Meditation is a helpful addition to a healthy lifestyle. Mindfulness in all that you do, encourages you to be “in the flow”, to become more balanced.
How do you feel when you eat cake, drink, wine or eat your treats? Being aware of how you are feeling and what is driving you, creates a sense of mindful awareness. Mindfulness allows us to really listen to what we need and to become aware of the unconsciousness that often surrounds the things that we do, including what we put into our mouths.
Meditation allows the mind to rest and can put stresses and worries into perspective. It is often during meditation that one lets go of the day-to-day tensions and finds a sense of peace and calm. It also allows the nervous system to rest and switch off from the stimulatory phase. The mind is constantly jumping from one thought to the next. We are often so wrapped up in these thoughts that we do not know what it is like to experience a quiet mind.
Meditation is not about forcing the mind to be still and have nothing in your mind. It is about recognising the nature of the mind. If a fan is whirring above your head you are unable to see how many blades are spinning, as it is moving too fast, but if you turn the fan off you begin to see the blades clearly as it starts to slow down. This is like meditation – the slowing down of the mind in order to be able to see its true nature. Mindfully noticing how the mind functions, brings about an alternative state of awareness that resides somewhere separate from the mind. Some may call this the Higher Self, others the Inner Guide or the Super-consciousness – however you refer to it, it is a state separate from the usual experience of the mind.
Start by just noticing your thoughts, pay attention to them, watch them. You will see that the mind jumps from one subject to the next. You may be able to keep track of the thoughts for a while, but sooner or later you will become immersed in them and finally lose track of them. At some stage you will return to watching the thoughts and then wonder how you got to thinking about whatever in that moment you are thinking about!
In the early days of meditation practice you will spend your time trying to be more mindful of your thoughts in order to understand the nature of the mind. Once you have allowed the mind time to jump around, it will start to eventually calm down. If the mind jumps from one thought to the next, there are spaces between those thoughts. The calmer the mind becomes, the more spaces are noticed between the thoughts. Residing in those calm spaces between the thoughts gives the meditator an experience of existing outside of the usual thought processes. Being separate from the thoughts brings about a feeling of simply existing – like the rocks, the trees or the ocean – just being. With no thoughts to get immersed in, one can simply enjoy the vibration of being alive -an awareness of life itself. It is in these moments that meditators can experience insights, profound feelings or moments of inspiration.
1. Meditation exercise:
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position, close your eyes.
- Bring your awareness to your breathing. Notice how it feels.
- Notice the air coming in through your nostrils and down into your lungs.
- Notice the movement of the abdomen as you breathe.
- Take 5 deep breaths.
- Now start to slow the breath down making it more gentle so that you can hardly feel it.
- Keep the mind focused on your gentle breathing.
- If the mind starts to wander, just notice it, but try not to pay any attention to your thoughts. Let them float by like clouds on a sunny day.
- If your mind wanders again, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
2. Stilling the mind exercise:
- Lie on your back and completely relax your body starting at your feet.
- Feel your feet relax – let all tension go from them.
- Feel the relaxation moving up your legs, relaxing each part of your legs as you go.
- Feel the relaxation moving up through the hips, abdomen, chest and up through the spine.
- Relax your fingers and hands and lower arms. Feel the relaxation moving up into your shoulders and neck.
- Relax your face and head. Feel the face and head completely relaxing. Let the jaw become soft and the mouth fall open slightly as you relax.
- Let your whole body completely relax.
- Move your awareness to your mind and relax your mind. Allow your mind to gently calm down.
- Imagine your mind to be a still, calm lake with no waves or ripples.
- Once the mind is still and calm you may dive deep within.
- Relax into a place of stillness, a place of beauty, a place of peace. Feel at peace with yourself and at peace with the world.
Regularly performing these sorts of exercises will allow your mind to be calmer on a daily basis. They will also train your mind into a more focused state of functioning and you will find that, over time, you become less and less wrapped up in the chatter of the mind. This can be especially useful in times of stress when the mind races, causing you worry and anxiety.
Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist at Awakening Health.