What’s the simple daily practice that helps us de-stress, feel a deeper sense of peace and relaxation, boosts our creativity, sharpens our focus and doesn’t cost anything?
Answer – Meditation. Or as I like to call it – the gift of quiet time.
Some people say they don’t know how to meditate properly and others say they are simply too busy (a sign they need to meditate!) but surely a practice that has so many benefits, and costs nothing (apart from a little time) is worth bringing into your daily routine.
I’ve meditated on and off for years. However, I’m not a fan of the word meditation, it seems too worthy. I use the simple phrases such as ‘quiet time,’ ‘tuning in,’ ‘being time,’ ‘aligning,’ ‘resourcing’ and ‘connecting with my inner wisdom’ instead. What does this involve? I simply sit down, close my eyes and focus on my breathing. Sometimes I will light a candle and have gentle classical music playing in the background to help me get in the mood, but in essence I’m sitting still for twenty minutes.
This quiet time enables me to park the endless thoughts rattling around in my head and connect with something deeper, an inner wisdom, a sense of peace, love, even God. That doesn’t mean my active mind doesn’t fight me every step of the way, telling me what I could or should be doing, but I do my best not to judge these thoughts, allowing them to drift in and out.
I love the saying ‘you should meditate for 20 minutes every day, unless you’re too busy; then you should meditate for an hour!’ I know the wisdom of it, but it is hard to do, because really when we meditate we are doing nothing and that is something that we struggle with, myself included.
Most of us run the belief that if we slow down or stop for even a few minutes, we will miss out on something. Evidence of this is having our mobile devices within arm’s reach and the moment we are not stimulated, we will check emails, browse social media, or play angry birds. We have to be doing. But we are not human doings, we are human beings. That’s why I like the phrase ‘being time.’
Meditating doesn’t mean your day won’t be busy, or that your chores will disappear, but you will approach those tasks more clear-headed, feeling more resourced (re-Sourced even!) and able to respond to life’s challenges somehow more purposefully.
If, like me, you find the term meditation off putting, rename it. How about ‘re-connecting with yourself,’ ‘savouring the silence,’ ‘quietening the mind,’ or ‘sacred time.’ I’m no meditation expert, but I do know what works for me. Here are some tips that I hope you will find useful.
Knowing your schedule as you do, when would be the best time for you to put aside twenty minutes when you know you won’t be disturbed? Like anything important, if left until everything else is done, it will never happen. If having twenty minutes ‘being time’ is important to you, schedule it in advance. My normal time for meditation is when I return from the gym in the morning, before I have my breakfast. The combination of physical exercise and spiritual connection sets me up for the day.
Where would be the best place for you to have your ‘sacred time?’ I meditate looking out at the garden. There is a little table close by where I place a candle and a statue of Buddha. I know someone who turned the space under their stairs into their meditation space, (very Harry Potter,) but it works for them.
If you struggle to sit in silence, set yourself the target of just five minutes and build from there. My usual timeslot is 20 minutes, sometimes it might be as much as 40, but my busy mind seems to relax when it knows it only has to be still for a pre-determined number of minutes.
Some forms of meditation incorporate a chant or a sound (e.g. ‘Ohm’) but all forms of meditation encourage us to bring our attention to our breath. Inhale and exhale consciously, noticing the moment between your out and in breath.
Sometimes I will set a specific intention for my meditation, perhaps it’s to gain an insight into something that is bothering me, or for inspiration for an article or the book I’m writing. From my experience, meditation is route one for connecting with higher wisdom and inspiration.
I will often incorporate prayer into the start of my meditations. For me, prayer is a heartfelt, sincere, personal communication with God. I’ve heard it said that ‘prayer is when we ask or petition God, meditation is when we get the answers.’ From my experience this is true and it also ties in nicely with one of my favourite Bible quotes ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ (Psalm 46:10)
Like any habit, meditation requires regular practice before it will become a natural part of your daily routine. The Dalai Lama has said that ‘if every child in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within a generation.’ How great would it be if we thought our children to meditate, and of course the best way to do that is by being their role model.