Meditation. For many of us, it seems like a total mystery… So, for the final instalment of our Wellness Series, yoga instructor Susie Hemsted shares her beginners guide to meditation and explains how it can be the solution for so many of our life struggles.
As a meditation teacher, I hear the struggles of quietening the monkey mind, the distractions of the long ‘to do’ list and the discomfort of sitting.
It improves mood, focus, sleep, and reduces stress like nothing else, which is why it breaks my heart that so many people feel like they can’t successfully meditate.
1. Meditation is trying to STOP our thoughts
To bust this myth, let's look at Mindfulness Meditation.
Mindfulness is the art of watching the thoughts. They come in, we observe them [without judgement] and eventually they pass. As we start to develop our meditation practise, we can create more space between thoughts, which over time can give the illusion that the mind has stopped thinking.
While we’re alive our brain will always be thinking, meditation helps us to be in control of our thinking, rather than our thinking controlling us.
2. I have to sit cross-legged
The cross-legged seated position is not a natural pose for most of us living in western societies. Our hips and hamstrings are tight, and pins and needles can be common.
So, sitting on a chair might be much more comfortable, or extending the legs out when you need to.
Lying down is lovely in guided meditations and getting into nature and taking a ‘walking meditation’ can support those who really dislike sitting still. The key is to find a position that works for you and supports you to build a habit.
3. I need to meditate for at LEAST 20 minutes
You wouldn’t try and run a marathon without training would you? You’d need to train to work up to the challenging 26.2 mile stint. So, the key to meditation [or anything in life] is starting small, slow and steady.
Try just one minute on your first attempt. Then building a steady daily practise until you feel ready to jump to two minutes, then three and eventually building up to a time that works for you.
If you feel discomfort and resistance building up, it’s time to take a break and try again later. Remember – just like the tortoise, pace yourself, slow and steady wins the race.
4. Judging a meditation experience as good or bad
There really is no such thing as a ‘bad’ meditation. If the monkey mind is active with thoughts, that is totally OK. Perhaps you have a lot on your mind, and that monkey needs some attention. In this situation, when you realise you are caught up in your thoughts, simply come back to your breath.
When we let go of what a meditation 'should' look like, we can really just give in to where we are in the moment. Every act of meditation is helping to connect you to your higher, calmer, more loving self.
5. Meditation just doesn't work for me
This is the most common mistake. When meditation gets annoying, uncomfortable, frustrating, or the mind is on overdrive, it’s easy to think ‘it's not working’ so we give up. So I encourage you to...Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. It will get easier.
Often the results of meditation positively affect parts of our life that are not recognised by the conscious mind. Remember, just because we can’t feel changes in the first day/ week, it doesn’t mean they are not happening deep within. Trust me, the magic will unfold.I promise that by just taking 10-15 minutes each day, you'll see positive changes to how you handle stress and deal with intense situations & emotions throughout your day. You may also feel way more inner peace than you ever imagined was possible.