For those who are not aware, I’m undertaking a year-long Happines Project this year, with a different challenge each month. This month, my challenge is to meditate each day. Before I learned to meditate I thought it was some sort of wizardry where you had to learn some sort of trick to be able to do it, and then achieve Nirvana or something. There was a sit-com on TV when I was little called Waiting for God and one of the characters was always sitting in a chair with his eyes closed, completely unmoved by what went on around him – and that’s what I thought meditation was. You leave your body and are not contactable until you return. Guess what… I was wrong on all counts!
Meditation isn’t some weird out of body experience, but it is something that can help you to cope with whatever is going on in your life. Sometimes, meditating can make you feel like you’ve had a lovely, relaxing eight-hour sleep. Which is handy when you can’t remember the last time you had one of those.
Here are three different ways you can meditate…
Headspace is a website set up by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist Monk who’s also a dab hand with a set of juggling balls. I first heard of him through a Ted Talk where he talked about being mindful whilst juggling. There’s a free app you can download to your phone with some guided meditations that are more mindfulness than what you might tend to think of as meditation. Mindfulness has been in the news a fair bit lately, with claims it can be as effective as medication for preventing relapse of things like depression and addiction. I can see how that would be, to be honest. As with all meditation, it teaches you to separate from your “monkey mind” and notice what it’s up to – so you begin to notice destructive thought patterns and how they make your body feel etc, almost as if you’re an observer in your own head.
2. Using a Mala
I learned about using a mala through chatting to Anandi at The Sleep Guru. A mala is basically a necklace, a set of Hindu prayer beads that is often made from rudraksha seeds. There are 108 beads on a mala, and the idea is that you meditate by repeating your mantra once for every bead – holding them in your fingers and counting them off as you go. A good mantra to use is om (which means “nothingness”) or so-hum (which means “I am that” – meaning you are connected to everything). This is really good for people who spend meditation time wondering how much longer is left or how long they’ve been going. You can use the mala to work your way through your meditation; it gives your fingers something to do and your mind something to focus on.
For this one, you basically close your eyes and imagine your ideal place – so an empty beach, a meadow, sitting by a stream, whatever floats your boat. You don’t just think “oh yeah, I’m sitting by a stream, it’s great” – you have to really get into it, imagining the light reflecting off the water, the sound the water makes as it runs over the stones, the trees and grass beside the river, the blue sky above and so on. Some people listen to “ambient” sounds while they do this – for example a recording of waves on the shore if you were visualising a beach – but you don’t have to. The idea is that you become completely engrossed in constructing this relaxing place, to the point that when you’re done, it feels like you’ve actually been sitting in that spot.
I love meditation; I find that it really helps me to cope with day to day life, and to stay calm when things get stressful – which they are wont to do when you’re a self-employed, single mother! I learned Primordial Sound Meditation through Anandi a while ago, and found that it made a big difference to my life. It feels like my mind is one of those big candy floss machines, and someone has just gone in with a stick and pulled all the clouds out. The only reason I’ve not listed Primordial Sound here is because it involves a mantra that is personal to you, which you should never share with anyone else. I can’t therefore tell you how to do it. I do love it though; it’s helped me through many difficult times and also just helps to keep me grounded and balanced on a day to day basis. Anandi presents a course that is originally put together by Deepak Chopra and I often go back to the materials I had as part of that course.
I feel that meditation is something everyone can benefit from, and it’s really not difficult to learn. In fact, really the only thing you need to learn is that there is nothing to learn!
Do you meditate? Have you tried Primordial Sound Meditation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.