Meditation

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One of the habits I have decided to track this year is meditating daily. But this is one habit I am not able to sustain on a daily basis. I decided to see what could be the reason for this and thought this post could then help someone else with the same problem as me.

My usual meditation routine is at night – just before I nod off. This worked earlier, but these days, I find myself sleeping off before I am able to meditate for even five minutes. I wonder what I am doing wrong. I have tried the Calm app before but wanted to try free form meditation this time around and do a proper meditation as opposed to depending on an external source to ground me.

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There is plenty of evidence floating around, including scientific evidence, about how meditation is good for you. Some of the benefits include the reduction of stress, which in turn helps in the sleep cycle, dispels depression and anxiety, reduces blood pressure, helps in the alleviation of fatigue and cloudy thinking and controls anxiety.

You also become more self-aware with the help of meditation and that in turn helps you to develop a stronger understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you, thus helping you grow into your best self. The infographic above is an excellent condensation of the benefits of meditation.

So now that we know why meditation is good, what’s the best time to meditate. Most studies show that meditating twice a day – once as soon as you wake up and once just before you sleep is the best. You can also try meditating in bits and pieces throughout the day (in tranches of one to five minutes each) if that’s what you prefer.

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To start meditating, choose a quiet place, one where you are sure not to be disturbed when you are doing your practice (however short it may be). Sit on the floor cross-legged or if you can’t do that, sit in a straight-backed chair. I usually just use the timer off my phone and set the time I want to meditate and start the timer when I am ready. Now close your eyes and start to concentrate on your breathing. Your mind will start wandering at this point and thoughts will start crowding your head, especially undone tasks. When this happens, and your mind starts to wander, just bring it back into the breath and start focusing on it again. As you improve your practice, you will find this interval between the times your mind starts wandering lengthening and after some time you may be able to go your whole session without the mind not wandering even once!

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I walk a lot. I try to get 10,000 steps in a day and this means I spend at least a couple of hours over the course of my day walking to clock in the steps. I had heard of walking meditation and this is something I am trying to see if I can do – it will allow me to incorporate my daily meditation when I am walking and as a bonus, help me alleviate the boredom that sometimes comes when you walk alone.

So what is walking meditation? It is simply meditation in action. It is being aware of yourself as you walk. Actually, when I read about it, I realised I was already practising it all along. So for those who want to do walking meditation, here’s how you do it.

Find a space where you can comfortably walk. This space can be either indoors or outdoors. Start at one point and before you start, anchor yourself. This means you take a deep breath and focus on your body. Feel the ground beneath your feet and feel it. Become aware of the different sensations and feelings in your body and also take note of your thoughts and feelings at that point.

Start by walking slower than usual with a relaxed and natural gait. Be mindful of every step you take and when you reach the end of the path, pause for a second to centre yourself before you start walking back. Increase your pace after a couple of rounds to a pace that you are comfortable with. Keep your mind focussed on your feet and the steps they take. As with the traditional meditation, when you feel your mind wandering (as it definitely will), gently guide it back. Walk for around ten to twenty minutes before you stop. When you are ready to end the session, pause for a moment and become aware of the world with a show of thanks ending the session.

As you become more adept at walking meditation, you can then start to utilise your senses to the world around you, especially if you are doing this outdoors. See, sense and feel the world, the wind, the air, the colours and smells around you as you become aware of what is around you.

I really see myself doing a fair bit of walking meditation now. What about you? For those on the fence, is meditation something you plan to take up soon? I have written about meditation earlier. You can read my previous articles here and here. Hopefully, this will allow me to come back and report that my meditation practice is going great guns!

Mindfulness and Meditation: Mastering your mind

mindfulness_poster_UKI’m currently reading Ariana Huffington’s book ‘Thrive’ and though I’m only a third into the book, the chapter on mindfulness and meditation resonates with me.

I’ve been meditating on and off through the years (more off than on if I am honest), but I do practice what I now recognize as mindfulness almost every day.

According to Psychology Today, “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

nothinglackingMy version of mindfulness is just before I fall asleep. I am not the sort of person, who as soon as my head hits the pillow, I fall asleep. I usually take between 10-15 minutes on a good say to fall asleep and this is when I reflect and recreate my day as well as see where I was wrong and try to re-do that experience. It’s only those admittedly rare days when I am so exhausted that I do go into a deep sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow that these reflections are not done. In between, I’ve tried to meditate, but I find that I do not have the disciple to do it on a daily basis.

After reading the book, I am more than convinced that I should start BB & GG on trying (the operative word here, ever tried to get teens to stay still?). We did try getting them to meditate once, but couldn’t sustain it, but I am going to give it another shot again. With the heavy stress they are under, this may be a good solution to get them to stay grounded and maybe be able to deal with this stress.

To ensure that we get it right this time, I’ve been reading up on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation and from what I’ve read the benefits far, far outweigh the efforts.

I consider meditation to be a part of mindfulness, where we try to still our busy minds and try to be in the present. You can use anything to anchor your mind – a word or even an image. Indians, and specifically Hindus are known to chant “Om” for this and the vibrations this sound makes is supposed to be very good not only for the individual, but also the environment surrounding you and puts you in a relaxed frame of mind, which is what meditation and mindfulness are all about.

mindfulness-for-daily-lifeSomeone who practices mindfulness and meditates on a regular basis is someone who is more satisfied with life, someone who knows and accepts what life brings to them and becomes fully engaged with the ‘now’, rather than the ‘later’. This ability helps cushion you against the adversities that life will inevitably bring to you.

Scientists have also discovered that practicing mindfulness and meditating regularly help you physically – by relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, giving you the ability to manage pain and improve sleep. All this which a twenty-first century worker needs desperately!

mindfulness1The best way to do this is to find a time of the day when you can practice on a regular basis and stick to that. I prefer doing this just before bed, some people prefer doing this first thing in the morning, but it should be your call. Choose a relatively quiet place where you will not be interrupted as well as bombarded by stimuli. Relax your body and mind. You can close your eyes if that helps or you can focus your attention on an object or image. Take deep and confortable breaths and focus your attention on how you breathe. Your mind will start to wander and when it does, gently bring it back to the present. Having something to focus on like a chant or an image helps in this. I also like to keep a timer on my phone for the initial days when I know I can’t focus too much. Start small, maybe 2-3 minutes initially, gradually moving up the time you mediate and be mindful to as long as you can.

If you do this, I’d love to hear how this went. I will be starting this with BB & GG soon and will post a follow-up on this as soon as there’s some benefit. I am hoping that doing this with them for a few weeks will make this a lifelong habit and will help them through their busy and stressful lives.

Meditation….Bringing the mind home

One of my New Year resolutions was to learn to mediate and I tried doing that on Tuesday night just before I went to bed. I quickly Googled ‘how to meditate‘ and looked up this site. It looked quite easy to me – sit quietly in a place for 2 minutes and concentrate on your breathing.

Meditation has lots of benefits I learnt – physical mental and spiritual. You can go to the Art of Living site here, here and here for more information on meditation and its benefits, but my favorites are:

  • Meditation removes accumulated stress from your body and prevents new stress
  • Lowers blood pressure, anxiety attacks, decreases tension-related problems, improves mood, behavior, energy levels and the immune system
  • Increases creativity, happiness and intuition. You gain clarity and shapens your mind which also grants peace to your mind.
  • Lastly meditation makes you aware that your inner attitude determines your happiness!

Well, I set my phone alarm for 5 minutes and tried to concentrate on my breathing. Along with that, I tried to focus on an image – usually for meditation, you focus on OM, but I decided to focus on the image of my favourite God – the idol of Lord Ganesh as Siddhi Vinayak at the Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai. It worked for about 3 minutes, when my concentration broke and I peeked at the timer to see the amount of time left.

Going to try it again tonight, maybe start at 3 minutes and work my way up. Maybe see if there any meditation apps I could use? I am also using the Clear app on my phone to remind me to do it – I’ve set a three times a week target, but my real target will be eventually to do it daily.

I’ll come back and report maybe halfway down the year if this has made any difference to my life, but I slept well last night – so much that when S was dropping me to work, I was closing my eyes and dozing off….