I was first introduced to meditation in 1990 by Tony, an elderly Chinese gentleman whom I had met when I had become ill with a debilitating virus. The doctors had been unable to treat me and I was told I could be affected for a number of years. My yoga teacher at the time recommended I go and see Tony who dealt in acupuncture, herbs and homeopathy and within four weeks I was totally cured and back to vibrant health.
Tony held monthly meditation sessions at his home and invited me and my husband Richard to join in. We had visions of weird, hippy-like people dressed in strange clothes, so were pleasantly surprised to see that the group consisted of ordinary people like us. We began our first session by doing a few breathing exercises and then just sitting in silence for about forty minutes!!
Forty minutes was a long time for someone like me who had never done meditation. Initially I instinctively just focussed on my breath but it didn’t take long before I was fidgeting and wondering when the 40 minutes was going to end. However, once the time was up, I felt more peaceful and relaxed and I set myself the task of meditating on a daily basis. Unfortunately I didn’t succeed with daily meditation but I did manage to meditate 2 to 3 times a week for about 15 minutes or so. I would just sit and focus on my breath and every time thoughts came I would try and bring my awareness back to my breath.
Was Meditation easy?
Definitely not, but what I did find, was that sometimes during meditation a problem I had or an answer I was looking for seemed to resolve itself. I always felt more centred, peaceful and balanced after a session and my day seemed to flow more easily. Those early benefits were really encouraging and I continued to meditate a few times a week for a number of years.
Generally I found meditation hard. At first I tried to sit upright on the floor without support as I thought that was what I should be doing, so I was relieved to find out that sitting on a chair was perfectly acceptable. I set myself short meditation sessions and would set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes while sitting I would feel my head dropping down so I guess I had fallen asleep (one of the reasons lying down is not encouraged for meditation is that it induces sleep). Often I would find myself going off with my thoughts and I would have to keep bringing myself back to my breath.
I remember thinking that I wasn’t very good at meditation as I couldn’t stop my thoughts or clear my mind which is what, in those early days, I mistakenly thought meditation was about. However, meditation certainly impacted on my life in a positive way and that is why I continued. Now-a-days when people say to me they can’t meditate because they can’t empty their mind, I can really relate to those feelings even though now I know that really isn’t true.
Since 2008 I have worked with an inspirational teacher called Derek Thorne who has taught me that anyone can meditate. Through him I have learnt that it is the nature of the mind to think and this is what it will do until the day we die. So having thoughts in meditation is quite natural. The key is to learn to not care about those thoughts, so even though they may be going on, we can choose not to pay attention to them. We may notice them and acknowledge they are there but then we can choose to ignore them. The easiest way to do this is just to bring our awareness to our breath and that is why when we learn meditation, focussing on our breath is so important. The most important thing is not how good our meditation may or may not be but the fact that we find time (whether that be 5 or 50 minutes) daily to just sit and be. Yes, we have to be disciplined and very patient, as meditation is a lifelong discipline but the rewards it brings are amazing.
The journey of Meditation is like the journey of life
Sometimes it’s easy, but often it’s not. Sometimes we just want to give up and sometimes we can find every reason under the sun why we can’t find the time to meditate. Through my own persistent meditation I have experienced highs and lows as it has exposed a lot of my own deeply hidden baggage that I was carrying without even being aware of. Baggage that was holding me back and having a negative impact upon my life in all sorts of ways. Feelings and emotions that I had tucked away began to surface so I could finally deal with them and release them.
Meditation has helped me to begin to understand who I am and how my mind can be my biggest friend but also my worst enemy. One of the most important things I am learning is that a lot of the negativity that my own mind directs at me is absolute rubbish because my own mind lies to me! False beliefs, built up through years of conditioning from well-meaning parents, teachers and figures of authority etc., who criticised and chastised me from the time I was very little, continued to replay and repeat time after time, way into my adulthood. All this time I had believed I should be a certain way… their way… and at long last I finally know it just isn’t true! Like most of us, I probably had about 5% praise and 95% telling me what I should or shouldn’t do or what I should be like. They wanted me to be a certain way… their way!! I have literally been brain washed into believing I am not good enough as I am.
Through my meditation I have come to realise that I am good enough and that I am okay just as I am. Meditation has helped me to understand the nature of my own mind and how it is possible for me to take control of it in order to live a peaceful and contented life rather than my mind taking control of me. I truly believe that meditation is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.