I never really meant to stop posting on this blog, but the rest of my life kind of took over. Settling into my new job (which now seven months later should probably just be referred to as, y’know, my job) the seemingly constant task of employing new assistants and trying to figure out what to do about my ongoing lack of suitable accommodation (if you want to know more about these other parts of my life in a separate blog let me know) I gradually started meditating less and less. It’s the usual story with me, the more I need to meditate the less I seem to have the motivation to actually sit down and do it. (Or at least just do it in my case).
This week I’ve decided to make an effort to get back into it. I’ve resubscribed to Headspace. There are a lot of other apps that I like but it just seems to be the way my brain works I need the structure to follow. Headspace, like meditation in general, leads to mixed experiences. Sometimes I feel much calmer and like it’s made a huge difference, other times I feel like it’s made very little difference, it just depends on the day and probably my mood. Still, the thing that always brings me back to Headspace is that I need to have a session to do every day in order to create that routine of meditating. I’ve talked about Headspace a lot previously, check out my old posts if you want more details.
It’s only been three days so far, but I already feel better. To be honest that’s probably because I no longer have the voice in my head telling me that I should be meditating, but whatever the reason it’s nice to have a head that feels even a tiny bit clearer.
This time I’m not going to make any promises about new starts or regular posts or practices to myself or you. I thought I would write this post to give myself one less thing to think about that I’m not doing.
Anyway, I will hopefully see you again soon if this motivation continues.
So this week hasn’t gone as I thought or as I hoped it would. And yes I personally am scared even though I don’t live in America, as someone who is part of a minority I was never going to be happy with this result. It has reminded me how important it is to focus on the present.
I could be spending my time worrying about what could happen next and speculating on how bad it could get. Or I could acknowledge my fear, but use my effort to focus on what I can do now.
In no way am I saying that people should ‘just move on’ I think everyone has the right to feel whatever they need to feel about what has happened. What I am saying is that mindfulness might be a tool that we can all use to help us get through this.
Today is also world kindness day so while we figure out what we are going to do next the one thing we can definitely do is be kind to ourselves and each other.
If you want to give Loving Kindness Meditation a try visit my Be Kind post.
Take care everyone.
So this week I finally made it back to a meditation class. This time in the Kadampa Meditation Centre on Portland Street. Although I thought it was just a drop-in session it turned out to be the start of a four-week course on using meditation to help manage stress and worry. It was in a Buddhist setting and they did open with a ‘praise’ I didn’t feel any pressure to join in, or feel like the religious aspects had any negative effect on my experience of the class.
The course mostly talked about how technology doesn’t really affect our levels of happiness. Mostly in relation to the way we use smart phones and other devices which I can agree with. However, I can’t really agree with that statement as a blanket statement as I find certain types of technology extremely helpful.
The other main point made was that a problem isn’t caused by external circumstances, but by how we relate to it. For example, if the car breaks down when we need to go somewhere then it is a problem, but if it breaks down when we were hoping not to have to go somewhere then it suddenly becomes not so much of a problem.
In between teaching there were two periods of meditation probably about 10 to 15 minutes long. I definitely enjoyed doing meditation in a group setting again. The teacher had a really calm presence and at the start of the first meditation period, she said ‘sit up as straight as is possible for you’ which immediately put me at ease. It was a lovely warm and friendly environment and I am definitely hoping to go back next week.
I was able to see the benefits almost straight away because that night I forgot to ensure that I had my phone with me before my PA left. When this has happened in the past I have been really angry with myself. It has also made me really anxious because if something happens in the morning I am not able to do anything about it. This time I was able to not panic, remind myself that nothing bad had happened yet, saying to myself if something happens in the morning then you can panic. I might have been a bit anxious, but nowhere near my normal levels and I was actually able to get a pretty good night’s sleep.
If you want to know more about the meditation centre I visited click here
When it comes to meditation and mindfulness I have often Been encouraged to watch the mind like TV. for some reason I haven’t found this helpful because I tend to get this image in my mind of a blank TV screen, you might think that this is a good thing as when I’m meditating it’s supposed to be about clearing my mind but instead I’m frustrated because to me I’m not doing the exercise in the right way.
As a slight twist on this exercise and a way to try and note when I am getting lost in thought, I have started trying to use the image of slides in a projector like this one.
That way, when I realise I have been distracted I can visualise taking that particular thought out of my ‘mental projector’ and put something different in. It helps me come back to what I’m doing or move away from unhelpful thoughts. It’s a more elaborate version of the noting practice that I have been doing as part of my meditation in the last couple of days.
The noting technique is one of my favourite techniques. You simply note whether you have been distracted by either thinking or feeling/sensation and then go back to the breath. One of the reasons I like it is because it is really easy to use in every day life as well as in practice. Whenever I notice I have been distracted I just note it and come back to what I’m doing. The more often you can note, the more present you will be. It’s a really easy way to make mindfulness a bigger part of your day.
Apologies for my unexpected hiatus. Over the last month a lot has changed, but now I feel like I’m starting to get into a new rhythm. Although I haven’t really found the time to write about my practice it has still been a really important part of my day to day life. I’m still taking at least 10 minutes a day most days to sit and meditate.
Most people refer to formal practice when they sit in meditation. I try not to think about it in those terms because the word formal has some negative ideas around it for me, it goes back to the idea of being told to do things in a very specific way. Recently I read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, the author was again advising a very specific position in which to meditate, but he then went on to say that people who struggle more with some aspects of meditation will then get the most out of it. Like a lot of books on the subject, it seemed to contradict itself. In the case of this book, it seemed so full of contradictions that I felt I wasn’t able to gain much from reading it. The thing I always come back to is that meditation should be about practice rather than following a specific set of instructions.
As well as spending time doing ‘formal practice’ I have been trying to bring mindfulness into my day-to-day life whenever possible. Particularly when I’m waiting for something or travelling. I travel by public transport and I think that getting a few minutes of meditation in this environment can be really good practice when it comes to not letting sounds disturb your practice. I am slowly learning that this doesn’t mean trying to block everything out but rather just letting the sounds wash over you and not getting involved in them.
Overall I still remain unsure whether my practice is improving but I still feel like I can see it making a difference. Even if I feel likeI can’t always bring mindfulness to a situation when I need it most I think it helps me get back to a better place quicker than previously.
So this week has been really busy so I thought I would talk about mini meditations or mindful pauses. These can be anywhere between 30 seconds and 3 minutes depending on where you are and what you need. (Let’s face it when you really need it one long deep breath can help, but the longer you can focus on your breath the more difference it can make.)
You don’t have to be anywhere specific to do this. I’ve started trying to do this regularly on my commute and whenever I’m waiting for something (particularly if I’m nervous)
Just bring your attention to the breath and focus on the sensations of inhaling and exhaling. (You can close your eyes if you are comfortable with doing that, but you don’t have to.) If you get distracted just bring your attention back to the breath as you would usually.
This is also useful when I get stuck in my thoughts because it can be of switching my focus to the sensations in my body.
I can also say from experience that practising these little meditations throughout the day can make it easier when it comes to doing more formal sitting practice, as focusing on the breath begins to happen more naturally and automatically.
This week I thought I would talk about dealing with blocks when it comes to trying to do a visualisation technique as this is something I have really struggled with in the past. The first time I was introduced to the idea of visualisation I felt a huge amount of resistance to it. I’m not really sure why I felt like this, maybe it was because it didn’t feel like visualisation was a hugely relevant object of focus for meditation, or maybe it was because the idea made me feel a bit stupid. If am honest I think it might have been a combination of both those factors.
Whatever the reason was, it knocked my first attempt at regular meditation practice completely off course to the point where I gave up for a while. Having had this experience I knew that when I came back the technique of visualisation I would have to find a way to get past that resistance that I had been feeling if I wanted to carry on with my practice.
When doing the visualisation technique I was being instructed to imagine a bright light either spreading from the centre of my body or gradually spreading upwards from my toes. In order to make this more accessible than it had been in the past, I turned to one of my favourite points of reference: Doctor Who. In particular, the regeneration scene because the regeneration energy is shown as a light spreading through the Doctor’s body as he changes. I may not be looking for the explosive effects shown in this clip but it has helped me get over the difficulties that I was having with visualisation.
I fully understand that Doctor Who might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the idea is simple if you are having difficulty with something, try and find something that you love to relate to and this should make it a lot easier for you to persevere with it.