Meditation. Chanting “Ommm” whilst sitting legs crossed in lotus pose, thumbs and middle fingers touching, eyes closed. That’s meditation, right? Remaining in that position for half an hour or multiple hours, with an empty mind seeking inner peace.
Well, no, that’s not how my practice goes. Not at all infact. I use several different methods when meditating, depending upon the circumstances and where I am. For instance, if I need to calm down, take a time out or collect myself in a stressful situation, I focus on my breathing. This can be done anywhere at any time! No need for candles or incense to do this, the car or a public loo if needed are perfectly suitable. All I do is take a deep breath in through my nose, counting slowly as I do so. Hold the breath for the same amount of time plus 1 second, then slowly exhale the breath for the same length of time as inhale plus 2 seconds. It doesn’t matter (to me) if I exhale through my nose or my mouth. This slows my heart rate and allows for clearer, calmer thinking and a better mood for continuing with my day or situation. This always works when I practice it, I just need to remember to practice it more…
Another method I use, if I need a more specific focus or advice, is a much more recognisable as a form of “meditation” as it does involve sitting down in a comfortable position (I have yet to try the lotus pose, I prefer a comfy chair if I am honest) and sometime I do burn candles or incense, but I absolutely need time and peace and quiet on my own, which is rare giving that I am a home-educating Mama. In this practice I have a place, a home, I go to in my mind and can seek assistance or guidance from my circle of inspirational advisors, which is essentially a group of women (real and fictitious) who chip in with their tuppence worth during these sessions. Over the years my circle has changed with various members of my imaginary tribe being replaced, or their numbers increased as I have evolved. I started out with 6 women on my team which has grown to 12, with me being the 13th. The only constant has been that my advisory squad has been made solely of women.
So who has a place in my circle? In alphabetical order I have Brene Brown, Caitlin Moran, Dharma Montgomery, Eilidh (my friend), Fearne Cotton, Glennie Kindred, Gloria Steinem, Lisa Lister, Maggie Chapman, Maya Angelou, Minerva McGonagall and Sharon (my friend). A nice blend of mothers, wise women and crones. Previously I had shared this space with other friends as well as the Aunts, Jet and Francis, from Practical Magic, Anita Roddick, Anais Nin, Nicola Sturgeon, Hillary Clinton, Dolly Parton, Susan Sarandon, Geri Halliwell, Oprah Winfrey and Madonna amongst others.
The other place I find it very easy to meditate, believe it or not, is in the shower! The motion of washing my hair is a no brainer requiring zero effort, which leaves plenty mind space to gather and process my thoughts and gain clarity. I often have my best ideas and moments of inspiration as I lather and rinse!
For anyone who has never meditated before, it can seem a bit woo-hoo or a little daunting, with the unsure feeling of where to start or even knowing what the point of meditation is, if not for finding inner peace. There are lots of books on how to meditate and why, plus Youtube has a variety of videos to watch or listen to as a guided meditative practice. I would recommend even just starting with the breathing exercise I use. If you want to sit in lotus, or create a dedicated sacred space at home for your practice, do it. If you want to light candles or incense, do it. Or don’t. There are no rules here, and the practice is entirely yours. It is worth noting though, that it is nigh on impossible to completely clear your mind, it will wander off in all directions, especially if you have a busy life with work or kids (or both), but as soon as you notice it going off on its own tangent, bring it back by refocussing on that breath. It takes practice.
I keep referring to meditation as a practice because practice is what it takes. Practice to get comfortable with what you are doing, with what you want to achieve and practice to make it a regular part of your routine. I have been “practicing” for the past 15 years but have yet to establish a proper and regular habit. It’s very much ad hoc and fitting it in when I either remember or feel the need.
Back in 2002 I attended a 2-day motivational event called Mindstore, by a bloke called Jack Black, and it was brilliant. My employer at the time was really into personal development and self empowerment and transferring that energy into the work place (recruitment consultancy) so sent myself and 2 colleague to the Mindstore programme. During the event, Jack guided the packed auditorium, which must have held about 500 delegates, through a meditation. This was the first time I had ever meditated, infact, I didn’t realise at the time that that was what we were doing. It felt like 10 minutes had passed, no more than that, but it had actually been 30 minutes. As it happens I still use that guided journey today (incorporating my advisory soul circle) . The general story is similar but I have changed details here and there over the years. It is as effective now as it was then.
Meditation has also helped (A) with calming down, expressing his anger in healthier ways or even to relax into sleep.. I find that guiding him with focussing on his breathing or visualising colours has been the most beneficial and effective way to meet his needs. It’s short and simple for little minds with big imaginations.
When I was coming to the end of my maternity leave around 6.5 years ago I started a distance learning course on meditation. I complete all but the last 2 modules as returning to work full time and having a toddler proved enough for me to take on at the time. I wish I had finished the course as it was really interesting and I picked up plenty tips and ideas for both my own personal practice and for guiding others. It is on my ‘to-do’ list to complete it one day, but I figure after 6 years I will probably have to do the whole course over again…
Since 2002, I have never participated in a group session, but a woman local to me runs guided women’s meditation workshops in 6 weekly blocks. At this stage in my own journey and with my own practice being so sporadic and inconsistent, I am contemplating signing up for a space – 6 weeks of dedicated practice, who knows where that could lead or open up?
Do you medidate? I would love to hear how other people practice and fit it into busy lives.