What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice that teaches you how to focus, (like tuning in to an inner radio station) and from there you begin to learn about yourself. It can be described in lots of ways, and the best way to know it is to give it a go.
Why is it important?
Meditation brings you closer in touch with the most essential part of who you are. It’s an enjoyable and pleasant way to spend time. Also, being able to sit still for five minutes, focus and develop a more positive relationship with your mind has lots of practical applications for everyday life.
How does it make you feel?
It’s about self discovery and so until we sit down and tune in, we don't know where we are going to go or what we will find. For example, how do you feel when you get a new insight into your life? It depends really I'd say, on what insight it is. But either way, you will gain ground. Rather than seeking a specific feeling, it's good to be curious about the feelings that come up, and interested also in the awareness with which those feelings are known.
Can you set the scene for us of a typical meditation?
Meditation could start sitting with your eyes closed. Keep the spine upright and the head level. Try to keep your eyes still and the breathing even to begin with. Then see if you can be observant. Don't try to change anything, just see what’s happening. It takes some practice time to begin to see what’s going on, with a gentle open mindedness. Slowly things will begin to occur to you, and this will grow as your ability to focus grows. Be interested! What is happening within you, with a little viewing, is fascinating.
After a while of doing meditation something begins to change. It can feel a little like being home. You can’t force it to happen. It’s like learning to read, you practice and one day it just starts to happen. It’s a sense of being or a kind of presence that is hard to describe but it just arrives. And then you sit quietly with it. Until you have had enough, and that’s it.
It sounds like a great escape...
It does sound like that, but in reality it’s quite the reverse. It isn’t about loosing yourself or distraction. It is about knowing yourself and being intimate with experience. Which is subtle yet empowering. After sitting a while in that space it becomes easier as you get more familiar with it. How you view and interact with life is different from this place, and you begin to be able to operate from there more and more.
If you feel interested in meditation and meditation-related pastimes like poetry, art, music and nature, you might like my blog here on emmamillslondon.com
What is mindfulness?
In recent years, there has been a lot of scientific research into mindfulness. This is a modern, secular strand of meditation that is often defined as cultivating a sense of moment-to-moment, non-judgemental awareness. It involves paying attention in a specified way to the present moment.
Many of the practices on this website draw on mindfulness, because it is an approach that works well ‘on the go’ and alongside daily activities such as washing up or cooking a meal.
What are some of the beneficial side effects?
People often tell me that their meditation has brought them the following nice benefits.
- Better sleep
- Better blood pressure
- Less stressed after work
- Better able to have new ideas and think differently
- Self understanding
- Spiritual awakening
- Compassion and getting on better with people
- Feeling as though you have more time
- Feeling content and at peace
- less stress related health symptoms
What is your favourite thing about meditation?
The circumstances present in your life will naturally come and go. From small events like the sound of a bell ringing, to longer events, like being in your 40’s.
You might also notice that there is something in you which is aware of all of the stuff that is going on. You could call it your awareness, or presence.
It can be lovely to be well aquatinted with that aware part of yourself. When you are, you might say that you feel centred or grounded, and that's a good feeling.
Over time you intuit that what you really are isn't limited by the constraints of your particular body or mind or era, and is rather quite special!
There is one observation in particular that I have made, and I don't know if perhaps you might have had a similar experience. Often times when I see myself in a photo or in a mirror, the ‘me’ that I see looks different to the ‘me’ I feel myself to be. Does that make sense? A gentleman I know often tells me, he still feels 25 — until he looks in the mirror. I suppose this is a similar sort of sentiment to the one I’m trying to share with you.
I couldn't describe it to you— how I feel myself to be on the inside, because I just get a sense of it. But what I can say is that it gives me the reassuring and curious sensation that what I am—what I am in my inner most essential nature, is not limited to my physical body and mental activity. I am those things, and I am also so much more.
Meditation gives me the time, space and courage (!) to learn about the temperament and idiosyncrasies of of my body and mind. The good and bad, the talents, the patterns and the habits. And I feel that all of this practical self knowledge helps me to cover the ground of life better.
Meditation also helps me to connect with that inner most part of myself. So far in this blog post I've referred to it as ‘my awareness’ or ‘my being’. Some people might call it conciousness, God, or the universe or the Great What Is. As a creative and mad poetry enthusaist, I quite love the ideas of the poet Robert Bly. He refers to it as ‘the 3rd place’.
In his words:
“It’s a place where all of the geniuses and lovely people and the brilliant women are-- they all go there. Sometimes when you do poetry, especially if you translate people like Hafez and Rumi, you go almost immediately to this third world.”
Meditation helps you to connect with this 3rd place. This is one reason why so many creative people are familiar with meditation. Calling it a 3rd place could make it seem far out or separate from you, but don’t worry-- it isn't.
When I first started meditating I had a very small sense of my being. I just sat quietly and listened to my teacher guide me in several visualisations. I did it because it was relaxing and felt good. The growing sense of being came over time, and still keeps coming in new ways today.
There are many activities associated with meditation. For example: poetry, breathing exercises, visualisations and yoga. All of these offer ways to help you to regain a sense of focus.
These different meditational activities all have lovely qualities to offer you. For example: Breathing and yoga can have a great influence on the nervous system and body. Visualisations can be very creative and great for the imagination. They are all good in there own ways so be sure to follow your inner compass as to what seems like fun, and of interest.
Whichever type of meditation you try, be sure to have fun. It’s a lovely opportunity to gather yourself up, and learn something new about yourself and life.
Please feel welcomed to leave any questions you might have in the comments section bellow.
If you are looking for a nice way in, I would recommend:
This audio set
And this book.