So, there have been a few slip-ups on the sugar-wheat front! However, the meditation is going well. I’ve been finding it easier to settle into the silence. I enjoy taking the time out to clear my mind of busy thoughts and I have noticed a small improvement in my concentration during the meditation. So, for those of you who would like to give it a try but don’t know where to start, here is a short post on getting comfortable with meditation.
Benefits of Meditation
As I said at the beginning of this project, my main purpose for focusing on meditation during lent is for the benefit of my soul! I don’t feel I give enough attention to it, so I’m hoping that by integrating daily meditation into my routine, I can create space for spiritual growth.
However, there are many additional benefits to meditation. A regular practice can help you achieve your goals, sleep better, lower stress and blood pressure, improve concentration and creativity and even make us more compassionate! The picture to the left shows the brain before and after meditation. Essentially, it causes the flow of information and sensory stimuli to slow or even stop in some cases. This allows our brain to recover and create more ‘gray matter’ in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain, leading to more positive emotions, emotional stability and increased focus in daily life. You can find out more here.
This is a fantastic app. Now I can hear some of you saying ‘Surely smartphones and meditation don’t go together’! To some extent, I agree. Once you are more comfortable with the practice of meditation, you need less guidance and can simply sit and meditate whenever you feel like it. However, for the novices among us, this app really is an excellent starting point! You can get a free 10 day trial for iPhones and Androids in the app store.
Andy talks you through 10 daily meditations, each about 10 minutes long. He also has meditations for public transport, bedtime and walking in the Headspace Active section. I find the sleep one great and usually don’t remember hearing the end of it! It has no religious content so the focus really is on technique; learning to breathe, relax your body and quieten your mind. In case you haven’t guessed already, I highly recommend it.
Sacred Word Meditation
Once you have tried a few basic meditations and breathing exercises, you can start to build on your practice. The beauty of meditation is that it is a very personal exercise that can be easily adapted to suit your own experiences. Here is one I have found very helpful. Before you begin, choose a word that has meaning for you, that you would like to concentrate on during your meditation. I often use ‘ma-ra-na-tha’, saying it (in my head) in four even syllables. It is an aramaic word mean ‘Come Lord’. A common buddhist mantra used in similar meditations is ‘om mani padre hum’ which is the embodiment of compassion. You can even choose a combination of simple words such as peace, love, God, calm, enegry etc. You will likely find that some work better for you than others.
1. Find a quiet, comfortable place for you to sit, where you won’t be disturbed.
2. Begin to notice your breath, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice your belling rising and falling as you breath. Do this for one to two minutes.
3. Begin reciting your chosen sacred word/phrase, either in your mind or out loud. Say the phrase in even syllables, in a slow, low voice. When your mind strays, return to the mantra without judgement or disappointment.
4. After a few minutes, begin to visualise your words as you say them. Continue do do this for another few minutes.
5. End your meditation by sitting quietly and focusing on your breath for two-three minutes.