When I first started yoga, I decided to go to the local Buddhist centre because I felt that this is where I was going to get the most ‘authentic’ yoga. I was looking for yoga that was more than just a physical practice, that had a deeper spiritual element. To be honest, I was looking for yoga and meditation to fix me, and signed up for a meditation course at the same time to make sure I was covering all the bases. It was all part of my commitment to change my life and my outlook. I really enjoyed the course and learned a lot, but I didn’t commit to meditation when it finished, and I only did it in class for those 6 weeks, never completing the homework. Often I felt that I wasn’t doing it ‘right’, I couldn't 'clear my mind' and it just didn't connect with me. Although I've been practicing yoga ever since those first classes at the Buddhist Centre, I hadn’t really practiced much meditation since…until recently. Even though it was eight years ago that I took the course, I still remember the lessons I learned then, and it all makes so much more sense now. Like many people, I felt that meditation would somehow make me happier and nicer, it would help me clear my mind and I would be in a cloud of nothingness in my practice, totally at peace, drifting through space. Over the years I have resisted meditation because I struggle to ‘clear my mind’ and didn’t want to disconnect from my feelings etc. Then slowly, the noisier my outside world became, the more I longed for stillness and silence. Still practicing sporadically, I would fit in a small sitting session somewhere in my bedroom to just decompress. Then more recently I decided to take it seriously and unfailingly practice a 20min meditation daily. I started this when we were travelling around Colombia, and yes, I even fitted it in when moving around. I have totally fallen in love with the practice. This is what I discovered…
- Meditation doesn’t clear your mind or still your thoughts so that your mind becomes as clear as the surface of a lake. What it does do, is slow down the hum of thoughts and makes them recede into the background. On the days when my mind is rushing from one thing to another, meditation just allows me to step out of it for a moment and turn the noise down slightly. On the days when I feel quite calm, it helps me to focus my energy and to connect to myself.
- If your mind gets bored easily, give it something to focus on. For me, meditation is most enjoyable when I have a focus, especially when it is a prayer of some sort. It helps to give me focus and clarity, and motivates me even. Like yoga, you have to find your own way with meditation. Not every type will suit you, but at the right time, with the right approach, it will all come together.
- Meditation isn’t there to fix anything, in fact it may bring things to the surface. When you get still, the voices in your head may get louder. This may feel frustrating as meditation is often described (wrongly) as clearing your mind of thoughts. Not only do you have a noisy mind now, but you're also annoyed that it's noisy. Don't worry, these meditations are some of the most beneficial. Let your mind rant and rave, this is what it needs in these moments, just sit with it and watch it slow down. Treat it like a friend that needs to let some steam off, just be there for them.
- You may feel more sensitive after a meditation, or feel the difference between your energy, and of those around you. You may actually emerge as a calmer being but then feel challenged by other people's energy.
- You will slowly fall in love with it, and then fall out of love, and then back in…but if you keep the practice, like anything, it will slowly start changing your life. It’s making the unyielding commitment that is the tough bit.
Best tip? Don’t expect anything, don’t demand anything, don’t use it to ‘x,y,z’, just practice and see what happens. Get curious about what meditation is to you, not what books or teachers or I say, have your own private experience.