How good are you at being still?
How good are you at being still?
Forgetting what needs to be done, what’s just happened, what’s going on right now around you, to just stop and turn inwards for a while, or perhaps for some, just get some sleep.
The term ‘turning inwards’, in my teaching experience means to find a space within you where you can allow the background of life to dissolve, bringing just you into the foreground (figure). In Sanskrit, this is called ‘Umpada Dristhi’, internal focus and at first, not necessarily easy to find, but with practice, once you get there, it’s a very nice place to be.
Meditation has been around for thousands of years. It forms the majority of Yogic practice (yoga as we commonly see it is just the physical movement but Yoga is actually a very intricate lifestyle system), and has become very popular in recent years across the globe as a means to slowing down and taking a ‘time out’ from everyday life.
Of course meditation offers much more than just simply taking time out. Below highlights several findings, benefits and tips to inform and perhaps help you on your way to meditation:
1. Reducing Stress: research has shown that mindfulness meditation has the ability to reduce the effects of over produced cortisol (stress hormone). Reducing stress may mean: better sleep, lower blood pressure, clearer thinking, less fatigue.[i]
2. Increases attention span: if you are distracted, in crisis, stressed, you may find that is it harder to concentrate either on one thing or multiple things (depending on your style of coping). Meditation training can help progressively slow down thought processing in order to re-orient and maintain focus for longer. Taking a course of meditation training is a way to slowly build up the benefits of meditation, teaching you how to slowly hold ‘stillness’ for longer.
3. Improves sleep: British Health Standards state that we should be getting eight hours sleep (deemed ‘sufficient and healthy’). According to YouGov, one in six adults get less than six hours of sleep a night.[ii]
Meditation helps to control busy minds and paired with ‘active breathing’, we are able to help ourselves prepare for sleep. If you use ‘counting sheep’ as a basis, this is actually a form of visual meditation where we are focused on visualising one thing, slowly all other thoughts quieten down.
Active breathing can be used like so:
· Inhale/exhale for a count of 5
· Inhale/exhale for a count of 6
· Inhale/exhale for a count of 7
· Inhale/exhale for a count of 8
· Inhale/exhale for a count of 9
· Inhale/exhale for a count of 10
· And the working backwards to 5
4. Reduced depression: Combined with regular depression management, meditation has been proven to reduce the feelings of stress, negative thinking and general ‘low mood’[iii]
5. Reduce Anxiety: I have taken the flowing directly from ramdass.org (great website for those looking for more information – link below), as I feel it’s a nice way to describe anxiety; ‘Chaos. It demands our attention. It's like a bratty child, jealous of our peace. Chaos will do everything in its power to suck you in and keep your stress level high. With meditation, you can use the quietness of your mind to surround and subdue chaos.’[iv]
Steps offered to ‘quieten the mind’:
Inhale to bring space into the body
Exhale to release tension
Use meditation to visualise
Use meditation to mentally explore the senses (sight, sound, take, smell, touch)
Listen to your breath as a way to focus
Use tools such as recorded meditations or music to help you to relax and centre (if this works better for you)
Don’t put yourself under pressure, be patient and practice regularly. It is not easy to simply switch off after what could be weeks, months or even years of ‘chaos’
6. Active meditation to help staying focused: Here we can highlight that meditation does not have to be sitting still, it can take the form of yoga (moving meditation), walking, observing, self-care and even positive day dreaming.
Active meditation teaches us to be in the moment. Yoga for example will allow us to make space not only in the mind, but in the body also. It helps to promote good breathing technique and is designed to move the body physically, progressively and to a limit of your own. Eventually this becomes a ‘moving meditation’.
Feeling each footstep as we walk, focusing on the senses of the active meditation allows us to train ourselves to ‘stop thinking’ for a period and be in the moment.
Visualisation, finding a happy-space to go to when feeling overwhelmed where you can immerse yourself in a memory or scene that encourages happiness, content and calm. This is a good way to ‘take a break’ and brink mood levels up.
Meditation takes practice and patience, but shows many benefits and positive results. Best of all we can train alone or if you prefer, with others. Take a look at the many styles of meditation, take a course or find your own way of practising that works for you.
Giving ourselves time away from the many distraction of life can help us persevere and carry on with more ‘space’ and a lot more focus.
[i] Healthline.com - https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section9 [ii] YouGov.co.uk - https://yougov.co.uk/topics/health/articles-reports/2020/01/17/three-quarters-brits-get-less-eight-hours-sleep [iii] Positive Psychology - https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-meditation/ [iv] Ramdass.org - https://www.ramdass.org/