What is Meditation, what are the benefits? A shared experience.
M E D I T A T I O N – my take on it & personal experience
Medi definition = middle
tation definition = a request to be present or take part in something. irritation. something that causes annoyance or trouble (sensations / thoughts)
the English meditation is derived from Old French meditacioun, in turn from Latin meditatio from a verb meditari, meaning "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder".
Meditation is a chance for us all to feel & observe the sensations running through our body. It’s a chance for us all to observe the thoughts running through our minds – without judgement. It’s a chance for us to focus and re-focus our attention on our breath. Our breathe remains the main function that we all can truly rely on.
The most important aspect of meditation is to accept everything as it is and gracefully move on. Our minds may wander and we may lose track of our breath, but there is no such thing as a perfect meditation. Showing up to attempt or to complete the meditation is the greatest thing we can do.
Detachment from our thoughts & sensations is powerful.
We must remember that we are not our thoughts and we have the power to detach ourselves from them no matter how negative or untrue they are.
Meditation is an opportunity to take time out and check in with ourselves. To connect within and face our pure-raw, existential beauty – this of course may be quite uncomfortable to begin with but that is generally experienced in the beginning.
To face the dark depths of our being, we may feel irritable or we may feel scared.
We may feel calm. We may feel ready to relax into our body & let all pressure, tension and stress ooze away during and after the process.
We may feel excited to experience the release, the de-cluttering of our mental mess.
We may even feel ready to accept what arises with a knowing that it’ll pass and know that
there’s always a chance to start again.
Meditation isn’t necessarily about emptying our minds but more so, learning to observe our thoughts and feelings without judging ourselves. And then of course, stay with the breath or move on to the next body focal point (as an example), depending on which type of meditation you are practising.
As you may be aware, there are many different types of meditation that we can all practice - some of the variations include:
Open monitoring meditation
Here are some examples of where the different styles of meditation fall under the different religious & spiritual influences:
Buddhist meditation techniques include:
Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta meditation).
Hindu meditation techniques (vedic & yogic) include:
Mantra meditation (OM)
Self-Enquiry and “I Am” meditation
Chinese meditation techniques include:
Qigong (Chi Kung)
Despite its long history as a religious practice, meditation does not have to be religious in nature. Religions have used meditation religiously in the sense that it was practiced consistently.
A person who is not religious or does not wish to include meditation in their religious practice could easily still meditate. On the other hand, someone who is religious might benefit from including meditation in their spiritual practices. Meditation in and of itself is not necessarily religious. The practice began in multiple religions independently and was born out of a desire to either better know God or to reach enlightenment. As such, meditation often has a spiritual element to it. That said, a person does not have to be religious to meditate, and someone who is religious does not have to treat meditation as a spiritual practice. That is part of the beauty of meditation. It really is what you make of it.
Meditation is sitting under a tree, watching the ripple effects in the water glide past you.
Mediation is staring at an object for a fairly long period of time and surrendering to the moment.
Meditation is about training ourselves in awareness, to help us build up a healthier sense of perspective on life. Ultimately, the process helps us to have a heightened capacity to understand our thought patterns better and therefore our patterns of behaviour better. This leads to living, breathing, thinking and moving better. Notifications, technology, work, to-do’s, plans, worry, stress, thoughts and just life in general takes up and overworks a lot of our focus, time & brain power.
Practising meditation takes us back to basics, positively affecting our physiological and neurological systems, enhancing our cognitive and emotional ability to react to the daily stressors in more of an effective way. Meditation helps us to re-charge ourselves on every dimensional level.
The benefits/why should we meditate:
The benefits of Meditation includes relaxation, greater awareness, clarity, insight, calm, improved breathing, lower blood pressure, improved sleep, reduces age-related memory loss, relieve symptoms of depression & anxiety. The list goes on. Breathing regulates the autonomic system and other stress responses. 8 weeks of regular meditation has been shown to increase grey matter in our brains.The grey matter in our brains covers regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing, hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision making, and self-control. This alone helps us to understand how meditation casts a beautiful spell over the body.
We should all meditate because we all have the basic function to do so. This basic function is breathing. As long as you can breathe, you can meditate. Tapping into the power of the breathe should be an unforgettable tool for everyone to rely on.
Facing obstacles in our mind can help serve our higher being and essentially help with increasing our personal development.
Meditation is a skill that can be learnt like any other skill. We can see it as a muscle that needs to be exercised in order for it to work. The more you practice meditation, the stronger your awareness & acceptance will be.
From my experience it is definitely easier if you have an accountability group or person to do it with as you want to show up for them, just as much as you want to show up for yourself. This now takes me onto the next part of this passage.
A shared experience:
Apart from fitting in a 10 minute meditation session when I feel like I really need to, I've recently completed a 2 week, virtual meditation course hosted by Inclusive Meds. The sessions were held via zoom and the course included two 1-hour sessions per day.
We had an option to either start the morning meditation session at 6:00am or 10:00am and then choose from either 7:00pm or 9:00pm for the evening session. I chose the 6:00am session and the 9:00pm session.
For the first time ever, I was waking up at 5:30am every day for a whole 2 weeks to begin the morning session at 6:00am, which got me into a really nice, early-morning routine. Choosing the evening session at 9:00pm worked well, as it meant I was in bed and asleep between 10:30pm - 11:00pm at the latest.
We were advised to not use our phones after the evening session to really switch off and get the most restful sleep. I personally loved this element, as I felt focused and looked forward to the next morning meditation starting within the next 8 hours.
During the first week, I completed the course one-to-one with the host and then in the second week, I joined the previous trial group to complete phase 2 together.
This ‘Inclusive Meds’ meditation class is inspired by the Vipassana style of meditation.
Vipassanais one of the oldest Buddhist practices, which can be translated as “Insight,” a clear awareness of exactly what is happening as it happens.
There were some rules that we had to abide to whilst committing to the course. Some of these included:
- Not killing any animals
- Not stealing
- Not lying
- Not consuming any intoxicants
We had to keep our microphone and video camera on throughout each session. This created a connectedness between the host (Jey) and the group and allowed Jey to see our progress as the weeks went on.
At first, I thought that having the sound on wouldn’t be necessary but he then explained that it’s best to keep it as open as possible and if there is a sound that we can hear either in our room or through someone else’s microphone, it will be a test to ignore the sound and focus inwards whilst you are hearing the sound / distraction. Remaining calm in a storm, is what Meditation teaches us to live like in all difficult situations.
Vipassana teaches us to simply focus on the breath and/or physical sensations and, as the mind feels calmer and more focused, we learn to start observing our physical sensations as well as our thought patterns, therefore bringing a whole new understanding to why we think the way we do.
Like other types of meditation, Vipassana insight meditation starts with finding a quiet place. The goal is to use the breath as an anchor. The focus on breathing exercises is on the rising and falling of the belly, along with silently counting each in-breath and out-breath. We use our breathing to centre ourselves and to calm and compose ourselves as we go deeper into a meditative state.
In spite of our best efforts, distractions will happen. These are natural; simply note them down as they arise for what they really are: a sound, a memory, planning, a smell, etc. Then shift back to your focus on the breath.
Have you ever heard of the expression – ‘Meditation over medication’
My question: How much less medication could we take, if meditation took priority in our lives and become a daily habit?
If you would like to start meditating or get back into the swing of it, I recommend starting with a regular practice for shorter periods of time. This will help you begin to balance peace of mind and help you to maintain it for the success of your future-self. You want to start reaping the rewards of meditation as soon as possible but at the same time have patience.
As you have read, there are many different type of meditations to choose from. I would suggest to pick one that suits you or intrigues you the most and get practicing either by yourself or with an accountability partner. If you cannot find anyone else to do the mediation with (whether that be in person, or at the same time but separately in your own homes for example), I definitely recommend joining the Inclusive Meds meditation group zoom sessions. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to know more & to find out when the next starting dates are.
Approach it with an open mind and build your resources until you feel you have control of all that comes your way. Remember to keep moving forward and always remember to appreciate the good things that come your way too. The negative things that may arise will always have something to teach us which therefore means they are a blessing in disguise until you discover the lesson.
If you do not want to join the Inclusive Meds group, you can just find a quiet spot (as quiet as you can) either in your house or outside in nature. If you feel like it, play some relaxing music, close your eyes and slowly start to feel all of the sensations running through your body and simply focus on your breathing – your breath sweeping in and out of your nose.
If you notice that you are thinking about the past or future, running over a moment from your past or imagining up a potential future scenario – acknowledge it, gracefully accept it, but return back to the breathe and re-focus.
At first, you may find yourself wandering off through your thoughts quite often and it may feel quite relaxing and easy to do but with time you will gradually get better at returning back to the breathe and you will notice the difference each time. We have the power to control all of our thoughts and expand on the ones that make us feel positive.
The ultimate goal of Meditation is to take out time for yourself, settle the mind and body into a rhythm with the Universe and to do good for humankind through your own contribution. You know you are successful in life when you see each living being as an equal to you. I hope this message has inspired you to either continue meditating or incorporate a daily practice. With love, Tierney.