Meditation is the answer I’ve been looking for. ‘What was the question?’, I hear you ask. Well, there really wasn’t a specific question more of a feeling. For some time I’ve been looking to make a change in the patterns I see myself repeating in my life. The particular pattern in question is my panic merchant mode.
My aim is to be more of a peaceful master by learning to centre myself emotionally. At present my mind wonders, jumps and skips like an excited child exploring a playground. There are the ups of climbing steps to reach a goal but then there’s also the slide down of disappointment. I do believe that 2013 is the year that I will take this excited child by the hand and teach it to relax and enjoy the ride that is life.
For years, on and off, I have been praying in the morning. I never acknowledged it as meditation but have recently realized that in some ways I have already been attempting to “still” my mind and reduce the noise of the negative background chatter that seems to pollute it. My daily practice involves reading a morning prayer. While I’m reading I do find that my mind has a wonderful way of meandering away onto other subjects and ideas.
I’m still continuing with the prayers but now on occasion I’m adding 10 minutes of sitting cross legged as I repeat the word ‘Waheguru’. ‘Waheguru’ in Sikhism means ‘God’ and the literal translation is ‘wonderful teacher’. By repeating just a single word I’m looking to connect with a higher being. I know when it has really worked for me as the tension at my temples is released. Additionally, I am able to carry the moment of peace that I felt during my practice with me throughout the day. I feel a sense of calm.
Over the last couple of years I’ve also started practicing mindful meditation which was first explained to me shortly after my Nan died. At the time I was experiencing a storm of emotions which were for the most part negative. The simple explanation involved noticing the details of physical objects around me. The theory is that you focus your mind on something in the present which helps to either eliminate the negative brain chatter or at least dull down the sound.
I practice being mindful by first feeling for the tension that I am holding in my face as I’m often frowning or clenching my teeth without even being aware of it. I relax my facial muscles and look to clear my thoughts by connecting with the present. I find one of the best times to do this is, is when I’m walking because it helps me appreciate my surroundings. I become aware of all the little details, for example individual leaves on a tree or the colour of the sky.
But why would being mindful and repeating a word for ten minutes a day be beneficial? The answer to this lies in science. Through my limited research I found a NHS study that reported how test subjects who had practiced a type of meditation called integrative body-mind training (IBMT) were shown to have changed the structure of their brains. The study had its limitations but the point that’s most pertinent to me is that by thinking differently using meditation we can make a physical change. There have been other studies that have claimed that meditation can reduce blood pressure or increase attention spans. I’m on the bandwagon that says meditation is good for the mind, body and soul.
The meditative mindset for me is about being able to ‘let go’ of expectations and emotions. It doesn’t mean stopping all that you are doing but instead of getting caught up in a reaction to something, it is about being able to bring yourself back to the present moment before making your next decision. Recently I was about to lose my temper but I paused to notice how fast my heart was racing, by diverting my attention I was able to buy myself some valuable time allowing me to calm down.
Being calm is integral to the meditative mindset. I’ve witnessed it in martial arts when sparring with opponents in Tae Kwon Do. The best fighters aren’t snarling aggressively but are completely calm. Their faces are relaxed as they read their opponents moves responding before the opponent has even finished their intended kick. The best fighters aren’t reacting with extreme emotion but are literally cool operators as they don’t bow to the pressure of the fight. Their focus is on the job at hand. When I’ve lost my temper while sparring I’ve ended up injuring myself. Anger doesn’t serve well when you’re trying to avoid being kicked in the head.
It’s taking time but I’m looking forward to being a calmer Yoda like being.