So there you are. You are having a particularly bad week and you just want to kick something. So you scout about online for something to distract you and what do you find? Smug hippy types talking about meditation and mindfulness! Pfft! Flower power, is it? Yoga positions? Give me a break, you cry!
You read about mindfulness. Scoffing loudly at some mad woman who suggests eating a biscuit mindfully. Mindfully? A biscuit? Biscuits are to nosh at whilst ruminating about that conversation you had last week and going over every detail whilst kicking yourself for it…and for finishing the packet once you come out of your gloom and realise there are only crumbs left.
Next you read some article on meditation written by a bloke who swears he can sit for an hour bolt upright whilst he finds himself spiritually. All you can think about is what it will do to your back pain and, anyway, you want to get away from your thoughts, not sit and have a romantic meal with them! What IS all this baloney?!
Let me help you out here. I have been like you. So stressed out day in, day out that I wondered how I would cope when the final straw found me and settled comfortably on my spine. When I first started trying to meditate I found my thoughts overwhelmed me. Round and round they went, faster and faster until I opened my eyes, jumped up and said ‘No thanks!’and went to find coffee. This went on for quite some time. I would try it, it would seem impossible, I would get despondent.
Then one fine day I decided I really needed to apply myself after reading of yet more on the benefits of meditation, so I decided on a plan of action. I found an app with a guided meditation and every night before going to sleep I listened and did as instructed. After a while I discovered a change. I was able to follow my breath and see it visually in my mind as it travelled in and out of my lungs. I saw my heart pumping much needed oxygen around my body, giving me life. I put my all into that visualisation; I really felt it and saw it. And, guess what, my mind stilled. Thoughts would come but I would not allow them to fester anymore. I acknowledged them then let them go as I went back to concentrating on following my breath. You could say I gave them no air time.
You can do this too. The key is to be comfortable. You don’t have to sit up bolt straight like someone has shoved a…well, you get it…you can lay down and let your body be at ease. If you fall asleep then don’t worry, people do. At least you were relaxed enough to do so, that’s a start! Why not have a browse around YouTube and find a voice you like first, one which soothes. Then get yourself a plan of action and stick to it. Give yourself time. Expect the odd setback. Even a seasoned meditator can find it tough sometimes. Nobody is perfect. Ommmm!
Mindfulness is all about paying complete attention to what you are doing, whatever that may be, and not letting your mind drift to what’s next, what happened last week, what’s that noise, what’s for dinner?! It will help you to stop ruminating about the past and worrying about the future. It is all about the now and is of enormous help to those who suffer anxiety, stress or depression but it is worth trying for everybody and allows you to taste the essence of everyday tasks which you might normally do on autopilot. It allows you to see the joy in little things, the beauty and magnificence of a sunset and even helping you with your diet as you pay complete attention to what you are eating whilst you are eating it.
Don’t just crunch your biscuit up whilst reaching for the next one – have a look at it. Feel the texture, notice the consistency and components. (Yep, I am suggesting you play with your food…you did it before with the vegetables on your plate when you were a child so we know the skill is in there somewhere *smiles*). Take a small bite, notice the texture, the taste, pay complete attention to it and chew slowly. Notice how you feel. See, feel and concentrate on nothing but the food. Do the same for the next bite.
Try washing the dishes mindfully. Do it slowly. Considerately. Be aware. Feel the sensation of the bubbles between your fingers. The texture of the cloth in your hand. Take your time to see the rainbows in the bubbles. And yes, its okay to blow some off your hand and watch them drift…nobody need know 😉
Mindfulness is stopping to experience your experiences and appreciating the unexpected joys and sensations therein. This, over time, will train your mind to keep you in the present moment.
You can find out more online about either of these techniques. Both have become a way of life for me and have made a huge difference to my quality of life and appreciation.
Meditation and mindfulness take practice and willpower to master but you don’t have to be a master in anything to benefit from either. Eventually both become second nature. Baby steps, often.