Beginning A Meditation Practice

Posted by Tony Cooper on

Beginning A Meditation Practice

If you haven't already enquired, begin to think about starting a meditation practice. I like to meditate twice a day. Once at 7.30 am and again at 8 pm. I've started turning the TV off at night and prefer to read or reflect. Television is terrible for triggering thoughts of drinking because you are subjected to a constant barrage of advertising.

I've been meditating since January, and I'll confess that I don't think I've got that much benefit out of it but of course that's more to do with the drinking than anything else. So I'm interested to see what happens now that I've stopped.

One benefit I have noticed is that my stress level has plummeted over the last six months. If you have a smartphone with a health app like Samsung Galaxy Health and the sensor on the back of your phone, then you can measure your stress levels. I have seen a significant improvement in this area through meditation as my stress readings were very high.

Stress can contribute to psoriasis which I suffer from badly. Of course, everyone will tell you that you should avoid alcohol if you have psoriasis because it dehydrates you and dries out the skin and I already see an improvement in that area across the board.

Why Begin A Meditation Practice?

People have meditated since the beginning of time, and some of the earliest written records come from Taoist China and Buddhist India around 4 or five centuries BCE. (I was going to write BC (before Christ), but it seems it is politically correct to use BCE these days). Meditation is a keystone in the path to enlightened wisdom or “enlightenment” and has begun to be studied seriously in Western culture since the early 1900's.

There are many different ways to meditate but most boil down to an attempt to quiet the mind and achieve stillness. You can not stop thoughts arising as you meditate, but instead, you observe your thoughts as they arise and you notice them rather than associating any emotion and reacting to them.

To get any benefit from meditation, you need to make it a consistent habit. Start with five minutes a day and ramp up from there as you feel comfortable. In the beginning, five minutes of sitting still and watching your thoughts can seem like an eternity!

Your life is a constant blur of motion and thought. You get up in the morning, get showered and dressed and then do the school run before heading off to work. In the evening there are meals to prepare and homework to be done, and it's no wonder people turn to alcohol to try and help them relax.

In addition to our busy, busy lives there is also the continual assault on the senses that comes from TV and radio advertising and our smartphones. It's no wonder we find it hard to concentrate on anything for more than five seconds. Meditation will help your mind relax and give you better control over your emotions in the long term.

How To Do It

You don't need any crossing of the legs and meeting of the palms to begin meditating. Find a comfortable spot and sit upright. I like to sit in the big swivel chair in the front room, and the dogs usually join me on either side. In the evening I love to light a couple of candles because it is soothing and I like to be kind to myself these days.

Once you've got comfortable, set the timer on your smartphone to five minutes and begin.

Take a deep breath, inhale through the nose exhale through the mouth. There is nothing rigid or set in stone about this it's how I like to do it, and everyone has their own way to meditate once they get started.

Notice your breath and feel the inhalation. Breathe normally, and you can count the number of breaths you take before your mind wanders off to what you are going to make for dinner tonight or what time Johnny has to be at school.

When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath.

That's all there is to it. Noticing that your mind has wandered is the whole point of meditation. Your ability to focus on your breath will become greater, and your mind will wander less the more you meditate, and this achieves stillness of mind.

In the beginning, you will go running off with your thoughts questioning and interrogating them. When you realise that your mind has wandered, acknowledge that your thoughts have taken over and begin again.

What Happens When I Meditate?

In the early days, nothing will happen. You might like to measure your stress level to see if there is any effect, but it will take a few weeks of data to get an accurate reading. Over time you will experience increased calm and empathy for those around you. You may have a profound and deep insight into your life, but more likely you will begin to realise how your mind is shot to pieces and needs rebuilding.

Starting a meditation practice for five minutes morning and evening will start you off on a new path to discovering who you really are and why you are here. In nine months I've built up to 30 minutes twice daily and sometimes I might shoot for an hour at weekends.

If mediation seems like hippy shit to you, then that's OK, but you can't knock it until you've tried it and given it a bit of time to start to work its magic. I'll discuss mediation and its effects in more detail later on with more sober time under my belt.

OK, that's me done for today. Stay safe, stay Sober, begin to meditate and we'll catch up tomorrow.