A state of mindfulness

Woman meditation outdoorsIt’s 5.30am. It’s dark outside the yoga studio, it’s dark behind my eyelids and I’m struggling to focus on anything that isn’t my stomach. It may not be the most fortuitous of starts to 31 days of mindfulness, but it can only go up from here.

I’ve signed up to Mindful in May (MiM), a meditation program that runs throughout (you guessed it!) May in a bid to raise awareness of the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, as well as to provide clean drinking water for poor communities by raising funds for US-based non-profit organisation Charity Water. There’s a wonderful symmetry to that marriage: in the exploding field of research into meditation, it has been shown that meditation helps breed compassion.

That’s not the only good thing meditation has to offer, however. As you may have read in WellBeing and other health magazines and journals, meditation offers a bunch of health benefits, including:

  • Promoting a sense of deep relaxation and peacefulness
  • Relieving stress and anxiety and their negative impacts on the mind and body
  • Alleviating problems such as insomnia, migraines and high blood pressure
  • Improving focus, memory and emotional balance
  • Boosting immune function

You get the gist. It’s pretty good for you. I’ve known this for some time and have been trying to get in a regular practice for a Very Long Time. When I do it feels amazing and I can really notice the effects — I feel calmer, I can focus better, I feel less stressed. But it seems to be getting harder and harder to sit still, and lately the days when I don’t practise mindfulness are becoming more frequent.

Meditation has been around for as many years as there are leaves on the trees outside your front door (well, thousands at least). As Cheri Huber writes in Making a Change for Good, meditation is the practice of being “fully present to our experience, to see through the delusions of conditioned mind and end suffering”. It’s about focusing on one thing and keeping your attention on that for as long as possible, in order to calm your body and mind.

But back to today, back to the process. Back to my chirpy morning mind that is making up a song in tune with the grumbling of my stomach.

There are multiple ways to meditate. I’m by no means an expert but the form I’m most familiar with — which I’ll be trying to use this week, along with 1500 other people involved in MiM worldwide — is a body scan. This involves lying down in a comfortable, quiet place and focusing on relaxing each part of the body in turn, from your toes to the tip of your head. You breathe normally and steadily, and imagine your skin, muscles and even your bones relaxing and sinking into the floor.

Your mind may start to wander to, oh, let’s see, the pile of paperwork on your desk or how your grandmother is doing, but just gently bring it back to your body and your breath. The idea is to not get cranky with yourself — wandering is what a mind does best and meditation is a learning experience, after all, not a competition.

Today, I found it difficult to focus. Tomorrow, I dare say I’ll find it difficult to focus. But I’m trying to think of my mind like a lovable pup, which gets excited about everything and moves so quickly it falls over its own feet. I love it, I accept it — but I’m forever committed to training it.

  • Interested in getting involved? There’s still time to sign up to clear your mind and provide clean water for poor communities. Register before 10pm on May 4 

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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