Why meditate? To deepen your mind-body connection, learn to relax more easily, reduce stress, manage your emotions? Or perhaps it’s to appease our curiosity about the health benefits of meditation? Is it the spiritual aspect of meditation arising from various cultures and religions, in particular the practice of mindfulness and compassion that originate from the Buddhist tradition and have a basis in meditation that interests you?
We seem to have many ways to deal with and healing the visible manifestations of disease in the body but not much that deals with the mind and meditation is an easily available way of giving ourselves a ‘mini holiday’ or a ‘mental massage’.
Meditation techniques can be used in situations where there may not be the ‘right meditation setting’, assisting us to enter a calm state just by being aware of being distressed or upset and being able to step back, do a short spot meditation or taking a few deep breaths, giving us a moment to put the situation we are being presented with into perspective, by diffusing its immediate impacts. In this way, simple meditation techniques can deeply transform our reactivity to external events in life and to ourselves, thus counterracting the cumulative effects that stress can potentially have on our bodies, including pain and disease.
Meditation may assist us in becoming more aware of internal thoughts and conversations. Are the same thoughts repeating themselves over and over? What is the tone of our internal conversations? Is it negative, self-defeating and judgmental or is it accepting, comforting and soothing? Am I able to see the conversation for what it is? Be with it, see it and then let it pass over me, potentially taking myself out of one state of being (e.g. depressed, angry, confused, distracted), into another, for example to comfort, acceptance, joy or simply a feeling of calm.
Meditation teaches us to look at what is – here and now. It helps us to focus on the present and not ‘what might be’ in the future, allowing for less wastage of emotional energy, worry and preoccupation, to let go of things that one has no control over, to give time and space for unexplored thoughts and emotions to arise, be dealt with and bloom – a beautiful and liberating feeling!
As a practitioner and therapist in mind-body connection, I strongly believe we can use and sometimes adapt meditation techniques to enhance physical explorations to ‘come out of your mind and into your body’. Being ‘in the moment’ and connecting to one’s body during a Pilates session, for example, can lead to improved and accelerated results in reaching the objectives of the programme whether it be strengthening the body, balancing it or releasing and letting go. It’s almost as though the focus (one of the key principles in Pilates movement therapy) allows for better communication along neuromuscular pathways and the body thanks us for this attention by responding in amazing ways.
Many jobs are very ‘cerebral’, demanding intense ‘brain’ energy, leading to a loss of body connection and awareness. Our busy lifestyles can lead us to being in a constant mild ‘sympathetic’ (fight of flight response) state, which leads to mind-body exhaustion and energy depletion. Learning to become aware of the breath or focusing on the body, as in some meditation techniques, can facilitate a connection with the body and enhance the experience of muscles or organs ‘letting go’ (of blocked energy or tightness), re-setting and re-balancing of the body. Have you got a space for this in your life? When do you give yourself the opportunity to feel the positive effects of embodying meditation and breath in movement? Taking some time to take yourself into a parasympathetic state can be restorative, refreshing and sometimes even enlightening!
After a number of years of meditating, the cumulative effect has been to open up a whole new world to me, helping me to change my perspective on myself, life and relationships in general. The positive effects of a ‘meditative approach to life’ eventually pervades all of life and ‘just being’ leads to a calmer state, with a number of positive ripple effects.
All human beings will experience unstable, uncertain and confusing times in their lives. Meditation can be a means of getting back to home base, to one’s inner wisdom, balance and trust. Meditation can be seen as an anchor to be relied upon to bring a sense of calm, simplicity and clarity. It can also create ‘higher states of being’ both spiritually and emotionally as well as diminish or remove physical pain.
As a very personal and subjective practise, it is good to know that there are many different ways to approach and experience meditation, including different techniques that suit different individuals or settings. It is certainly not a ‘one size fits all’. Meditation is not a competition or a race and it does not require ‘proving oneself’ or being ‘successful’ at it.
My aim is to make meditation accessible and practical, an experience that can be enjoyed by all, particularly those with busy, urban lives. Come on the journey to greater mind-body awareness.