Meditation is something that has been in and out of my life since I was about nine years old. I remember a classmates Mum running a session on it during school, and immediately I was drawn to it and loved how it made me feel. It came into my life again during my year 12 exams, when my Mum’s best friend had made a CD of guided meditations, and I would do them every night to help me get to sleep during such a stressful time. I have taken up meditation practice on and off since then, but never anything regular until 2015.
I was living in Darwin with my friend and we were both working jobs that didn’t exactly light us up inside. We both read Louise Hay’s ‘You Can Heal Your Life’, a book I had owned for years but never actually gotten through. Around the same time her Mum had given her a Louise Hay CD and we used to listen to the meditations. I would listen morning and night, and found that they really seemed to help with my anxiety surrounding work. After a while I gave up on the regular practice, however would still meditate here and there. This was my first taste of ‘changing my state’ and using meditation for relaxation, focus, improved sleep and decreased anxiety levels.
At the beginning of this year I read Melissa Ambrosini’s ‘Mastering Your Mean Girl’, in which she writes about meditation and the benefits it has brought to her. In her book, she writes of meditating for 20 minutes, twice a day in the morning and evening, or more if she is flying, not feeling well or has a fuller schedule than usual. Melissa states that her meditation teacher, Tom Cronin says that ‘we have 72 lots of 20 minute blocks in our day. If you allocate only two of those for meditation, you still have 70 for everything else. And those 70 will be a lot more productive if you use 2 of them to meditate.’ This struck a chord with me, and I decided that this would be my goal for my regular practice.
Angel Rajakumari et al’s 2015 study, published in the International Journal of Advances in Scientific Research looked at the effect that meditation has on nursing students stress levels. The study looked at meditation practice and how it led to decreased levels of stress and increased levels of forgiveness in nursing students (something that is especially important in nursing, a profession that is full of highly emotional human interaction and one where us as nurses can often bear the brunt of other people’s frustration, leading to feelings of anger and anxiety.)
The study also states that meditation has an opposite effect on the body to stress. During meditation the heart rate decreases and breathing slows down, which causes blood pressure to normalise, the use of oxygen throughout the body is more efficient and sweating is stabilised. Additionally, meditation practice causes adrenal glands produce less cortisol, the mind to age at a slower rate, and improvement in both immune and mind function. As the study concludes, meditation is wonderful in that it’s free, always available and amazingly effective in short term stress reduction and long term health.
Many people have said to me ‘I can’t meditate’, ‘I can’t stop my thoughts’ or ‘my mind just wanders.’ What people don’t realise is that this is all a part of meditation – thoughts will come and go but the most important thing to do is acknowledge them, stop your mind from wandering away with them and then go back to focusing on your breath.
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” ― Deepak Chopra
Another tip for people just starting out is to start small – don’t try and sit there meditating for 45 minutes (unless of course that feels right for you!) Meditating in blocks – for just a few minutes at a time – can help to make it seem less overwhelming when starting out. When I began my regular practice I started off meditating for 5-10 minutes in the morning and 10-20 minutes in the evening, using guided meditations by Melissa Ambrosini which I will post a link to below. Work your way up, aiming eventually for two 20 minute blocks twice per day. I’m at the stage now where I set my alarm 20 minutes earlier to get my meditation in before work! And for someone who isn’t exactly a morning person that’s a pretty big step!
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” ― Unknown
It’s important to make meditation a priority in order to reap the benefits. It’s very easy to get caught up with thoughts such as ‘oh I don’t have time’, ‘I don’t need to do it this morning.’ I like to do mine first thing in the morning, and at night to get me off to sleep. Some mornings I wake up and start making excuses from the get go – ‘I won’t be able to focus for 20 minutes’, ‘I’ve got so much other stuff to do’, ‘I won’t get anything done if I sit here doing nothing for 20 minutes’. Of course, I’m not doing nothing. After I meditate I find that my day is more productive, I’m more focused and organized, have a better outlook and frame of mind for the day ahead and generally feel calmer and ready to face whatever life throws at me. Because I know that meditation gives me all these benefits, I make sure it’s my priority – because I know it will make me feel good.
Finally, meditation is not about being perfect. Just because your mind wanders for half of your meditation doesn’t mean you’ve ‘failed.’ I like to think that you can’t fail at all in meditation, just as long as you show up and try your best, that’s enough. Stick with it, and be patient with yourself. It takes practice to reap the benefits and you’re not going to sit still in silence with no thoughts at all for three hours the first time you give it a try!
So start a meditation practice today – it doesn’t have to be sitting there for hours with a blank mind. Let the thoughts come and go, try not to let your mind wander off with them and focus on your breath. You can use a guided meditation, currently I love to listen to Moira Williams of Pure Heart Centre’s meditations. She has morning gratitude and evening meditations, as well as a whole lot more. I’ve put the link below so if you are interested you can have a look. I’ve also included a few more meditation resources that I have used or found useful. Remember, it’s all about finding what works for you – there’s no use in forcing yourself to sit through 40 minutes of meditation a day if you can’t stand the sound of the person’s voice or if what they say doesn’t resonate with you at all. Just because something works for me, doesn’t mean that it has to work for you. Youtube is another great resource for finding guided meditations, simply type what you are looking for in the search bar and try a few out! You can look for specific meditations too, such as ‘meditations for anxiety’ or ‘meditations for better sleep’. Take the time to try out different meditations and find what makes you feel good.
Louise Hay – Morning Meditation
Melissa Ambrosini – Meditations by Melissa
Pure Heart Centre – Meditations
Tony Robbins – Priming Exercise
Headspace Meditation App
Smiling Mind Meditation App
Ambrosini, M 2016, Mastering your Mean Girl, HarperCollins Publishers, Sydney, NSW.
Angel Rajakumari G, Soli T.K & Malathy, D 2015, ‘Meditation Lowers Stress and Supports Forgiveness among nursing Students: A Randomized Controlled study’, International Journal of Advances in Scientific Research, vol. 1, no. 4, pp.199-202.
Image Source: Unsplash