I’m not a meditation teacher. Like so many things related to wellbeing and self-care, I prefer to call myself a researcher and an experiencer. I like to delve deep into things, experience them for myself and then share them with others. My meditation journey began three decades ago when my friend drove me up to the blue mountains in Sydney to do a 10 day meditation course called Vipassana. No talking, no phones or anything for 10 days. At the time I was only 16 and I was silent for the whole three hour drive up there. And when we arrived I quietly announced that I couldn’t do it. My friend who had done it 8 times before, did a U-turn and drove me back again in silence. I didn’t look back into meditation for several years after that.
From that experience I realised I didn’t want to attend a long retreat with no talking cut off from the world to learn meditation. I know this works well for others but for me it wasn’t right. I simply wanted a way to calm my then CPTSD brain which, due to childhood challenges and experiences had always been in a near constant state of fight or flight. When my mind sensed even a small similarity in a present day situation of something traumatic from my past, my brain would think that the trauma was happening all over again and I would experience the same physical and mental sensations, thoughts and feelings of when the trauma happened originally. It was literally as if it was happening all over again which of course it wasn’t. But logic does not prevail when the brain is in this state. I call this being ‘triggered’. When this occurred I would be pumped full of adrenaline and cortisol and this constant cycle resulted in my baseline state of mind being hyper-vigilant; Always too aware and suspicious of my surroundings and of people and always on edge and always easily ‘triggered’.
I know that many of you have experienced and continue to experience so many challenging things, events and people. And there doesn’t seem to be a moment in life to stop what we are doing and just ‘take a moment’. This is where meditation comes in. Meditation is one of the many tools that can help towards you feel like you are thriving rather than just surviving and to make you feel like you’re winning in life a little more. I of course found other help too with professionals who over the years have helped me form new neural pathways and learn new ways of responding through talking therapy including the very powerful body mind therapy, when I get into this state. I’m not touting meditation as a cure all, and of course if you’re really struggling please do reach out and seek professional help.
Science has proven how powerful meditation can be and how it may help with things like; Lessening anxiety and depression, helping you become more focused and calmer, reducing blood pressure, even helping to slow ageing! There’s always room for more research but initial studies are encouraging. Speaking from personal experience it’s helped me so much. I feel much calmer, and happier, I’m less in fight or flight mode, I sleep better (still not a great sleeper but it’s a good deep sleep), I’m less anxious, I respond to situations rather then just reacting without thinking and I’ve a big aversion to drama and dramatic people now. As drama becomes less and less appealing and less familiar.
I’ve done all sorts of meditation types and they all have their benefits. I’ll do many more posts on meditation as I explore different ways and learn more about it. So as a start, here are 10 ways to get into your own easy meditation practice today.
1. Forget the popular thoughts on meditation which are that you are trying to stop thinking all together or that you are trying to empty your head of all thoughts. That will come in time, as a result of what you are doing. It’s not your primary focus right now at all.
2. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than you would usually get up.
3. Go to the toilet if you need too so you are not thinking about how much you need to do a wee when you’re meditating 😊 and drink a little water if you feel thirsty
4. Prop yourself up in your bed. Put pillows behind you if need be so you’re really comfortable. Sit cross legged or with your legs out straight.
5. If you’re in bed with your partner who is still asleep and you think it may be distracting to you then, sit on the sofa or on the floor against the sofa with a blanket and cushions. You can also do this on a chair with a supportive back if that’s more comfortable.
6. Set the alarm on your phone to go off in 7 minutes, try to avoid reading any stuff on your phone. Double check the alarm so you know it will go off. Turn the volume down a little so it doesn’t startle you when it goes off but obviously make sure it’s loud enough so that you can hear it.
7. Read the rest of the points through and then close your eyes. With your hands resting lightly in your lap or on your knees as in the pic of me in the brown bikini above. Just make sure your arms are uncrossed so it’s nice and comfy.
8. Listen to the sounds around you outside for a moment, the ticking clock, the windows rattling in the breeze or perhaps the birds singing or the traffic outside.
9. Then bring your attention to you and identify any areas in your body where there may be tension, is your jaw clenched? Shoulders tight? Start at the top of your body and then go all the way down to your feet checking that everything is relaxed.
10. In your head (not out loud), say the word ‘peace’ or ‘calm’ gently over and over. Pick whichever one suits. Keep saying the word you have picked over and over slowly. Every time your mind starts wandering (which it will, many, many times) or thinking about your day or what to eat or ‘am I doing this right’ just bring your mind back to your word. You may need to bring your mind back 50 times or more per session in the early days and weeks of meditating. If you do have a cheeky check of your phone to see how long you have left, that’s okay, try not too but we are all human, Just get straight back to your word. And if the alarm goes off and you realise you’ve spent the whole time obsessing over how rude that person was to you on the train the other day, or even if you fell asleep, hey guess what… that’s okay too.
And congratulations… you’ve completed your first session! It’s not unusual sometimes to feel quite emotional after meditation. But it’s also not unusual to feel no different at all. Meditation has an accumulative effect, so it takes a little while for the benefits to come. Feeling moved didn’t happen to me when I first started at all but I know that for some people it does happen. If it happens to you, just put your hand on your heart for a moment or two, acclimatise yourself with your surroundings and congratulate yourself for the fabulous person you are and for what you’ve achieved today. And when you stand up, get up slowly so you don’t feel dizzy and then carry on with your day.
Try this for 7 days. First thing in the morning is normally best as the mind is already calmer, but anytime works too. Comment below and let me know how you get on with it, I would love to learn from you too! Thanks so much for reading.
Ps: let me know if you see any typos and I’ll correct them.