A beginner’s guide to meditation
You’re waiting for the bus. You’re late for work. You check your phone for the sixth time. Your mind races forward to your big meeting later in the day. Then it charges back over the argument you had with your partner the night before.
Stress is not a modern invention, but, although London is brilliant, the pace of life is hectic. It takes its toll on our overstimulated brains. It’s easy to get caught up in thoughts, impulses and emotions, and become fixated on the future or the past.
There is an answer - meditation.
What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a term bandied about a lot. What does it mean? Basically, it’s the practice of focusing your attention on what’s happening in that particular moment. Longterm meditation practise can help you to live calmly and with more compassion.
If the leader of the free world meditated perhaps he’d be less inclined to start a nuclear war via Twitter.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation lowers stress levels. It helps you take a step back from daily cares to see things clearly and focus on what really matters. It increases self awareness, enabling you to recognise and detach from negative emotions, like anger. It sharpens concentration, which means you don’t get distracted as easily and multitasking is easier.
Meditation is used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommend it.
Huckle barber Marshal recently began his meditation journey:
‘I was inspired by my mum. She’s been meditating for about ten years. She’s much more chilled and actually looks younger. This year we did a weekend retreat together. It was tough. I’m used to being busy all the time but I had to stop and just sit. It brought up a lot of stuff, including back pain, which is connected to my work standing up all day. I’ve got more respect for my body and mind now. You only get one of each!’
How do you start meditating?
- Start small
Two minutes a day is fine. A small, achievable goal is better than an almighty challenge that leaves you exhausted and exasperated.
- Close your eyes
Find a quiet place to sit and close your eyes. The idea is to minimise distractions.
- Focus on your breath
Long, slow breaths help your whole body to relax and your heart rate to slow.
- Do it first thing in the morning
If you meditate at the same time every day it becomes less of a chore and more of a routine.
- Don’t worry if you’re doing it right - just do it
Of course it’s hard but with time it’ll get easier. Thoughts will come and go. Let them.
- Guided meditations
Guided meditation videos and apps can help you get started.
- Workshops and retreats
Workshops and retreats are a great way to learn more, deepen your practice and connect with other meditators. The London Buddhist Centre is an excellent resource.
One day, or day one?
Meditation can seem worthy and daunting but take a small step and you’ve started. It won’t change your life overnight but, as Marshal explains, the benefits are real.
‘I was waiting in a cafe for a panini at lunchtime the other day, not long after the retreat. It took ages, but I didn’t mind. Unlike previous times, I just accepted the wait. What’s the point of getting wound up about these things? It felt good to let go.’
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