Some of the most commonly asked Questions (and Answers) here:
Can I really (really) learn to meditate?
Everyone can learn to meditate. You may have already experienced the sense of flow or one-ness of meditation. When we are fully engrossed in something we enjoy .. we can slip into that flow state quite naturally (like gardening in the sunshine, moving through our asana, or walking in nature) BUT in meditation we cultivate our ability to be in this space when we want to. At its simplest, meditation is about sitting comfortably and breathing. Yes .. you certainly can do that!
But I don’t have time
If I had a three-hour spa voucher that had to be used today – you would make the time! If you are committed to meditating there is always time .. in we can always start with Meditative Exercises or Daily Life Mindfulness Practices that may only take a few seconds (or a couple of minutes) but still allow us to release stress, become accustomed with sitting still, and gently build a solid foundation for a longer meditation practice.
Tip for starting a meditation practice
#1 Set aside the time. I suggest you diarise a time and stick to it, like you would any important appointment. Consider this an appointment with yourself for self-care and wellbeing.
#2 Accept that meditation is a little about delayed gratification. You go to the gym and build up a sweat and feel a good sore after the workout .. but nothing like that happens with meditation. In fact initially you may feel just a slight discomfort (physical or mental) or feel nothing at all. Be patient. All good things take time!
#3 Take action so you don’t forget to practice. The best antidote for forgetting to meditate is to integrate your practice into an existing routine .. wake, pee, drink, meditate, shower, breakfast (am) OR pajamas, remove makeup, brush teeth, meditate, read, sleep (pm). Equally powerful can be having some consistent visual cues .. same chair, same blanket around shoulders, same meditative exercise to start. Building a habit (which is our aim) removes the rethinking and renegotiation .. so we can just move with the flow of it.
What is the best meditation practice?
The ‘best’ practice will be the one that you DO! And the best way to find the best practice is to START. In our courses we aim to provide a number of different practices so that you do have an opportunity to try different flavours. Almost all meditation practices will bring about a greater sense of ease and calmness.
I can’t stop thinking
That’s right. That’s what us humans are programmed to do. Leave thinking alone. You do not ask your eyes not to see when open .. same with the mind and thinking. Meditation is not about controlling or removing thoughts, but learning to leave them alone and learning to watch them arrive and leave.
Do I open or close my eyes?
Totally up to you. The advantage to closing our eyes is that we are less likely to be distracted by the world around us; opening our eyes however is best if we get a bit spacey or sleepy with our eyes closed. Closed is actually an incorrect term, in meditation we have ‘capped’ eyes which means our eyelids are lowered to about 2/3rds which allowing for a slight amount of light to enter, under the lids. This can be quite a difficult feat for beginners .. so allow yourself time (days or even months) to build your ability to sit with eyes ‘capped’. Try both and find out which is best for you.
When should I meditate?
This is totally up to you and your personal routine. I suggest that if there is not an obvious time (mornings are best for me before the household wakes) then try a range of different times to find what fits you. Morning meditation gives your day an excellent starting point for the day, calm and peaceful, while evening meditation allows you to let go of the days trials and tribulations before sleep.
Where do I meditate?
In the beginning it is helpful to have the best possible conditions for your practice – somewhere you are not likely to be disturbed, a space that is comfortable, warm, quiet and away from harsh light. With practice you will find that you can meditate anywhere, from a busy train station, to a park packed with kids playing cowboys.
I can’t sit in lotus position so I can’t meditate!
Not many people can sit comfortably in the pretzel-like lotus position. I always suggest, comfort over form. No one ever said you had to hold a certain posture to meditate. The Buddha spoke of meditating in a seated position, while walking or laying down. I would suggest starting where you are most comfortable, usually in a stable and firm chair .. however if you are always sitting in a chair for work you might find a greater sense of special-ness if you move to the floor (away from the association of chair with work). I am not a big supporter of lying down as this is more likely to lead you to sleep (which is not meditation).
What sort of benefits can I really expect?
*One benefit that is really important and practical for everyday life is just to be less stress-prone … knowing you have some control over the stress response and knowing you have a buffer between trigger and response is empowering.
*Learning how to cultivate peace of mind: the mind needs downtime that is separate from sleep. Even when we sleep we often dream; in meditation the body deeply relaxes and the mind stills, this is said to be deeper and more restful than sleep.
*A greater awareness of self: beginners are often surprised by the amount of noise and chatter that is going on in their mind, and the things they say to themselves! Meditation provides us with a window of insight into some of our habitual thinking and patterns of behaviour which is the doorway to wisdom and insight.
*With practice meditation brings a sense of connected-ness with ourselves and the world around us.
Tips for starting with the right mind-set
* Beginners mind is all about .. mmm what is going to happen today
* There is no right or wrong meditation
* Meditation is experiential .. you actually have to DO IT
* Leave the judgement at the door, at least until you have established a regular meditation practice.
Don’t worry about how long. Just sit. Show up every day and commit to being still, before you know it you turn up and your mind just tunes in to the practice.
And don’t forget to ENJOY what is possibly the only time you have allowed totally for yourself. So get comfortable and enjoyably yourself!