I came to meditation about 5 years ago, after I had started a regular bout of insomnia which I attributed to my work as a Customer Service Director for a major multinational consumer goods manufacturer. I was suffering the classic symptom of being able to go to sleep at a normal time, but waking up with a start at around 3a.m. and then worrying my way through the next few hours until the dreaded alarm clock at six. This made the whole world look very dark on those days, and the cycle continued as I got increasingly anxious through the day, affecting my concentration, confidence and rational decision making ability – then of course going through the same cycle and ruminating on that the following night – miserable days indeed.
I stopped short of going to the doctor so I simply Googled my symptoms, and up popped a number of hits on Meditation. I happened across an online course run from a web-site aimed at general well-being, and went through the video modules at my own pace. At the time, my wife and I lived at the time in a one bedroom studio apartment in Toronto, so my private meditation cocoon was sitting on a pillow on the floor of our en-suite while watching and listening to my tutor-guide on my tablet. Feeling a little ridiculous at first, it didn’t take long before I started to realise that there could be something in this. I was concentrating better at work, feeling calmer and more rational, had a better perspective and a more confident outlook – and yes, I was sleeping better.
There’s so much research on mindfulness and how it can yield all these benefits and more, and although I am still not sure the scientists actually know why, they just know that it can re-configure our neural connections to make us ‘happier’ and worry less. I personally know that if I can meditate for half an hour a day, I feel so much better about myself and the world. The penny dropped when I realised that, as a developed human being, we find it difficult to switch off our minds to just be still, but that stillness and peace exists underneath all the noise of our minds trying to make sense of the outside world. When we meditate and at least try to focus on an object of attention, such as our breathing, a visualised object or a mantra, we connect with the stillness and start to develop the capacity to observe our thoughts from a distance, and accept them as part of our landscape rather than be lost inside them. Then we learn to understand which thoughts are not helpful and start to replace negative ones with positive. It doesn’t mean we can be happy all the time either, but being able to accept that thoughts and feelings hit us through no fault of our own, and choose our response is part of the process. We create the space of the stillness and calm in ourselves as we meditate.
So I kept meditating even when times were good (important: you don’t stop going to the gym just because you already lost a few pounds) and decided I would like to share it with others. I became a certified Mindfulness teacher and have been holding classes in my workplace in Birmingham and group sessions in the village where I live. I have had so much positive feedback, people telling me it has changed their lives and they are passing on the word to friends and family. As for me, like many others, I am prone to dark thoughts and moods, and I am sure there are various reasons for this. Is it my job that I don’t like, or do I drink too much at weekends, or maybe just naturally irritable? The effects of meditation in my own personal practice could well be part-Placebo – but to me it doesn’t matter even if it is. I feel calm, peaceful and grounded when I meditate, and the after effects stay with me through the day and night – so on we go. Namaste!
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