So, it's that time of year when we all make promises to ourselves. Promises we hope will make us the people we aspire to be.
Something that should feature high on all of our resolution lists is to be kinder to ourselves in the coming year. The kinder we are to ourselves, the kinder we will be to others.
The most precious way I have found to be kind to myself is through a regular meditation practise. Supposedly, it takes only a few weeks of regular practise for something to become a natural part of your routine and I have now reached a stage where my morning meditation is like brushing my teeth. If release myself into the world without meditating, I feel like I have a fine layer of plaque on my brain and feel much less equipped to deal with whatever the day may chuck my way. Meditation is free and takes only 20 minutes out of your day and can be practised anywhere and by anyone. There are many different techniques and which one you prefer is very personal. I spent some years practising Transcendental Meditation which uses mantra as a focus. The past few years I have been using the Buddhist Mindfulness of Breathing technique.
This is my personal favourite because it's gentle and calming and very accessible to everyone. You don't need to pay for training, the explanations on how to practise can all be downloaded from the site above.
Meditation can be massively life changing if you approach it with a bit of dedication. Just like going to the gym, if you only go once a month you wont really notice much of a change. Taking 20 minutes out of your day to recalibrate your mind will gradually create more and more space in your consciousness, enabling you to deal better with life's obstacles and those niggling thoughts that can plague us all. My personal meditation journey has not led me to become a blissed-out Buddha who never loses her shit or cries her way through a whole tub of ice-cream, but it has led me, day by day, to a deeper and more empowered understanding of myself. It's also an invaluable tool for anyone creative. Creating that space in your brain allows you to reach deeper into your psyche for inspiration and can create a clarity in your creative vision. I did my first Vipassana (10 day silent meditation) this summer and have hardly been able to keep up with all of the ideas my brain has been popping out since. It's like it unlocked some secret door in my noggin.
I hear a lot of people say that they can't meditate. I think this is because of the idea that the point of meditation is to quiet your mind and that you have failed at it if your mind isn't quiet. I have been meditating for years and my mind is rarely quiet for long during a sitting. It's training like any other discipline but, unlike other things you train at, there is no such thing as "being good" or "being bad" at meditating. There is just either doing it or not doing it.
If you would like to ease yourself into a meditation practise but often feel overwhelmed by the volume of your thoughts when you sit silently, start by practising yoga, which was originally designed to prepare the body and mind for meditation. Or, my personal favourite mind-calming and magic-creating technique - yoga nidra. For something that involves nothing more than lying down (Yes! LYING DOWN! Who doesn't love that?) and listening, the effects on your brain are quite amazing. Get yourself this CD or, better yet, find a local group session.
I hope you all find some way of being lovely to yourselves this year. Happy 2015.