“Calmness of mind is one of the most beautiful jewels of wisdom.’’ – James Allen
Calming the mind gives us the ability to watch our thoughts before we react. It trains the mind to be resilient, and to act kindly and wisely without impulse or regret. It helps us make better decisions so that we are conscious of ourselves as well as others. It makes you a better role model, whether you are a child, teenager, parent, teacher and leader. Meditation is an effective and inexpensive way to develop a calm and happy mind.
Despite the many benefits of meditation, it can be intimidating practise to begin.
People have many reasons to why they resist the practice meditation:
- Difficult to practice
- Effective only with lengthy sessions
- No time to meditate in the morning before work or before sleep
- Has to be set in a perfect and scenic ambience
- It is against my religion
- It is for calm and peaceful people
It is perfectly normal to have doubts and to procrastinate. But in actual fact, you can do as little as 5 minutes to meditate anytime or anywhere.
Whereas meditation aims to relief active and anxious minds, you may use mindfulness meditation to reflect on and deepen your relationship with someone or your religion. Meditation can be practised in many ways, so there is bound to be a collection of techniques that resonate with each individual, and with each person’s situation.
What is Meditation?
Meditation can be defined as a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Meditation trains the mind to observe and recognize sensations physically, mentally and emotionally.
Some key things to note about meditation:
- We talk about meditation as being a necessary way to unplug from the modern world, but it has been practised in cultures all over the world for over 5,000 years.
- Nearly every religion, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, has a tradition of using meditative practices
- While meditation is often used for religious purposes, many people practice it independently of any religious or spiritual practices
- Meditation can also be used as a psychotherapeutic technique
- Meditation is used in corporate settings to increase productivity and team building
- Meditation is increasingly used in school classrooms, teacher development workshops and parents meetings to address stress reduction and anxiety
Types of Meditation
There are many forms of meditation but the two main types are concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. Both train the mind and consciousness to be calm, balanced and focused.
- In concentrative meditation, all the attention is on a single-pointed awareness and ignoring all forms of distractions, tuning out everything else. The objective is to still the body in order that higher states of consciousness can be achieved. Its key benefits are that it builds patience and mental acuity.
- Mindfulness meditation includes, among others, both mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Mindfulness can target different issues, such as stress, depression, or special needs, which means that each experience and focus may be different from practice to practice. It brings you and your thoughts into the present, focusing on emotions, thoughts and sensations that you’re experiencing “here and now”.
- Before you begin meditation, turn off your phone to aeroplane mode and look to be present.
- Devote at least 10 minutes, set a timer, so you can relax and not feel anxious about missing appointments. (I use a phone application called insight timer that plays the sound of a gong or singing bowl, though the regular timer on most phones are helpful too)
As mentioned, meditation can be conducted anytime and anywhere, as long as you make a choice to take this time for yourself. There is no perfect, or peaceful place and time, it can be on your way to work, at home, at a park, even in the bath!
- Take a deep breath, and get ready to relax. Here are some tips to meditate on your own:
- Sit on a chair or a cushion, or lie down comfortable noticing your spine (I prefer seated because you get to notice the sensations better).
- Breathe in to raise your shoulders up to your ears, hold breath to squeeze tightly and exhale to release physical tension around your shoulders and neck. Allow the shoulders to sink away from the ears. If you are seated, visualise the skeleton upright like a light sabre, and if you are lying down, let the bones sink heavily towards the ground. Repeat 3-5 times. This helps you to relax and release tension.
- Try not to start with closing the eyes fully, instead look downwards to your nose, soften your eyelids halfway and relax the eyeballs. This helps you relax your thoughts and focus on a point.
- The most effective tool of meditation is using the breath. Direct the breath inwards to the diaphragm from the waist up to the shoulders counting for 1,2,3,4, hold for 1,2,3 and out for 6,5,4,3,2,1, hold for 1,2,3 before taking the next inhalation, and repeat for at least 8 rounds, smoothly and evenly. Notice the rising of the breath during inhalation and the falling of the breath during exhalation. After at least 8 rounds of mindful breathing, gently close your eyes and relax. There are many benefits but the purpose here is to bring stillness and focus in the mind.
- Do a body scan like an elevator counting down the levels from the top of the head, slowly and deliberately, bring attention to the surface of the face, neck, shoulders, arms, fingers, torso, spine, inch by inch, all the way landing down to the toes. Don’t rush. Visualize tracing an outline around the body, maybe with a colour of your choice, and imagine this colour expanding outwards. This helps you with body awareness and mental alertness.
- Be very curious about any new sensations – some feelings warm, tingling, itching or soreness. Whatever the sensation is, just note and acknowledge. Give yourself a challenge not to move or react to any distractions. Watch distractions like a cloud passing by. As you do so, you are training and strengthening the mind while healing the body by releasing tension or grip. Remember to trust in the process and be curious about any new sensations.
- Listen to the sounds around and afar. Notice how it makes you feel. This should help you to be more attentive to your senses.
- Notice any good or bad thoughts. I like to use an analogy about our thoughts like two wolves in our heads, one is a good wolf and the other a bad wolf. When we are confused or in doubt, the wolf who will win the fight is the wolf that we feed. This helps with transforming negative habits to healthier behaviours.
- Before ending the meditation, place your hand on the body part you will like to focus on, finding a connection with an intention or a dedication for today, with someone or towards yourself. Breath into the hand, counting the breath gently and slowly. Visualize the breath like the ocean waves, releasing any tension or worry away with the out-breath. Repeat until you are feeling deep calm. This helps you to restore well-being and develop compassion towards yourself and others.
These tips are beneficial not only for deep calm in bodies and listening, but these are also applications of mindfulness to feelings. Practising this way develops emotional intelligence by bringing awareness to your emotions and those of people around you.
It can also help you to learn to apply and manage your emotions through mindful thought and action. Spend some time journaling your experiences through writing or art-making, as it is extremely cathartic. These tips may be modified for children too. Find out more from the article: Why Meditation for Kids is so Powerful