If you immediately start thinking incense, loose clothing and sitting cross legged on the floor, I don’t blame you. (Although the picture above is pretty neat). Many images portraying the practice of meditation have women seated in lotus among picturesque scenery, or, Buddhist monks.
Yet each share the practice of taking a moment to connect. Taking a moment to set the world aside and check up on the person who is living in it.
The following TED talk by Andy Puddicombe shows a strong and engaging presenter who highlights the importance of looking after our minds through meditation. He casts off the stereotype of the practice and demonstrates, using circus craft, the shift from a wondering, frantic or boring mind to one of focus and calm.
Look a little deeper
Meditation can re-shape our brains. Many studies have witnessed the dramatic changes that occur in brain activity when a person is meditating compared to when they are not. The practice has been found to alleviate stress and anxiety, reduce pain, improve our focus and effect our relationships.
Meditate with me
Is stress and anxiety a side effect of a neglected mind in today’s world? You may have heard the terms “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”. They are labels that describe how the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work within our body.
When responding to a danger the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, flooding our bodies with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones prime us to fight or run from danger. The need for this response in the past would only last a few minutes because the human would have escaped or be dead. Once safe, the parasympathetic system takes over to ease the anxiety and return hormone levels to normal.
These days stress and anxiety can occur over many things, money, relationships, work, family, social life, the list goes on. Oftentimes it is prolonged. In the face of these changing times meditation offers prevention and resilience to stress and anxiety by rewiring the brain and changing ones experience of stressful events.
My first class
When I first sat down to mediate MAN was it uncomfortable! I felt nervous and awkward sitting amongst people I didn’t know, and, terrified of being left alone with my own thoughts. Hardly the serene and relaxed start I was looking for.
Judgment stepped in hard, making me feel even more anxious. I kept telling myself that I was doing it wrong. I felt fidgety and was ready to walk out and give it away. Take the easy way out…but I stayed. I gave my-self a chance. I put on my mental hiking boots and made the decision to explore my mind space.
After several classes, I realised meditation is a process. A lifestyle change and not a band aid to my problems. Over time I found a sense of belonging, I became part of a community that took time out for themselves and each other. I did not expect that.
My experience of meditation is always changing yet after I practice I always feel more balanced and calm. I am able to focus and feel more relaxed about the world. I recall the phrase “Less stress equals more success”, meaning we are open and able to consider more possibilities when we are relaxed. This is integral in my happiness journey.
Experiences of others
My dear friend Trish, yoga teacher and meditation practitioner for over 35 years, wrote in with her experience of meditation.
“Clarity, matters I have been tussling with either become easily solved or lose strength, and I realise how trivial they are. I find a place deep in my heart space that just takes me to a peaceful state feeling powerfully connected to source or my mind jumps ALL over the place and I make peace with that and become the witness and allow it to be!!” says Trish.
“Whatever happens during meditation, my day runs with greater ease, my sleep state is deeper and more relaxed, and, I wake feeling refreshed. All for a 10 to 15 minute investment in wellbeing, that is free, user friendly and at the very LEAST does no harm. Pretty cool.”
Our mind is our life long partner. We deserve to look after it, meditation is one way to do it.
Practice meditation! Make a start. Find a practice that best suits you and make it a part of your lifestyle.
I found that some meditation styles (guided, solo), music and voices did not sit with me. If you find this, do not be discouraged. Keep exploring and stick with the tracks and/or classes that you like.
Meditations to help you get started!
1min meditation – Cuppa with Cate, housewife and Buddhist priest
10min meditation – Headspace, Andrew Puddicombe
For students, I found that Student Health Services commonly offer meditation classes. They may also have materials, like CDs, you can take home.
30min guided meditation (Mp3)- Cate Pearce of Cuppa with Cate
**I purchased the following tracks. They have been fundamental in my mindfulness journey. I list them here purely for reference.**
15-30min guided meditation (CD) – Jan Winslade of Yoga by the Bay
10-15min guided meditations (CD) – Dr Russ Harris of ACTmindfully Mindfulness skills: Volume 1
1 hour guided and instrumental meditations (CD) -Jeremy Donovan Sacred Heart
With love -THTK