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The Benefits Of Meditation

A Journey



By Ornagh Lee


“ You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes everyday, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour”

INTRODUCTION


There is an old zen adage “ You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes everyday, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour”. Now if you were new to meditation this statement might seem like it doesn't make too much sense. However, if you think of the drive-thru lifestyle of today's society you can understand how important it is to take time away from the constantly rushed, fast paced, jam packed construct we have created to believe equates to successful living. I know for one, I have definitely repeated ‘I'm too busy’ more times than I would like to admit and in the same breath spend an hour mindlessly scrolling through instagram. So the question is ‘Are we too busy?’ or are we not giving enough weight to the importance of meditation, to the importance of checking in with our internal being, our surroundings, our breath and the most beautiful place of all the ‘moment’. Not the past, not the future but the here and now and the power of creating how that moment can be - with the right tools - with meditation. So read that proverb again. Now ask yourself, are you too busy to give yourself 20 minutes a day? If the answer is yes, is it time for an evaluation of priorities?


My Story


My journey with meditation is quite a new one. For years I found the thought of sitting alone with even the epidermis of my mind terrifying. I can remember in yoga practice when the teacher would mention savasana or breathing how instantly I would feel my heart rate rise, my cheeks flush, my throat contract - breathing?? I can't breathe! Those seconds of stillness somehow managed to unearth all my mistakes, my fears, my anxieties. Everything that I had so carefully and expertly managed to suppress through a successfully curated busy life would come flooding to the forefront. Nope! Meditation was not for me.

Of course, that level of hiding from yourself can only last so long until somethings gotta give. And it did. And in an ironic turn, meditation became the starting point for my healing.

I think there is often an assumption that meditation is this mystical power to clear your mind of any thoughts while sitting in a perfectly erect crossed legged position (which has been achieved by some tibetan monks after years and years of meditating for hours a day) but let's stick with our general human day to day super powers.

I had been sea swimming for years and used this quite successfully to quiet my extremely tumultuous mind, but what was I to do in the moments where an ice swim wasn't possible? Enter stage left: mindfulness meditation.


Types of Mediation


So I know I've talked about how we should meditate for 20mins a day and give priority to its importance but in saying that, just like a muscle it requires practice and patience. I personally began with just two minutes a day and I had to find the style that suited my needs.

It's beneficial to experiment with the different styles of meditation, to start light and to gradually allow your meditation muscle to grow, to become strong. And like any exercise they can range from beginner to advanced.


Mindfulness Meditation

This is where I began and it is a great one for a busy mind. Derived from Buddhist teachings this practice is not about trying to transcend but more about allowing your thoughts to come in, to recognise them and to let them go. Sounding easier than it is, you can use some breath techniques or an object to focus your thoughts on to bring you back when the mind wanders. It can be practiced alone and for as long or short as you need.

Spiritual Meditation

Most commonly used in Eastern religions this practice is more seeking silence and a deeper connection to what God means to you. A practice suited to those who are looking for spiritual growth in their lives.


Focused Meditation

This practice involves using any of the five senses. And a personal favourite of mine when meditating outdoors. With a similar concept to mindfulness meditation you can use internal or external elements to focus your attention. This is a beautiful practice for those looking for additional focus and clarity.


Movement Meditation

A great practice for those who find peace in action. Movement meditation is used in gentle exercise where movement guides you. Kundalini yoga, sea swimming, a gentle jog. I feel this is a great way to allow the strength of your body and the power of your mind to connect. When reached - this allows an extraordinary sense of freedom.


Mantra Meditation

Prominent in many traditions including hindu and buddhist teachings. Mantra Meditation can be a phrase or a sound such as ‘Om’. The word Om is defined by hindu scripture as being the primordial sound of creation. It is the original vibration of the universe and allows you to experience deeper levels of awareness. This practice is perfect for those who find it easier to focus on a word rather than the breath and enjoy sound and vibration over silence.


Transcendental Meditation

Best suited for people who are very serious about maintaining a meditation practice. There are exclusive mantras aimed to achieve a state of perfect stillness and consciousness usually given by a trained teacher. Practiced daily in complete silence for around 15-20 minutes. This particular practice has hundreds of scientific research studies on its benefits.


Progressive Relaxation/ Body Scan

Used to relieve stress and unwind. A body scan is usually led by a teacher using a contract and relax technique on each muscle when lying down. Another common technique is imagining a gentle flow of energy going through the body. Fantastic after exercise or if the body is feeling tense.


Loving Kindness Meditation/ Metta

Can be ideal for those who could be holding resentment or anger. This practice starts with opening the mind to receive love and then continuing on to send out a series of well wishes to your loved ones, family, friends, strangers and anyone who you might hold animosity for. Used specifically to strengthen feelings of compassion and kindness.


Visualization Meditation

Begins with using all five senses to visualize positive scenes in your mind. Perfect for those who want to manifest their goals and promote inner peace. I like to practice this one lying down in bed before I fall asleep.


Vipassana Meditation/ Insight Meditation

Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. Quite a difficult and advanced form of meditation. Vipassana is the practice of sitting with all sensations and emotions as they arise. With this method, you practice self-observation by focusing on your inner self in a non judgmental way.


How to begin your practice and its benefits


It is not crucial but can make a big difference to create a space that feels safe and you can relax. Often people will burn incense or light candles to create a calm environment.

How you sit can also be important, there are options to lie down in Savasana or sit in Padmasana/ lotus position. Alternatively, sitting in a comfortable position for you will increase your level of calm to encourage a deeper, relaxed meditation.

Incorporating Yoga mudras into your practice has the ability to influence the energy of our physical, emotional and spiritual body. ‘Mudra’, a sanskrit word, means a symbolic hand gesture that has the power of producing joy and happiness. Mudras help to link the brain to the body, soothe pain, stimulate endorphins, change the mood and increase vitality.

*So what has research proven the benefits of meditation are;

Reduce stress

Controls anxiety

Promotes emotional health

Enhances self awareness

Lengthens attention span

May reduce age related memory loss

Can generate kindness

May help fight addictions

Improves sleep

Helps control pain

Can decrease blood pressure


So even if you feel pessimistic or nervous, who couldn't do with one or two of the benefits off this list!


Conclusion


What is Meditation to me

Meditation to me is the practice of taking time out of our busy lives to centre ourselves, to appreciate and to restore our calm. I am by no means even close to an expert and have merely only scratched the surface. But one thing I do know is that since starting on this journey, it has changed my life. I used to fear my mind; my thoughts that seemed so far beyond my control. I felt lost and searched in all the wrong places.

I don't always use traditional methodologies or resume a typical yogic posture but I do sit with myself and with the gratitude and love we all deserve. And not from external factors but from ourselves. It has taught me to be thankful for life and all the beauty that surrounds us. I no longer need to fill my days and distract my mind. So what are the benefits of meditation? It's freedom.


Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. - Mother Teresa


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