Ever wondered about the benefits? Not sure you can do it? Discover the power of a little quiet time with yourself… a sense of calm and a clear mind.
Convince me why I should try it. In a nutshell: because it is very easy, it makes you feel great and it has so many scientifically documented benefits. So even if the idea of mindful meditation seems to mean that you will be taking time out of an already overly busy life to do what seems like “nothing”, you can rest assured it will pay dividends.
Is it all chanting?
The ancient, spiritual form of meditation practised for centuries by Buddhist monks involved a lot of chanting, but most other types don’t. There’s Transcendental Meditation, which became better known in the 70’s when The Beatles took up with its founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; the more hardcore (and silent) Vipassana; then the more approachable, secular “mindfulness meditation” that has become so popular recently.
Meditation or mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being properly aware of what you are doing at any particular moment, rather than letting your mind wander around. You could walk, eat or brush your teeth mindfully. Mindful Meditation is the practice of sitting down and bringing your attention (mindfully) to the breath.
Are there real benefits?
It’s not just some conspiracy of the smug: the benefits of mindful meditation are huge and well proven by clinical studies. It makes you healthier by boosting immune function and decreasing the low-level inflammation that speeds up the ageing process. It also helps manage pain levels and improves happiness and positivity, decreasing stress and depression. It makes you think about other people and become more aware of your own thoughts and emotions, it enhances relationships with friends, family or colleagues and makes you more compassionate too. By increasing your ability to focus, it makes you more productive, more creative and the more you do it, the greater the benefits.
What’s the basic idea?
First, let’s clear up a couple of misconceptions. Meditation is not, we repeat, not about “clearing your mind”. That’s what everyone thinks and it’s a misunderstanding. A former Buddhist monk and founder of the popular meditation programme ‘Headspace’ describes what mindful meditation is about exactly. “It is about being at ease with the mind”.
What meditation is about is sitting quietly, bringing your attention to your breathing, observing any thoughts that come up in a non-judgmental way and letting them go. That sounds very simple, yet it’s powerful stuff, say experts.
“A typical mindful meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and little by little, to let go of struggling with them,” say experts.
Do I have to sit cross-legged?
No, absolutely not. Any chair will do, or you can sit on the side of your bed. If you do sit on a chair, sit forward so that your back is straight and you can “sit tall” with good posture. If you lean back against a chair, it’s all too easy to drift off to sleep when you’re meant to be keeping the mind aware of itself.
Do I need any equipment?
No, that’s the beauty of it, though it can help to have a “meditation cushion” that you find comfortable and somewhere you can easily sit upright.
Here’s a fabulous ritual from yoga and meditation experts in Holland.
Meditating at bedtime is a lovely way to relax your mind. It‘s more soothing than watching TV or reading and helps you to fall asleep afterwards. Tempting as it may be to do it lying down in bed, make sure you sit upright so that you don‘t fall asleep while doing it (meditation is about awareness rather than shutting down and dropping off). Use a timer so that you’re not distracted by wondering how many minutes have gone by.
- In order to relax rather than fall asleep, it’s best to sit with your back straight. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breathing; as the breath is the link between the mind and the body. Breathe in and out through the nose and deepen your breath so that it goes right down to your tummy; it can feel awkward at first if you’ve been stressed and breathing shallowly all day.
- Slow your breath to a twenty-count inhale and twenty-count exhale, or slower if it feels natural. Don’t force it‚ just keep it gentle.
- Bring your awareness to the upper lip below the nose and try to feel the air as it passes across the lip as you breathe in and out.
- Stay focused on the breath and every time your mind wanders off, don’t get cross, but just gently bring it back to the breath. This is the simplest form of meditating and can also help when you’re trying to sleep and lying down.
E243 – Mindful Meditation made easy for Diabetics – www.diabetic.today