Life can get busy and loud. There are work deadlines, assignments, alarm clocks, that funny noise coming from the engine of the golf, not to mention little Billy screaming that he’s got a pain in his tummy and doesn’t want to go to tae kwon do practice tonight. We get wound up and stressed which is completely normal.
Everyone has their own ways of coping with the anxiety and stress of a hectic life. For some of us, it might mean hitting the gym or getting out for a run, working on our downward dog at the yoga studio, catching up with the best friend or maybe even talking to a professional counselor or Psychologist. Then of course there’s those few who aren’t so health conscious, so a bad day at work results in excessive social media, going back for one too many cupcakes or refilling that last glass of wine when we should probably stop at one.
It really is so important to set aside that me time to center and ground ourselves everyday. We need to make an extra effort to put ourselves first. It may seem selfish but when we do so, everyone and everything we have contact with benefits. That’s because we become happier, more productive and more respectful people. We communicate more effectively, improve our ability to empathise and are just generally more of a pleasure to be around.
Enter meditation. Meditation is defined as ‘a practice in which an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content’. What does that all mean then?
Well, we can learn to become the master of our minds, not the servant, where we call the shots not that pesky little devil on our shoulder that says “go on, just have one more donut, it’ll be fine, we’ll do a few extra pushups tomorrow”. We learn that we are not our thoughts but something far grander – the consciousness that is aware of them. Even more beneficial in the short term. It’s relaxing, calming and grounding and has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression as well as lower blood pressure.
So how do we do it? There are various methods and we recommend researching and trying a few to find something that suits you personally. It’s generally recommended to start small, say five minutes a sitting and build up. Many will build up to an hour at a time but benefits can be felt in twenty minutes, which is more realistic in a busy modern lifestyle.
A common and widely regarded practice is mindfulness meditation. In short, this is about sitting quietly, focusing on the breath and simply becoming aware of the thoughts that enter the mind. When we become aware that we have picked up a train of thought we simply acknowledge it without judgment or criticism and return to focusing on the breath. This will happen a lot. Don’t expect silence. We train our mind though by simply becoming aware that we have run off on some wild train of thought and return to our breath. We become the master, we become present and we become awake. There are also numerous guided meditations worth looking at. One example is a visualization of a serene setting like a lush meadow where we can temporarily transport ourselves to get some respite from our external environment.
Most practices have a central focus on the breath, which is so important in our society. Shallowness and shortness of breath is synonymous with depression and anxiety. As adults we start to use our ’emergency breathing’ mechanism which comes from our chest instead of engaging our diaphragm. As a result of spending countless hours slumped at the keyboard, the majority of us have developed rounded shoulders which inhibits our ability to breath deeply and freely. So it is a really great way to flood our bodies with oxygen rich blood and as many of the sages say “breath is life”.
If it sounds like something you would like to try, do a bit of research online, or buy a book and find something that works for you. Another option is actually going to a meditation class in your local suburb. They are usually very inexpensive, some only asking for a small donation. You’ll find that the people you meet there will all be welcoming and you’ll more than likely leave feeling more serene than when you entered.
– FCF Team