By Carol Dodson or Haney’s Holistic Therapies
In my first article for this magazine I opened the door to the practice of meditation and explained a little of what it involves and some basic tips on how to start.
Meditation is a very personal journey, and that journey will be different for everyone, so I thought I would share with you how I came to embrace the practice and how it has benefited my life so far.
As a child I regularly went to church with my family. The thing that resonated with me during these occasions was the collective sense of energy I felt all around and the sacred rituals associated with mass, for example the prayers, the lighting of candles, the hymns and the beautiful robes worn by the priest.
However, I began to realise that religion alone did not fulfil me. I always felt that somewhere deep within me there was a powerful source and a well of knowledge, but I was at a loss of how to tap into it.
A thriving career in media and a hectic social life in my 20’s and 30’s took my mind off the need for any inner searching, but when personal tragedy struck on more than one occasion, the need for answers and deeper fulfilment returned, this time with greater urgency.
I had read about the benefits of meditation and had dipped into the practice on occasion, but in a whimsical way, with no real commitment or understanding. But I now felt the need to explore it in depth.
I read some of the studies on meditation; there are in fact over 3,000 studies documenting its benefits, ranging from reducing blood pressure, stress and anxiety, to increasing happiness and creativity, to improved memory and emotional stability…WOW!
So why when I started meditating was I disappointed?
I found it hard to sit still, I felt guilty for doing ‘nothing’; I couldn’t concentrate on my breath, I felt silly, my mind was full of incessant thoughts that wouldn’t subside and I was annoyed at not being able to clear my mind. There were no lightning bolts; no deep revelations and I felt I had failed. I felt cheated! What the hell was all the fuss about?
However something deep inside told me to keep going.
By nature I can be stubborn, determined and wilful. If I want something I do not give up easily. So a combination of deep curiosity, a need for mental peace and answers, inner guidance and sheer bloody mindedness made me return to my practice regularly and doggedly, not always with a good heart.
Then, over the weeks and months that followed things began to change.
I began to find it easier to breathe. My breaths became deeper and calmer and I was concentrating on my breath for longer periods of time. As a result I felt calmer after each session, more at peace and a mental clarity began to gradually emerge.
Some days were harder than others, occasionally it was a chore, but I stuck at it and slowly, but surely this magical practice, very gently crept into all areas of my life, and I found myself on the most awesome journey of self-discovery.
I began to see life differently. I realised I could separate myself from certain emotional struggles and difficulties by observing them, rather than getting caught up in them, and this allowed me to make decisions from a calmer, more relaxed perspective, rather than reacting in the moment and making things worse.
I became more tolerant of painful feelings; rather than trying to bury them and move on, as I had done in the past, I began to face them and see what they had to teach me. I started to embrace painful and negative emotions full on and it felt cathartic, if at times upsetting. For the first time in my life I faced my dark side, my shadow side and I went to places in my mind I had been too scared to explore before. I began to grow and felt a more rounded and more whole by doing so. I became less critical and more compassionate of myself and others.
As the years have gone on, meditation is no longer a chore. I look forward to it with a sense of excitement and anticipation. I have grown to love and cherish the time alone, sitting in stillness, calming my mind and body and seeing what it brings. I have learnt, for the most part, how to calm my mind so I can hear my inner voice and tap into my intuition. I have learnt to follow my heart rather than my mind. Sometimes I have flashes of awareness, of being part of a greater whole. Sometimes I make new discoveries about myself or my way forward in life, and other times I struggle to settle, but continue to do so, knowing that every experience is part of the bigger transformation.
Meditation allows me to filter out the rubbish and get rid of old stagnant energies, making way for the new. I feel more grateful, less rushed, lighter of spirit and happier.
When I meditate I feel I am nurturing my well being from the inside out and I have made it a sacred ritual in my life that is as important as eating and sleeping.
Does meditation guarantee you a stress free, perfect, happy life?
No! Life will always have its challenges and will periodically throw us curve balls, usually when we are least expecting them. Just as a ship can sail along in calm waters, then hit an unexpected storm, life can do the same. I have found that meditation does not stop the storms happening, but it allows me to navigate them a little better and to surf the waves rather than drown in them.
With meditation there is no end goal or result. There is no moment when you say ‘I’m done’, ‘I’ve achieved it’, and ‘I don’t have to do it anymore’.
It is a journey. My journey has taken me down many roads and paths, some familiar but many unfamiliar. As a result of my practice I have been guided to make decisions in my life that I could not have imagined 15 years ago. I am on a journey through life that unfolds with synchronicity if I learn to love and live in the moment, if I let go of the need to control the future and trust in the process. This is not always easy and needs constant practice, but I keep trying.
I am enjoying the freedom this is giving me, to see things as they really are, with more clarity and acceptance and it is liberating!
The world hasn’t changed, but my perspective has.
When life gets tough meditation is an anchor that guides me back to my heart and brings me home, it is a place where I now feel comfortable and safe.
You can talk about it, you can read about it, but you have to EXPERIENCE it for yourself to appreciate the life changing benefits it can bring.
I hope that my insights will encourage any of you who have toyed with the idea of meditating, to take up the practice and begin your own journey of self-discovery. It takes a small commitment and regular practice, but it is worth it.
Next month I will share some of my experiences of meditating regularly in a group and will look at one of the most widely practiced meditations in the world ‘Loving Kindness’ and how this beautiful practice can soften the mind and heart and open deep wells of love, kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others.
If you’d like to get in touch with me to discuss how you could benefit from meditation or discuss these tips in detail, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I’d be delighted to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.haneys.co.uk/