Guest article by Laura Kelly, Yoga Instructor
Meditation teaches us many things. While the world asks us to speed up, meditation teaches us how to slow down. It teaches us to stay calm amongst frantic energy and invites us to slow our movements and consciously feel into our bodies and breath, to become more connected to ourselves and the world around us.
Studies have shown that the benefits of a regular meditation practice are countless. It assists in the reduction of stress levels, encourages better sleep, helps attune mental focus and can aid in the activation of your parasympathetic nervous system, which amongst many things, helps steady those times of high anxiety.
Yet, even with studies extolling the virtues of meditation, many are sceptical of the practice and find myriad reasons as to why the practice isn’t for them. “My mind is too busy”, “I don’t have time”, “It doesn’t work”. Sound familiar? These are just some of the explanations you might tell yourself as to why you don’t meditate.
But with such a wide range of styles and practices to choose from, even the busiest of brains can find and benefit from a meditation practice.
No brain is too busy
Living in the modern world can get a little hectic from time to time. You may already know that taking some time to yourself is the best thing to do but it’s not always easy. You might find you struggle with a busy mind; it takes practice to be able to find those tiny pockets of space and stillness throughout the day.
But the purpose of meditating isn’t to clear the mind. By simply becoming more aware of our thoughts we can find moments of calm, even amongst the chaos.
It doesn’t all look the same
A dedicated meditation practice can often conjure up images of monks, sitting completely still in an uncomfortable position for hours on end void a single thought entering their mind. But there are so many different types of meditation out there. They won’t all work for you and they don’t all involve sitting upright with your legs crossed and your eyes closed.
A walking meditation is one way to bring yourself into the present moment and settle a busy mind. You might practice meditation with a mantra or by simply focusing your attention on your breath. Explore different styles and see what suits you best.
There is always time
Research has found that as little as ten minutes of meditating a day can be of huge benefit to our health. If you are starting out, you might begin with one minute a day of focused attention on your breath. Increase to two minutes and so on until you reach ten minutes or more a day.
Meditation apps provide useful guided timings whilst even the simplest of smartphones can be used to set a timer. The best time to meditate is often when first waking up. It can also be used as a welcomed break during any time of day or to help you wind down at night.
It doesn’t need to be perfect
Sarah Owen, a teacher of Yin Yoga and meditation says that your mediation experience is exactly that. It’s YOUR experience. It will be totally different to anyone else in the room and it can be totally different each time. That’s what makes it so amazing.
Don’t become attached to the outcome of a meditation practice, find space to sit in the experience. Meditation doesn’t have to look a certain way. If it works for you, then it’s working.
Here are a few resources to help support a meditation practice:
Co-founder Andy Puddicombe launched this guided meditation app in 2010. Headspace offers a range of courses including ten-part Meditation Basics available for free which is a great place to start. Their guided sessions range from three-minute breathing exercises to longer courses on specific areas of focus. They also have sleep sounds and guided meditations to help lull you into a restful night’s sleep.
This guided sleep and meditation app offers a full range of listening options. Calm have wonderful sleep stories, some of which are read by famous voices such as Stephen Fry with a relaxing tale about lavender fields in the south of France. They also offer meditation courses focusing on calming anxiety, worry, spreading kindness and other areas. They also have peaceful and relaxing musical tracks to choose from.
Home to meditation teachers from all over the world, this meditation app has 45,000 free meditations available. You’ll find specific courses in the Insight Timer Members Plus section but their free offerings include guided recordings for; learning to meditate, coping with anxiety or managing stress, mindfulness in the workplace, boosting your self-esteem and so much more.
Nimbus & Co
The team at this Bondi-based studio launched a meditation series to support their community whilst they were closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions. You can listen to these guided meditations by Nimbus & Co for free here.