“We don’t sit in meditation to get good at meditation: we sit in meditation to get good at living.”
The modern world can get a little hectic and although most of us know that taking some time to ourselves away from the chaos is important, we also understand that it’s not always an easy thing to do.
Meditation can help to reduce the mental and physical stress we place upon our bodies and can support our self awareness which betters our relationship with our self and others. It helps us find stillness and move out of a perpetual state of fight or flight, one which many of us find ourselves in all too regularly.
To celebrate World Meditation Day, we sat down with yogi content creator Laura Kelly. We explore why strengthening and exploring the mind offers us all an opportunity to get better acquainted with our own deeper selves.
What are the benefits of meditation?
For me a regular meditation practice (and when I say regular, that doesn’t mean every day), helps me drop into the present moment and become more aware of how my breath, my physical body and my mind are feeling. Having this even for just a few minutes really helps me be more aware throughout my day.
Meditation allows me to know myself better. In turn I have a better relationship with myself and other people too. It helps me create some space, both physically and mentally and aids my creativity. It’s amazing how allowing space, and turning our focus inwards can unlock a world of inspiration.
Having a meditation practice also equips me with tools to use when I’m moving through my day; remembering to take a few deep breaths when things feel a little tense or feeling into the weight of my feet as I walk when I feel anxious thoughts bubbling away under the surface.
There are lots of different types of meditation but for me, learning more about mindfulness meditation has been a game changer.
There is a common misconception that in order to meditate, you must have no thoughts. How would you actually describe the practice of meditation?
There is always noise around us, both in our environment and in our thoughts. The concept of completely emptying our minds sounds impossible, and I suppose it is. People often feel they don’t have time to meditate, their minds are too busy or that it doesn’t ‘work’ for them. But meditation isn’t about sitting down on a cushion with a completely clear mind. A yoga teacher of mine once said, “if your mind were totally void of thought, you would be dead!”
A simple meditation practice could involve lying down on your bed, your hands on your belly and literally just breathing for a few minutes, feeling your breath moving in and out of your body. Even with a gentle focus on your breath, you will of course have thoughts pop into your head; shopping lists, what you’d like for dinner, plans for the week.
Meditation invites you just to notice what’s popping up. Don’t berate yourself for not having a calm and empty mind. Simply noticing your thoughts is step one and then bringing your attention back to your breath is where the magic starts. As with most things, the more you practice, the more comfortable it becomes.
For someone who has never meditated before but is curious, how should they begin?
If meditation is new to you, the idea of sitting still and in silence for any period of time can sound strange and even daunting. As humans, we are very good at keeping ourselves distracted as a way of avoiding difficult thoughts or emotions. The most important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a perfect meditation. The beauty of this practice is that it can be messy. Your experience is exactly that, it’s your experience. Don’t forget, people have been meditating for around 3,000 years and many of those people will also have experienced uncertainty, resistance or wonder before they began.
When you close your eyes and follow the instructions of your first guided meditation (whether in-person or via a recording), you will likely find your mind busy, easily distracted and restless. Just because you’ve chosen to sit and meditate doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly experience uninterrupted calm. The untamed nature of the mind is completely natural. There are so many amazing resources out there from incredible teachers all over the world to help you get started.
My first experience of meditating was during a yoga class but I also love Headspace for its beginners courses and specific topics like their Meditation for Creativity series. Insight Timer has a huge library of beautiful guided meditations - I especially love Jordanna Levin’s. Calm is another app I love to use for guided sleep stories when I can’t get to sleep at night (all website links below).
If there’s a particular type of meditation you’re curious about, take a look in your local area for teachers or classes. Lots of places offer free intro talks so you can go along and see how you feel.
What other meditative practices might people be able to try?
A meditation practice can look so different from person to person. Daily rituals like journaling, free writing, drawing, colouring in, walking, a slow flow or yin yoga class can all be classed as a meditative practice.
Meditation can be anything that helps you to create pockets of space within your day to day life. When we become stressed, upset or overwhelmed, our meditation practice is there to help us move through these moments.
Laura Kelly, yoga and meditation teacher - @laurakelly_yoga
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