Meditation is an essential practice for our time and for all times. Western cultures often think of meditation as a means to an end but that is somewhat a reductive way to measure its benefits. With the first lockdown there were many people finding they had more time on their hands so meditation was something to do, but as life gets busy again it’s easy to let it slip… it just seems like there’s ‘not enough time’ to sit and do nothing. But time is very much a matter of perception, speeding up when you’re having fun and slowing down when the going gets tough, and meditation helps to balance your relationship to time and use it to your advantage.
Good mental health affects more than just your mind…
Sleep – not being able to sleep at night is the result of a busy mind that is unable to switch off – getting the deep rest you need each night is essential for managing your daily activities.
Stomach issues – another result of stress and always being switched ‘on’ (along with high blood pressure and chronic pain).
Trauma – life can be challenging at times and an increase of stress can bring up old wounds to the surface leading to depression and anxiety.
Spacing out – a build up of pressure in your personal or working life can lead you to feel overwhelmed with everything going on around you.
Your body can experience everything from pain, muscle aches, stomach issues and fatigue to a weakened immune system and chronic health problems caused by stress. Now I’m not saying that meditation will cure these things… but it could be the first step towards getting your health back on track. A regular meditation practice can reduce stress and encourage healing, helping you to reach your full potential. By creating a calm, stable and connected foundation, good mental health leads to good physical health. The two combined can help you to be a more prosperous and happier person.
Why I make meditation a priority.
I’ve been practising meditation since my early 20s and have directly experienced dramatic changes to my physical and mental energies… more so than any other exercise or self-care technique. It has made me more socially confident, as well as enabling me to make deeper connections with others and enhancing my awareness to experience more of what life has to offer. This 20-minute daily practice has a cumulative effect of increasing happiness.
When I first considered trying meditation, the idea of having to sit for 20 minutes each day was alarming, as I thought there was absolutely no way I could spare over two hours every week. It didn’t occur to me that the stress I was feeling and the time pressure I was putting on myself were the exact things that meditation could fix. I would wake up each morning and go to work, get stressed, eat mindlessly, buy things I didn’t need and not be at all present or aware of what was happening. Meditation gave me the opportunity to train that muscle of being present. I found myself a way to step aside from that pattern of doing without thinking, like taking a mini-break from the autopilot world inside my head. It meant I could make conscious choices for a short time… before the mental fog returned (as it so easily does).
What exactly is meditation?
Meditation is not making the mind completely still, as many people think. It is a process that decreases the effects of stress on your mind and body. Meditation techniques can help you cope with everyday stress as well as stress related to various health problems. Some people do a sitting meditation that has the benefit of being able to do anywhere. Other people do Restorative Yoga as a way to access a meditative state through deep physical relaxation.
As a meditation teacher, I describe meditation as a way to feel the different forms of energy in your body. Sitting still gives you an opportunity to notice the discomforts in your physical body and the time and space to allow you to experience what emotions are present and what thoughts are being repeated. You realise when your mind is in a quieter mode and when there is a speeding up of different thoughts. You begin to sense when you are feeling motivated, excited and energized and when you have a general lack of interest and energy.
When I get asked ‘what is self care?’ I say it is ‘the act of being loving and generous towards yourself’.
As a wellness teacher, this is my aim. To look after myself so that I can look after my business, my family and my interests. It’s important to be productive in order to create a sense of self-worth, but you also need downtime in order to create good relaxation habits for good mental wellbeing. If you practise meditation regularly you will notice increased health benefits. Your work productivity will improve and your relationships will become more stable and enjoyable.
The technique I practise is Primordial Sound Meditation
This ancient practice of sound meditation is rooted in the Vedic tradition of India. With this powerful meditation technique you receive a personal mantra. A mantra is a specific sound or vibration that helps you to enter deeper levels of awareness. When you silently repeat your mantra in meditation, it creates a vibration that helps you slip into the space between your thoughts, eventually slipping into short moments of complete silence. At this point your mind moves beyond its internal noisy chatter into profound peace and expanded awareness!
There is no single right or wrong way to meditate.
Primordial Sound Meditation is a very specific style of meditation and will not be right for everyone. When it comes to training and learning how to meditate… there are a whole bunch of resources out there. There are thousands of online introductory courses. But I highly recommend any of Deepak Chopra’s programs, and particularly the So-Hum mantra meditations. There are many different mantra meditations to choose from, most of which are very simple and easy to learn. If you have never done mantra meditation before, I suggest you start with the So-Hum meditation first, before continuing with the personal mantra. For Primordial Sound Meditation you need to figure out what your personal mantra is. This is done by using a calculation based on your birth time and place.
What’s the difference between Primordial Sound Meditation and Transcendental Meditation?
These are essentially trademark names. A lot of people learned Transcendental Meditation in the 60s when it was popularised by the Beatles, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who founded Transcendental Meditation became a household name. The main difference is that in Transcendental Meditation they simply use a one or two syllable mantra initially, whereas in Primordial Sound Meditation the mantras generally begin with Om and end with Namaha, becoming more of a phrase. The mantras are traditionally secretive and given to you by a guru but nowadays you can probably work out the calculation of your own personal mantra by doing a quick search on Google! The other main difference is that the initial Primordial Sound Meditation practice is 30 minutes whereas the initial Transcendental Meditation practice is 20 minutes.
To practise either of these techniques you simply choose a comfortable seated position on a chair or on the floor and close your eyes. The key is to allow the mind to become quiet by silently repeating the mantra and then passively experience that quietness and the awakening of consciousness.
And if your thoughts don’t slow down? Well you’ll be happy to know that when you silently repeat your mantra, the vibration helps you to slip momentarily into the space between your thoughts. There is actually a tiny space between each thought that is complete silence. This is sometimes referred to as the Gap between thoughts. In this Gap your mind is exposed to its own deepest nature. The Gap might be so small that you are not even aware of it happening. But meditation is not about searching for this Gap or trying to increase it. Instead, it’s a process to rediscover the quietness that is ever-present beyond your thinking mind. Behind the screen of internal dialogue, this awareness is not disturbed by thoughts of the past or concerns of the future. So even if you’re not aware of it, through meditation you are accessing this pure awareness. As you meditate on a regular basis, you will notice an increased sense of peace and wellbeing as well as greater energy and creativity. All of which is already in you!
One final note… you do not necessarily need to follow a particular program or school of meditation to tap into that inner quiet. I would encourage you to begin with maybe just 5 or 10 minutes every day of sitting and watching the breath. Meditation is your own personal journey so I encourage you to do whatever feels right for you.