I was introduced to the concept of meditation at a very young age. I was quite excitable as a child (I still am as an adult) but alongside that I used to struggle quite badly with nerves and that made taking exams really difficult for me. I used yoga and meditation as a tool to connect with myself and almost block out what was going on around to me; to help me to actually focus during my exams. It is something that worked really well and I find now when I become nervous or worried, that if I stop and take a moment to meditate and calm the noise, I can think more clearly and get my point across in a more articulate way.
How to start meditating?
START SMALL AND BUILD UP FROM THERE!
Have you ever read Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog? In it he talks about building habits and advises you to start small. It’s hard to build consistency around a habit that is massive. If you start ‘too big’, it becomes unattainable and you fall at the first hurdle. I started meditating a long time ago.. I was probably 15-16 year old. I found I was skeptical to begin with but my mother was my guiding light and she suggested that I try it. I started with a simple 1-minute meditation focusing on my breathing and that has over time led to an hour a day or more depending on what my mind and soul feel that they need.
What is meditation?
There is no right way to meditate and I firmly believe that. Meditation is personal to each person and actually I practice in different ways each day.
Some days I focus solely on my breath, other days I focus on an affirmation chanting it in and out as part of my breath work and at other times I focus on healing light encompassing my body. It is relative to what I need as a person.
For the novice though, I think it’s important to focus on Focused Attention/Mindfulness Meditation. This form of meditation is the subject of scientific research. So if you are skeptical then this might the route that you go down.
So what is it?
This is simply where you on one specific thing—it could be your breathing, a sensation in your body or a particular object outside of you. I like to use the flame of a candle. I was the movement of the flame as it dances around and it’s quite mesmerising. The point of this type of meditation is to focus strongly on one point and continually bring your attention back to that focal point when it wanders.
You may find that when you close your eyes and you attempt meditation – in that silence, your mind starts to race, you begin to think, make lists, remember conversations and general forget the whole point. To quiet your mind. By focusing on one thing, you are forced to block everything else out.
What happens to our brains when we meditate?
Using modern technology like fMRI scans, scientists have developed a more thorough understanding of what’s taking place in our brains when we meditate. Essentially, we process information in a less active and more calmer way; over time that can have huge benefits.
So there are huge benefits to meditation especially in such an overactive world.
Put your hand up if you know that your attention span has over the years decreased. Do you have to ‘force’ yourself to focus on an activity to get it done, yet still find yourself scrolling Instagram? Because focused attention meditation forces you to focus on one thing for a period of time, you’re essentially training your mind to do this. So when the need for focus arises, it is so much easier to do it. Essentially, you’re exercising your mind when you meditate and you’re training it to focus.
The more we meditate, the less anxiety we have, and this is because we’re actually loosening the connections of particular neural pathways.
The Me Centre in the brain (the medial prefrontal cortex) is the part that processes information relating to ourselves and our experiences. When we choose not to meditate, the neural pathways from the bodily sensation and fear centres of the brain to the Me Centre are really strong. When you experience a scary or upsetting sensation, it triggers a strong reaction in your Me Centre, making you feel scared and under attack.
Through meditation, we can weaken this neural connection. This means that we don’t react as strongly to sensations that might have once lit up our Me Centres. As we weaken this connection, we simultaneously strengthen the connection between what’s known as our Assessment Centre (the part of our brains known for reasoning) and our bodily sensation and fear centres. So when we experience scary or upsetting sensations, we can more easily look at them rationally.
More Compassion and Less Anger:
I know that when I am stressed, my go-to emotion is anger. I don’t mean to become angry and in fact, I hate that side of me more than you can imagine. It means that I have lost control. Through meditation, I find that I can process those feelings in a much calmer way. In fact, I can almost take the emotion out of those feelings to ensure that I am process them in a way that leans towards understanding and compassion rather than judgement. My brain has more space to think and have more space means I am able to access the more positive emotions that my loved ones need from me.
My personal experience with meditation
For me personally, meditation helps me foster inner peace. I am a soul that really does feel their emotions and in the past that has been quite draining. I’ve also found that I am prone to an emotional explosion. I will keep much of what I am feeling inside until it bubbles over and I explode. Harming not only myself but also the ones that I love with my words.
Not just that, I am ambitious and competitive; so my ego can be easily bruised when I go through rejection or failure. In the past, I found it harder to cope with, often acting irrationally out of hurt and frustration. Meditation allows me to reason through situation in a healthier way, it help me to think clearly and accept what I cannot change. I find that I sleep better and process emotions in a much more coherent way too.
When I practice regularly, I find that I am the person that I want to be. What I mean by that is simply that I am calmer and more reasoned. Less stressed, kinder, more compassionate and much more focused on doing less and doing it well rather than lots and overwhelming myself to the point that I can’t do anything.
I also find that I appreciate what is around me more. I am full of gratitude and thankfulness for the people that I love and the great gifts in life that I have been given.
I recommend reading this article too: https://io9.gizmodo.com/how-meditation-changes-your-brain-and-makes-you-feel-b-470030863
This one is good too: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-power-of-meditation_b_5a3c3f13e4b0d86c803c7068?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAFCu5kwKYy7TCf0lmdeOGyZ85EnsO9eus2V9e7tyAGoHfMQg9ouMuRUmvcEKmOLN-eBi7_2_6owiUtp8vfmglmm42kNBysp5bMhuKfL3Qaoai_kGsPqrsz7QC-Cpj78QQqmWkwcL1gJI_AZtxxg47FEboobbiZWn8cRr1XA2G5A3
I think this is a great article to read actually as well. It discusses why we have some our greatest ideas in the shower! https://buffer.com/resources/shower-thoughts-science-of-creativity/