Author: Skoti Pepper
An age old tool. Some go beyond the depths of their soul and some stay purely with the breath. Navigating this life skill does not always have to come from a place of cosmic energy, you can delve into the science of it and see how it manifests in a literal sense within our body. Equally, if you are wanting to be of pursuit of the self and a higher energy, then embrace this fully. Whatever narrative gets you to a better place is worth playing with. After all, words are just our projection of how we understand things. I would however like to share with you some pointers to help you get started and then finish off with some of the benefits of meditation.
Steps Towards Meditating:
Environment // If you are new to meditation, I would suggest start off in a quiet room. Ideally, going forwards you will benefit practicing meditating in environments with more distractions. To quote Alan Watts “If you cannot meditate in a boiler room, then you can’t meditate”. Now that sounds like a brick wall to come up against, I’d probably say that statement was made towards people who profess to being pious about the subject. To be able to meditate wherever you are is a skill, that for a lot of people, takes time to acquire if we are not even used to quieting the mind. Especially if we have largely lived a fairly stereotypical lifestyle, we need to be gentle with ourselves to be able to harness the mind.
Position // This is a key attribute as this going to do a few things, potentially strengthen your back should you choose a particular position such as sitting. If you can be comfortable within your meditation, this will allow for less distraction and also, it will open up energy movement through the body. If you can get into the lotus position quite comfortably I would recommend working with that position. If however lotus is accessible but a little tight, I would recommend a cushion under the bum to raise your pelvis, adjust your spines alignment and open the legs more. A cushion is useful if you are going to sit crossed legged, and a few cushions between your legs if you decide to meditate in a kneeling straddle pose. You can meditate on a chair, but maybe place a pillow under your feet if your feet do not comfortably touch the floor, also a cushion behind your back to encourage a straight spine. Some people meditate lying down, I perceive this to be if you are looking for some kind of healing that you may relate to meditation, it is about being gifted and learning to receive.
Breath // To start with, consider using breathing in for 3 seconds, pausing for 2 seconds and exhaling for 3 seconds. As you do this, fill your belly on the in breath and on the out breath pull the belly button to your spine. Repeat this 10 times. This will actively get the oxygen and blood moving around the body more and is a good psychological tool to get you into the meditation. Once you’ve done this, feel free to repeat two or three times and/or go into a regular breathing pattern and work with whatever form of meditation to work with.
Time // If you are new to meditation, I advise people to play around randomly throughout their day with just the 10 breath process I mentioned in the previous step and just notice how you feel after you have done it. Beyond that, if you want to get stuck in, I would say 10 minutes is a reasonable place to start. You’ll want to get used to developing endurance in being in stillness. Initially stick with this for a couple of weeks whilst you get used to your practise. Then in the future consider longer or if you want to stay away from a timed meditation, you’ll maybe consider playing with the idea of stopping the meditation when you feel that your mind is comfortable with coming back into the room.
Distractions // People think you have to empty the head: yes and no. Your mind will naturally wonder and that is fine. It is more than okay, it is part of your current mental activity and that is always enough for where you are on your journey. The key to these distractions, should we find ourselves mentally shopping in Sainsbury’s or mentally responding to work emails, is to once we catch ourselves in the moment, is to acknowledge. Acknowledging it does not mean “oooh, I’m supposed to be meditating not letting my mind go crazy, I’m shit at this”. That is a brutal response, however you own language pertains to the types of things I am talking about in terms of distracting yourself. Consider being more “Okay, so I am here to meditate, I get that this thought has come up and in due course, outside of this meditation, I will pay this thought more appropriate attention, however right now I am here to be with the my meditation and this moment”. Again, whatever kind and peaceful words you can use to give the same energy of acceptance, compassion and understanding towards the process, the better.
Some Benefits of Meditating:
Improves Our Brains Performance - Meditation can give us more focus, by pruning away unused neurological behavioural pathways and reinforcing the neurological behavioural pathways we pay attention/utilise the most. This practise can also develop a stronger resistance towards distractions and promotes resilience towards the age related decay of our ability to pay attention.
Posture - By creating a practise that is physically underpinned by working with good spinal alignment of the spine, we can really give our back and core the structural integrity we need from our muscles to hold our body appropriately for a duration of time. Given time, this will translate into improved posture away from mediation, improved natural body language and the way you move. I don’t think I can emphasise enough how important, irrespective of your physical goals (or lack of), that your core muscles and back muscles are structurally sound. (REF: My own practise and experienced meditators world over)
Aleaviates Mental Health - From reduction in high-risk depression during pregnancy, improved blood pressure results which will inevitably contribute towards reduced stress signals thus lessening conditions such as anxiety. Also, a more appropriate response towards pain will alleviate any unnecessary fuss in the mind surrounding pain, which is not to be confused with nociceptor deactivation (switching off your pain receptors), it just gives the thoughts some space and clarity to be objective about looking after yourself in the most efficient and peaceful manner. (REF: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2006.12.817)
Impulse Reduction and Critical Thinking- Practising mindfulness meditation can really allow you the space between your thoughts and your actions. Sometimes we can just do and not consider things further, often a contributor towards addiction and emotional/social responses and actions. Also, this will start to aide resistance toward social and cultural hypnosis and instead give yourself an internal platform to critically think about the various mediums of hypnosis such as main stream media, social norms, television programmes, new, bias science, and corporate agenda. This is not to say you are against these things, simply you consider them instead of being mindlessly sucked in. (REF: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2095053-people-who-meditate-are-more-aware-of-their-unconscious-brain/ )