What is meditation?
There are a number of different meditation practices and techniques such as Vipassana and Mindfulness, but broadly-speaking meditation is a practice in which you direct the attention towards one single thing be it the breath, a mantra, a visualisation, in order to ‘shut out’ any external (and internal!) distractions. Meditation has three main stages beginning with concentration, which gives way to the ‘state’ of meditation - of absolute awareness of the present moment - which then gives way to the state of what is known in Sanskrit as Samadhi, or enlightenment, where all becomes one. It’s a lot more complex than that but that’s the brief version!
What are the benefits of meditation?
The benefits of meditation have been proven to be wide-range, from helping to soothe anxiety, to help with blood pressure and heart-related issues. For me, the magic of meditation and the benefits tab come with it are a very personal thing.
One of the main benefits I’ve found is an increased awareness of time and how it can be used effectively. Although I run a predominantly online business I find it easy to spent less time on social media because I realise how very ‘clogging’ to the system it is for me. When I spend longer on social media, for example, I notice the direct effect it has on my practice: my eyes are not so steady, my attention ‘flits’ about and I don’t feel quite so refreshed afterwards as I would had I been more conscious of the energy I gave to consuming rather than creating.
Other benefits given by other include lower levels of anxiety and an increased awareness of how to manage it when it does arise, enhanced patience, greater levels of creativity (this one is why I set up my nature-based creativity and meditation sessions!). It is also known to strengthen and tone the vagus nerve, the central ‘highway’ of the nervous system, improving immunity and overall wellbeing.
Is meditation the same as savasana, yoga nidra or journeying, like in a cacao ceremony?
In a word, no. While savasana is about relaxing and ‘drifitng off’ at the end of a yoga class, and nidra and journeying use techniques that involve relaxing the body first and then guiding the inner awareness to an internal space and deeper still where the mind can move from one thing to another and in this way opening up to messages that may come through, meditation is done in a upright position in order to stop the mind from drifting off or falling asleep. It is about moving into a space of complete awareness and presence, rather than allowing it to drift off.
I’m really busy; can I still meditate?
Yes, absolutely! Everyone has at least five minutes that they can put aside for some quiet time - we all have to start somewhere. Beginning your practice doesn’t have to be any more ‘fancy’ than putting a five minute timer on your phone and sitting listening to your breath in a quiet space. From there, see if you can fine ten minutes, and then ten. Consider too how much time you might be spending watching TV, consuming social media or on the internet. How much of that could you cut out to direct your attention towards something that will be more constructive for you and your sense of Self.
Whenever I put the time aside to meditate, I have no idea what to do - any ideas?
If you struggle to know what to do hen you meditate, I highly recommend trying the 54-breath meditation on my SoundCloud page as a starting point. Once you start to do this regularly, you may find that you are becoming more present during your day and time seems to ‘open out’ so that you start to feel as if you have more of it!
I find sitting for meditation really uncomfortable, what should I do?
The first question I might ask is how you are sitting? If you have sensitive knees or hips, for example, sitting in a cross-legged position (as is often depicted in ‘traditional’ images) probably isn’t going to be the best thing for your body. There are many different ways of sitting in meditation, using props, a chair, the wall and so on. Have look at my two blog post on this: The Value of Props and Finding your Seat for a little more information on this.
I find meditation really boring, maybe it’s just not for me.
Meditation is for everyone, especially people who thinks it’s boring! Think firstly it might be worth thinking about why you find it boring. What are your expectations of the practice? Why do you think it should be a form of entertainment? In today’s world, we are constantly distracted from ourselves and told we should be entertained, that we should be constantly doing. Meditation is not about doing, it’s about being and the more you can accept that, the more you might start to appreciate those quiet moments where no one is trying to sell you anything, or ask you questions, to tell you there’s something you’re not doing.
Sometimes I find myself crying/becoming angry/frustrated when I try to meditation, is that ok?
Of course! The point of meditation is that we come to a point where we can separate ourselves from the mind chatter and realise that ‘I am not my thoughts.’ If we let it, the mind (the ego self) will to dance about and distract you by telling you that you can’t do it, that you’re not good enough, that this shiny thing is more interesting, that you have too much to do, that you aren’t doing it right, that you can’t do anything right. At these points, it’s important to become completely present to what it is you are concentrating on at that moment - the wolf that you feed is the one that will grow, as the saying goes. Feed the breath, feed the mantra, the visualisation, with your attention, seek the spaces between the thoughts and notice what happens in those spaces, the peace and calm that exists there. The more you feed those things, and not the voice of the mind or the inner critic, the more they will grow and the more you will see that you really are not your thoughts.
In order to move past the point where these thoughts become so distracting that they cripple any effort we make to do the opposite, we must work through them, that’s just the truth of it. By allowing yourself to release any pent up emotions or frustrations that may arise, you will open up space in your body and spirit to create something new.
I have mental health challenges, should I still I meditate?
This is a huge question, and not something I’m necessarily qualified to answer. I did an IGTV on my Instagram page a while ago going into more detail but my brief answer is that, generally, meditation techniques are great for things like anxiety - some more than others, which is why is always good to seek advice on practices that might work for you from a qualified teacher (like me!) - but can be hugely detrimental if you are working through any kind of emotional or psychological trauma, deep depression, psychosis, personality disorders and the like. In these cases, you should be working with your therapist, psychologist, doctor to get the specific treatment and support that you need. You are amazing; I see you and send you love and strength.
How do you use a set of mala beads? I have a set but have no idea how to use them - help!
This is a very popular question. I cover it in depth in my Practising Mantra e-book (which you can find here) but below is a little snippet to get you started. I also wrote a blog post here on the role that the fingers play in using a mala and why they’re an important part of the practice :-)
Practicalities: How to Practice Japa (from my ‘Practising Mantra’ E-book)
“Get yourself into a comfortable seated position, whatever that looks like for you. If you need to sit with a back support, do this. If you have things going on in your body and need to lie down to begin with, please know that this is ok too (as long as you don’t fall asleep (I speak from experience)!).
Drape your mala between the ring and middle fingers of the right again (again, if for whatever reason it needs to be the left hand though, do that). You are going to use the thumb of this hand to move from one bead to the next by pushing the bead down through the fingers. The index finger should never touch the mala as this is know as the individual consciousness (or ego) finger; instead it is the thumb (the digit of the universal consciousness) that controls the mala and rolls the beads.
Hold your mala above your navel and away from the floor (I tend to hold mine up by my chest and let the beads drape). If the mala is a crystal and slightly heavier, let the beads drape in the palm of the opposite hand.
Each bead is a mantra. Whichever mantra you are working with, recite it each time your thumb touches a new bead and then move onto the next. It’s really lovely if you can build up a rhythm in the sounds of the mantra as this will help you to move into a deeper state of concentration. You can practise any version as stated above - vaikhari, upamsha or manasika. I’ve found that doing a combination of all three is very effective, especially when starting out. For example, 27 mantras recited aloud, 27 in a whisper, and the rest (54) internally. The reason I begin with the mantra aloud is so that it allows you to hear the mantra, its tones, sounds and vibrations around you before you draw this inwards to recite it internally.
When starting out, if you feel a little nervous about reciting aloud, why not try just using the breath? If you chose this version, then each bead would represent an inhalation and an exhalation. Rather than making the breath audible, perhaps try to control it, making it as quiet as possible, as soft and gentle as it can be. We are working in the realm of the parasympathetic nervous system in any form of meditation and controlling the breath in this way will help to access that.
Once you have completed your set of mantras, either sit with the mala in your hand or place it around your neck and continue with your meditation. The mala will be infused with the energy of your mantra and having the mantra in your mind will provide a focus point when you find your mind starting to wander. “
If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch using the pink 'contact us' box below.