Why meditation rocks and where to start! October 14 2015, 0 Comments

For those who have been part of the Yogamona community for some time you will no doubt have caught on that I'm a massive fan of meditation. It's such a big part of my life purpose and "my story". It really all started back in my undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy over 15 years ago where we were introduced to relaxation strategies in the form of breathing, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation. We were taught these strategies as a form of stress relief by triggering the relaxation response, the opposite of the stress (fight or flight) response. They were particularly useful for patients with chronic illness, mental health conditions and those recovering from ill health. I taught relaxation on and off throughout my clinical practice. Little did I realise at the time but what we were taught at University and what I went on to teach my patients were the underpinnings of a mindfulness and meditation practice.

Yoga was another entry point into meditation for me through attending yoga retreats offering longer daily meditation sessions and experiencing the bliss that is savasana at the end of a juicy vinyasa flow class. As I've touched on before, at an extremely stressful period in my life I turned to meditation and deepened my practice to reduce stress. It literally changed my life in the most unbelievable and unimaginable way. In the modern world we are living in with so many distractions and demands on our time and our endless to-do-lists, mindfulness and meditation offers relief from the madness. 

I take a weekly guided meditation and just last week with Mental Health Week here in Australia I ran a corporate wellbeing workshop in my day job on Mindfulness and Mental Health. It was a hit! Many questions have been coming up at work, in my business and also on social media with people wanting to know more about meditation and wanting to share their questions and meditation experiences with me. I thought it would be timely to write a blog series on meditation.

Where to start?

Meditation is an ancient practice (literally thousands of years old) that has made quite a grand entrance into the Western world over the last 40 years. Mindfulness in particular seems to be the buzz word in the media. What yogis and those practising different forms of meditation in India, Japan and China have known for thousands of years is now strongly backed by science. Advances in technology and the use of functional MRIs in research has helped to demonstrate why meditation works.

What is meditation?

There are so many definitions and I could go on for days about what meditation means to me but the one that resonates the most with me is... the moment by moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgement. Being in the present moment. Being aware. It is about making time to slow down the breath, tune into our bodies and observe our thoughts without analysing or reading into them. Sometimes there is a focus point like a mantra, a script or a guide or a focus on the breath. Meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness but we can apply this act and intention of being in the present moment to any task. We can have more mindful conversations, we can be mindful eating our evening meal or walking in nature. Meditation is taking time out to stop and practice mindfulness. There are many different forms of meditation - again that could be a whole blog post!

The benefits of meditation

The benefits are so far reaching from improved relationships and compassion, reduced blood pressure to increased creativity and productivity. Oh and I particularly like the evidence around slowing down the ageing process! :-) Who wouldn't want to experience these incredible benefits?! There is so much evidence out there backing up meditation as the go-to for reducing our stress and increasing our health, wellbeing and happiness. It literally changes the brain at a cellular level. It rewires us for love, better health and happiness.

Where to start

If you are new to meditation I would suggest starting off with attending a class for beginners or a mindfulness course, seeking guidance from a meditation teacher or starting off meditating for 5-10 minutes a day using an app. Many people give up after a while as they don't understand how to meditate and frequently think they are doing it wrong because the mind won't be quiet or still. This is a myth. Our mind will wander, it is completely normal and it takes time to experience the spaces in between or moments of stillness. Regardless of how busy your mind may be when you first start out, you are still gaining the benefits of meditation!

My favourite meditation apps 

1 Giant Mind is a not for profit aimed at delivering free-to-learn mantra meditation programs to reduce the impact of stress and increase health and wellbeing. I love that they talk you through step by step and the focus is on meditation being effortless rather than attempting or trying to quiet the mind fully. Coming back to the mantra is really helpful. It has a fantastic 12 day beginners program and a 30 day challenge with more content released during the programs to educate you on meditation. I highly recommend!

Smiling Mind is a wonderful website and app focusing on meditation for young people. Smiling Mind is a not for profit initiative taking the education system by storm by introducing the benefits of meditation and mindfulness into schools around Australia. There are options to select your age and a range of different options from body scan, breathing and mindful eating. The instructions are clear and simple and there is also a 10 step course to help you feel more calm, clear and content. There are plenty of short sessions so you can't use the excuse that you don't have enough time! 

Headspace is another favourite of mine. It includes a free 10 day program called Take 10 with an option for a paid subscription where you receive hundreds of hours of original content including guided and unguided mindfulness meditation tracks. The subscription option also gives you the flexibility to select a specific area you may like to focus on such as creativity, focus or happiness. There is also a buddy system to encourage your friends to join you and keep you motivated. I love Andy's voice too :-)

I hope you've enjoyed this introduction to meditation. Stay tuned for more blog posts on meditation in the future! 

If you're feeling stressed out, having difficulty sleeping or finding it impossible to switch off and enjoy life, come along to one of my guided meditation classes on Thursday nights from 7.45-8.45pm at the Habitat Space - 328 Waverley Rd, Malvern East. Arrive 15 minutes early to arrange payment or book online at the Habitat Space.

If you live very much in the head, over think everything and are experiencing high levels of stress, overwhelm or feeling anxious, seeking a specialised coaching program tailored to you will help bring you more calm, clarity and inner peace. To discuss how a mindfulness meditation practice can help you, book a free discovery call with me today. I thread the principles of mindfulness throughout my coaching programs as well as provide relevant resources and various meditation tracks tailored to your needs. It's time to stop feeling stressed and start living!

If you're interested in a face to face workshop or an online webinar on meditation please leave me a comment below!

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