What is meditation?
You could google meditation and come up with thousands of different answers to this question. Contrary to popular belief, meditation isn’t an attempt to stop all thoughts. We like to think of it more as a filter, a practice of sifting the positive from the negative, the helpful from the unhelpful, the kind from the unkind. Meditation isn’t necessarily about STOPPING your thoughts. It’s more a practice of observing your mental chatter, noticing repetitive patterns, and by bringing awareness to them, you take away their power over you.
It’s not all floating on clouds and being tickled by angels, with a serene look on your face. It can be uncomfortable and confronting, as it’s basically a practice of unlearning everything we have ever been taught; to think, to create, to move, to do, to be more. From childhood to adulthood we’re constantly encouraged to do more, be more, and meditation is a practice of unlearning this. In a recent conversation with a GP from England, I was saddened but not surprised to learn that the number of patients visiting their doctors for stress-related illness has increased tenfold in the last 20 years, and it’s because we live in this constant state of being “not enough”, and we are constantly looking outside of ourselves for the answers to our problems. We wake up in the morning and often our first thought is “I didn’t get enough sleep”, or “I don’t have enough time to meditate”. We start each day from a place of lack and wonder why there isn’t more abundance in our lives. And this isn’t our fault, it’s what we are fed from a young age; that sitting still and being quiet is the least productive thing we can do, and that if we stop, we’ll get left behind.
Meditation is a practice of confronting our true selves, of becoming comfortable with some discomfort that we spend most of our lives running away from, through alcohol, food, drugs, tv, technology; so many different ways. And we use the word “practice”, because we don’t believe there exists a true mastery of meditation (we are no Buddhist monks). It’s an ongoing practice, and no matter how long you have been doing it, there are always days that are easier than others. Just the same as your gym workout or your yoga practice, we have to practice and exercise the muscles in our mind daily. Like taking a shower, but for your mind. Washing away the cobwebs every day, wiping the slate clean, flossing your teeth. Basically, its something you’ve just got to do, rather than sitting around talking about it. If you think about it and read about it too much, you get too concerned about doing it “right”, and then don’t end up doing it all, am I right?
So you’ve got the incense, the meditation cushion, the comfortable meditation pants, the mala beads, the journal…. but you just can’t goddamn make it a habit! That’s why we are here to help. We know first-hand how much of a struggle it can be to craft a daily ritual of meditation… But over the next 28 days, we hope you will gradually start to look forward to your daily meditation as a time for just you. A time to check in, to be quiet and peaceful, to notice your thoughts and your breathing, your state of being. To be still, in a world of hustle.
What is the best time of day to meditate?
Any time that it actually happens for you, is a great time. Many people say that meditating in the morning offers the most benefits, like taking that morning shower and starting your day on a good note. But if meditating in the morning is not possible for you, or just doesn’t feel right (maybe your body is stiff, or whenever you close your eyes you fall asleep again), then find a time of day that works better for you. Maybe it’s in the evening when you get home from work, maybe it’s just before bed. I personally find meditation the most “smooth” when I’ve just done some physical activity, the energy is moving around my body, and my hips are happy to sit for a while. No rules, just what works best for you.
How should I sit?
We always say not to lie down, as from experience, people tend to fall asleep. Having said that, if you’re injured or simply cannot sit without being in a lot of pain, then do it anyway that works for you. We recommend sitting upright so that your spinal column and central energy channel of the body allows the energy to flow more efficiently up and down from your base chakra to your crown chakra. You want to, eventually, set up your body and forget about it, so you can get to the “good stuff” in your head. It’s definitely helpful to do a few hip opening poses before you sit, to loosen things up. The most important thing is to have a tall spine and to have your hips a little higher than the knees, which helps to eliminate curving or crunching in the lower back, and takes some strain off the hip flexors. You can sit:
- cross-legged on a mat, maybe with an extra blanket to take pressure of the ankles, with some support under the bottom (block, cushion, or rolled blanket) to tilt the pelvis forward and minimise rounding in the lower back. If this feels really uncomfortable on the hips, you can pop cushions or blankets underneath your outer thighs or knees to give you more support here. OR try:
- kneeling, either with hips resting on heels, or parting the knees wider and bring a block or cushion (or three!) underneath your bottom between the feet. This way is a little easier to keep the spine upright, but make sure your knees are happy.
- you can try kneeling on a “japanese bench” which has a gap for the calves underneath the seat. Could be a good investment if you find it really works for you.
- sit on a chair. Try to find a chair where your back is upright against the support, and your feet are flat on the ground. Rest your palms on your thighs or in your lap.
- lean your back against a wall. This is really good for getting started, but can restrict the breathing into the back of the body, so try it out and see how it works for you, then gradually try to move away from the wall.
- standing. You probably don’t want to do this the whole time, but it can be an option during your meditation if your legs are so uncomfortable that you can’t sit any longer. Make it a moving meditation – keeping eyes closed, moving slowly and mindfully, coming up to standing in a mountain pose, taking a few breaths here until the blood flows back into the hips and the feet, then find your way back down into seated.
How do I focus my attention?
There are a bunch of different “methods” of meditation – loving kindness, vipassana, heart-centred meditation, using mudras, using mantras, counting mala beads, guided meditation, visualisation, transcendental meditation….. We are talking about a simple practice of mindfulness meditation, based in the Buddhist tradition. This practice is about focussing on the breath, letting the thoughts come and go without manipulation, simply a practice of observing, not attaching, and then returning the centre – your breath. Noticing how it enters and exits your body, where it travels in your body, noticing the natural pauses of stillness at the top of your inhale and the bottom of your exhale. The moments of fullness, and the moments of emptiness, and the transition in between.
If you’re the kind of person that likes a bit of research, and some handy tools, some of our favourite resources include:
- Megan Monahan Rock Your Bliss Podcast Ep.18
- “Could Mass Meditation Change Everything?” Russell Brand – Under The Skin – Ep.44
- “Meditation for Skeptics” Lewis Howes – The School of Greatness – Ep. 297
It’s really that simple. Simple, but not necessarily easy, and there’s nothing else to do but DO IT. If you haven’t already, get on board with one of our free meditations over here.
- Find your comfortable seat in a peaceful space
- Set a timer
- Just sit, baby.
We believe in you! Talk to us on social media and let us know how you’re going!