By Rachel Grey
Our lifestyles today are increasingly busy and we are always available and contactable, the invention of the mobile phone and social media has had many great positives, enabling us to make good use of our time, but equally many negatives as we are constantly available and bombarded with information 24/7. All of this takes its toll on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. It increases our stress levels and decreases our enjoyment of life and makes us less productive. One of the many effective ways to de-stress and relax is to Meditate.
I started contracting in 2010 spending a lot of time away from home, travelling to various client sites. It can get pretty boring in a hotel when you travel alone on a regular basis, the novelty of travelling soon wears thin and stress levels begin to rise when you’re faced with flight delays, train cancellations and long queues on the motorway. As work gets more stressful and project deadlines loom, I look to find ways to relax and combat hotel boredom.
I initially studied to enhance my CV, but that didn’t provide the time to rest, unwind and de-stress, so I looked back to my interests for inspiration. I decided to learn something completely different to enhance my career and I was led towards complimentary therapies, which are effective for a number of things, including stress and relaxation. I’d like to share with you one of the tools I’ve learnt on my journey, one which you can learn too, it doesn’t need any fancy equipment and you can practice anywhere. I learnt to meditate and enjoyed the process so much I wanted to be able to share it with others, so I’ve since obtained a diploma as a Meditation Instructor.
Meditation isn’t about sitting for hours cross-legged, in silence, not thinking, looking at the backs of your eyelids and being oblivious to the world around you. This is a misconception and when I first started looking to learn meditation I thought that this was the definition and I struggled with this. I nearly gave up but I’m so glad I persevered.
Meditation is about developing deep concentration and awareness of an individual: self, idea, object, word or phrase. Meditation can take a variety of forms including sitting/laying down, walking, drinking tea, listening to the birds, watching leaves in autumn, the list goes on.
Mindfulness is one form of meditation, focusing awareness on the present moment, calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts and body sensations. Take drinking that morning tea/coffee for example, through mindfulness you start noticing how it smells, how it looks, how it feels as it warms your hands through the cup, how it feels when you take that sip and swallow, how it tastes, even noticing any emotions and memories that it evokes. Slowing it down allows you to notice and see the world in detail and in a new way, instead of glugging the drink whilst checking emails on autopilot. It can be very rewarding.
Meditation and Mindfulness have many benefits including reducing stress and anxiety, focusing the mind, promoting restful sleep, enhancing creativity, increasing concentration, rejuvenating and a whole lot more. You don’t need to meditate for hours on end. I meditate each morning whilst sitting on the train on my way to the office, which is about 20 minutes. It has taken time to be able to do this and initially its best to pick somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed and start with a few minutes and work up to 10 or 20 mins, it doesn’t have to be long. Taking just a few moments each day to unplug and switch off from the world is hugely beneficial.
Each day sit quietly for a little while and take a few deep breaths through the nose, hold for 1 or 2 seconds and breathe out through the mouth. Feel the air as you inhale, notice how your body changes, feel the tension as you hold that breath and feel the release as you exhale. It may feel forced and not smooth at first but as you practice, your breathing will get into a rhythm and flow gently and quietly. To begin really is that simple. You can then move on to other techniques and increase the length of time to what suits you. Maybe you can’t do this for too long so break it down into smaller sessions that are manageable and fit around your schedule. Two 10 minute sessions or four 5 minute sessions will still be beneficial.
Developing the ability to Meditate and be Mindful has certainly helped my work. I am less stressed, more energized and happier. It also has a positive effect on those around me too.
There are a growing number of meditation instructors out there if you would like to try meditation but feel you need some support to get started. Alternatively you could search on YouTube, podcasts or mobile phone apps and try other meditation types as there are so many options to choose from. These are equally useful to those who meditate already and would allow you to explore the different meditation forms including breathing techniques, progressive/muscle relaxation, guided visualisations, repetitive movement (e.g walking), Zen (intensive meditation), and Transcendental (mantra meditation). Look out for meditation groups and Buddhist centres running sessions in your area.
Why not give it a try? You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.