Scientifically and spiritually, the benefits of meditation are well reported. Meditation is documented as helping increase focus, learning and memory, balancing our emotions as well as having many physical benefits such as increasing our immunity, energy levels and reducing blood pressure.
Yet despite these known benefits most people still aren’t meditating and the two most common excuses people give me for not doing so are:
- I don’t have the time; and/or
- I don’t know how to
Meditation is the simplest of practices however it is often over complicated by thought processes (which is an oxymoron as that it exactly what it can help with). It is not an activity of only sages, devotees and mystics who can sit crossed legged for hours at a time chanting “om”, although you can do so if that suits you. Meditation in a practice which everyone is able to do, in some shape or form, and is something most of us have all done perhaps without realising.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is the act of contemplation, reflection and/or prayer where a person focusses their mind with the intention of slowing down and knowing that thoughts will rise, however choosing not to engage with these thoughts. It is the process of being; in that exact moment in time, free of busyness and distractions, not in the past and not in future, just present moment.
Meditation is the essence of mindfulness, which is described as a state of being actively in the present, observing thoughts and feelings from a distance without judgement of them. Its living and being awaken to what you are doing at that precise point of time.
What this means is that meditation can therefore be achieved at any time a person brings mindfulness to whatever they are doing. By placing their full attention on what they are doing, which brings them to living in the that exact moment. To allow thoughts to flow without judgement and to observe them without hooking onto a thought or following it down the rabbit hole.
Have you ever brushed your own, or someone else’s hair, and just been in that moment with each stroke, focused on smoothing out the hair? or perhaps sat outside on a beautiful day and found yourself immersed in the beauty surrounding you and sensing the sun’s rays warming you or the wind gently cooling you? have you walked along a beach picking up shells or cooling your feet in the water, finding yourself immersed with the smell of the ocean and sound of the waves? Possibly you’ve found yourself lost in the book you’ve been reading, taken to another time and place…..
In any of these, or similar scenarios, had you noticed that your mind was nowhere else other than where you were at that time? Because that is meditation. Whilst personally I am fond of sitting still with the intent of meditation, freeing my mind of thought, any time we have been lost in the moment, or totally focused on what we were doing, we were practicing mindfulness and therefore meditation.
Suggestions to aid with being present
- Accept that as your mind begins to slow down and be in the moment thoughts will rise and that you have a choice whether you engage with them
- Write for five minutes before meditation, our mind becomes free to be present because it now knows what it needs to remember has already been recorded
- Focus on your breathe…it is a natural process that is happening every moment your awake or asleep, bring your attention to the air you take into your lungs and hold, allow that oxygen to disperse into your body and then breathe out…letting go of the stuff you no longer need
- Concentrate fully on whatever it is that you are doing. For example if you are washing the dishes focusing on each plate, bowel or cup and being reverent in cleaning each item.
- Guided visualisations are a great tool to aid with meditating and it is still meditating if you use them
Ideal activities for meditation when you have no time
Consider the activities you are doing already, where you can slow down to be 100% focused on that task at hand and therefore present such as:
- Washing the dishes
- Talking the dog for a walk
- Going to the park with the kids
- Sitting on the toilet
- Preparing, cooking and/or eating meals
- Walking along the beach
- Prior to sleep
As previously mentioned most people find it challenging to find time for sitting down to meditate. The longer your can meditate the more effective the benefits, however some time spent is better than none at all.