels and well-being . Your head is cleared out which enables you to make better decisions, like a computer that works more efficiently after all viruses have been removed.
What you reduce : stress, anxiety, depression, irritability, back pain, sleeping disorders & fear. Plus, it also lowers high blood pressure and risks of heart disease.
Ever wondered why buddhists often have this peaceful “I’m totally relaxed” look on their face? Now you know.
Ready, set, switch off
Feel like giving this mental clean-up a try? Follow these easy steps to get the vibrations working:
- Find an environment free of distracting noises (background sounds are okay as long as they don’t prevent you from focusing). Sorry folks, no earplugs allowed
- Wear loose clothing and take off your shoes if you can
- Switch off all technological devices and place them away if possible
- Sit down comfortably, either on the floor (add a pillow or mat for extra comfort), on a chair (make sure your back doesn’t lay on it but keeps straight and feet are flat on the ground) or on your bed (least efficient option but still acceptable). Don’t lie down otherwise you could fall asleep. You can also learn how to make your own Zafu, the ultimate meditation accessory
- Either stay this way or cross your legs, do the lotus pose or kneel down. Remember you’ll have to stay this way for a while so comfort is really the key. Don’t forget to keep your back straight although never tensed. (Tip: If you need to change posture, do it as slowly as you can)
- Choose a focus point to concentrate on – one that’s slightly above your eyeline- and don’t let it leave your sight
7. Focus on your breath (your prime partner in crime for successful meditation) : take deeeeep long inhalations, hold it in for a couple of breaths and then slowly let the air come out through your mouth (also the perfect time to try out your chosen mantra)
8. Slowly close your eyes. This helps for concentration but it’s okay to leave them open if you prefer (in that case keep your eyes on the focus point)
9. Place the palms of your hands up towards the sky and hands on top of each other
10. Find your happy place : imagine yourself in an isolated and peaceful setting, a land where worries don’t exist
11. Switch off – congratulations, you’ve made it to the hardest part of the exercise. Now, try to remove all possible thoughts running through your head, even the most frivolous ones. Imagine them floating away as they arrive, unable to set foot in your brain, repelled by the power of mindfulness, the art of concentrating on the present moment only. If you start to itch or an image pops in your head, refocus your attention on those deep breaths to help the disturbance fade away
12. Drift for as long as you wish to put this “rising and falling” exercise into good practice, arguably one of the easiest and most straight-forward ways to start meditating
Zen attitude, always
Turning off all the thoughts that rush in your mind can be a daunting task, especially for first timers. Don’t get discouraged: as long as you keep trying, you’re bound to access the meditation bliss at some point, I guarantee it. If it helps, start to practice one minute each day for a couple of weeks before stepping up your game. Try to meditate in the same place and time if possible, knowing that dawn and dusk are always the best moments to let your mind free. Check out this list of guided meditations for inspiration and always always remember to BREATHE DEEPLY.
Namaste to you all.