What is meditation?
Just like physical exercise, meditation can take many forms. The short definition bellow is taken from my meditation guide book, Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Essentially, meditation is an activity that asks you to focus your attention in a particular way. This could be by concentrating on the sight of a flower, listening to a voice as it leads you through a guided meditation, or simply by focusing on your own breath as you inhale and exhale. Sometimes you’ll do it with an aim in mind, such as improving your concentration or relaxing after a long day at work.
Meditation is also a chance to gather your thoughts and reflect on yourself and your life. From this quiet reflection you’ll grow used to sitting in that inner space I call ‘The Middle’ (see page 13). From there, you can start to explore ideas about life or even make enquiries into the nature of things, such as, for example, deciding to meditate on what animates a flower or a topic like ‘the nature of innovation’, or perhaps contemplating the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon.
Some of the meditations in this guide invite you to focus your attention in one direction or another. Others have a goal or revolve around something you are looking into. Yet meditation can also be a time to sit quietly and just be – without any agenda. Here you have an opportunity to let thoughts, feelings and senses appear, unfold and dissolve. This ‘just being’ approach can give us some much needed breathing room.
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.
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 which 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 do so you might say that you feel centred or grounded, and that's a good feeling.
When you explore this quiet sense of presence through meditation you continually learn something new and wonderful. 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 and love 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 God, or source or spirit or the universe or the great what is. The poet Robert Bly refers to ‘the 3rd place’, and I feel perhaps he is also talking about the same thing as we are.
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 like it is somewhere separate from you that you have to venture off to, 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 video - http://www.emmamillslondon.com/6364-2/
This course http://www.emmamillslondon.com/start-meditating
And this book. http://www.emmamillslondon.com/inhale-exhale-repeat-now-available-pre-order-amazon/