Mystical Adventures / May

You’d have to be living under a rock (in which case you’ve probably been busy meditating, right?) to not notice the proliferation of meditation and mindfulness tools over the last few years. There are apps for that (Headspace and Calm being two of the UK’s most well known), You Tube channels galore (I love Meditations By Rasa) and zen Katy Perry ads that pop up on your instagram feed (Transcendental Meditation) while you’re busy looking at pictures of other people’s lunch. And whether you’re all over it or up in arms about the commodification of a practice that’s as old as, well, the Vedas, there’s no escaping the fact that meditation has gone mainstream.

As with many of the spiritual practices I’ve been exploring in #ayearofmysticalthinking, meditation and myself have history. If you read the post about my introduction to yoga and remember the worldly wise rollerblader I took a shine to in my university halls bar back in 1996 – he’s an sensible doctor now and would, I’m sure, be highly amused to find himself with yet another mention on this whimsical blog – well, guess what? He was also into meditation… OF COURSE HE WAS (#gapyearcliches).

Now, I already felt like I’d done my bit to get on his higher plain (not an innuendo) with the dusty sports hall yoga so I didn’t work that hard on connecting with my third eye… but I did give it go. My yoga teacher taught me a mantra about Ganesh (I still use it today) and a few incense-infused sessions in my student bedroom later… a seed was sown. My interest was piqued, I started to really tune in during shavasana (the lying down bit at the end of yoga) and I began to notice the benefits of learning how to still the mind. I wasn’t a regular dedicated meditator but it was something I turned to when I needed to locate some inner peace.

That on-again-off-again practice was it for a while, bar some early noughties experimentation with floatation tanks, until Headspace launched their mindfulness app in 2012. As a stressed out freelance writer and weekday single parent (my husband was working in London and we lived in Bristol) to a baby and a pre-schooler, I was a shoe-in for a download that promised a short cut to inner peace. I’d get the kids to bed then lie down with my phone by my side, often falling asleep well before the end of the recording. Whether that means I didn’t get everything I should have got out of it – with two under-fours sleep is a goal in itself – I don’t know, but meditation from then on became a much more regular part of my survival toolkit.

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 16.37.30I’ve since turned to meditation (both silent and guided) and mindfulness (which is in itself a form of focused meditation) whenever I’ve felt overwhelmed by life and the whirring to do list in my head. I’ve meditated on planes, in traffic (not when I’m the one driving obvs) and in dentists’ chairs. I’ve become a fricking EXPERT at shavasana. I know meditation works for me and helps me find calm in the chaos of everyday life yet somehow I STILL hadn’t made it something I did every single day without fail. Why? What’s wrong with me? I mean, just get on with it already, Emma…

I decided the best way to answer my own questions was by dedicating May (not least because #meditationmay has a certain ring to it) to making that leap.

So this month instead of making vision boards, bathing in crystal sound (the ultimate meditative journey) or meeting an elephant on a yoga mat, I simply committed to meditating every day. I didn’t set any rules other than it had to be for at least five minutes and I didn’t allow myself any excuses to miss a day (no doubling up the next day – I know my own tricks). I wanted to see if making meditation a regular rather than ad hoc part of my life would really make a difference to my life, health and wellbeing.

The quick answer is that it did. But it wasn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be.

I think the simplest way to explain this is probably in bullet points so that’s what I’ll do. If you’re interested…read on!

TRICKY THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • You actually have to do it. Five minutes a day sounds like nothing. Five minutes a day IS nothing (especially when those five minutes result in you feeling better than you did five minutes ago). But like going to the gym, putting away laundry and grand plans to batch cook like a domestic queen, it’s easier said than done…

AMAZING THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • …Which is why you have to make it fun. An app might work for you. Getting up early, lighting a candle and enjoying the stillness of the morning might work for you. Going to a meditation class might work for you. If you want IN, you have to keep trying until you find your thing. For me that turned out to be any long-ish guided meditation where I am asked to visualise beautiful scenery or invite in my spirit guides or descend into a subterranean world filled with secrets and wonder (I find them on You Tube if you’re interested). Inner worlds in Technicolour suit my writer’s imagination to a tee…

TRICKY THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • …But, alas, once you find your meditation ‘thing’ it can almost feel addictive. As the month went on I found myself doing longer and longer guided meditations. I was getting really into it. My imagination was on fire. I felt like any minute now I’d be delivered some great universal truth or enlightenment that would change life as we know it forever…

AMAZING THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • Fortunately, meditation also helps you to get real with yourself, your actions and your intentions. All that stuff above is true (I really did get messages and downloads that felt like they came out of nowhere) but when I was really honest I knew that by allowing myself to always do these elaborate guided meditations I was avoiding ever having to truly calm my mind…

TRICKY THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • …Which brings me neatly on to the other tricky thing about calm minds and meditation. Falling asleep. The jury is out on whether this really matters or not. My children are still young (and bed-invading) enough for me to think that if you need to sleep, you need to sleep and that doing so is a meditative success. Others think meditation is only truly meditation if you’re awake. Some even insist you do it sitting up…

AMAZING THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • …Which is actually not a bad idea if you want to stay awake. But the thing I love most about meditation and crystal sound baths and yoga and pretty much anything is the bit where you get to LIE DOWN. I live for lying down. My husband told me that it seems like what I’m doing this year is actually just paying people to let me LIE DOWN. Make of that what you will.

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 16.57.23TRICKY THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • Sometimes no matter how hard you try the thoughts keep whirring. The image above (by the brilliantly funny Bastard Yogi) pretty much sums it up for me. What I learnt this month is that this is completely normal and happens to everyone. Meditation takes practice and it isn’t about goals or achievement. It’s about one step at a time, one day at a time and the more you do it, the less you’ll find your mind under attack with mental notes about checking your tyre pressures.

 AMAZING THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • It doesn’t take much practice to really start to get something wonderful out of meditation. Within a couple of weeks I found I could use the techniques I’d learnt to calm myself quickly in any stressful situation. By the end of the month I could use meditation to find answers to difficult questions by tuning in to my inner world, truth and intuition. As someone who’s always struggled to make decisions, this is a life-changer.

TRICKY THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • Once you’ve realised what an amazing tool meditation can be you want everyone else around you to get in to it too. I haven’t had too many raised eyebrows when my children’s friends go home saying they meditated on their playdate but it’s still early days.

AMAZING THINGS ABOUT MEDITATION

  • It really is a skill for life. And one you can continuously develop and evolve to suit your needs. This month opened my eyes in so many ways and made me see things anew. I’ve got back into journaling again (free writing early in the morning), which is something I used to do religiously, love going to bed early to meditate and feel more aware of my surroundings, the good things in life and the beauty of the natural world.

AND THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL

Despite all the apps and books and articles and swanky organic meditation cushions (I’m looking at you Goop) meditation is available to everyone and doesn’t have to cost a thing. You don’t need any fancy equipment, you can do it anywhere and, if you go down the guided meditation route (still my favourite no matter how hard I try to wean myself off them), it can be more entertaining than Netflix.

Screen Shot 2019-04-11 at 17.02.47

TEN WAYS TO GET STARTED WITH MEDITATION

  1. Try an app Calm and Headspace both have free meditation content.
  2. Check out YouTube – I’ve already mentioned I am a big fan of Meditations By Rasa but there are loads of other channels on You Tube offering free meditations. See which you feel intuitively drawn to.
  3. Go to a class – Sometimes the easiest way to focus is to put someone else in charge. There are meditation sessions at yoga studios across the country but if you’re London-based I would definitely recommend checking out the gloriously serene Remind Studio in Victoria.
  4. Just breathe – Meditation doesn’t have to be more complicated than finding a quiet spot, getting comfortable, closing your eyes and breathing. Try the 7/11. Slowly extend your breath until you are breathing in for a count of 7 and out for a count of 11. Instant, easy calm.
  5. Learn from the experts – Find out whether your local Buddhist centre offers beginners meditation sessions and go along to one.
  6. Join an insta-live – Keep your eye out for free insta-live meditations on the gram. I’ve joined some great ones by Wolf Sister.
  7. Choose a Guru – Lots of well-known spiritual authors and speakers offer free meditation downloads if you sign up to their mailing list. I really like Rise Sister Rise author Rebecca Campbell’s Inner Temple meditation.
  8. Try a soundbath – If you find meditation tricky, sound can be the perfect way to relax and switch off. I wrote about my experience with Sound Sebastien here and have since become obsessed with sound healing, going to sessions every chance I get.
  9. Learn Transcendental Meditation –There are regular courses and taster days across the country.
  10. Perfect your shavasana – I’ve mentioned it twice already above but for good reason. If you already do yoga (and if you don’t it might be a good excuse to start) you can learn a lot about the benefits of meditation in shavasana. All of yoga is meditative in a way but those few minutes at the end where you lie still could easily become the start of a regular meditation practice. Twenty years ago they did for me. 

Images:
Steph Jianni
Mystical Thinking
Remind Studio

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s