By Samantha Wong
Meditating is as easy as riding a bike but, as with bike riding, you need to be shown how to do it, you need to take it slowly at first and you need to put in plenty of practice. Be ready to wait awhile before taking the stabilisers off too. I’m one of those people who tried to meditate for years – totally unsuccessfully – and I realise now why I found it so difficult. I was going about it in completely the wrong way. I’d sit in the lotus position (which I don’t feel comfortable in), on my own (without even the help of a guided meditation CD) and beat myself up for not being able to control my thoughts, or quiet my ‘monkey mind.’ There was nothing Zen about the experience at all; I felt angry and frustrated. The more I tried not to think, the louder my thoughts became.
Get out of your head
Last autumn, I was lucky enough to take some courses at The College of Psychic Studies in London and this was where my whole approach to meditation changed. First off, I learnt from my teacher, Lucy Aumonier, that before you can even begin to meditate, you need to be both present and grounded. Simply put – and this is quite a challenge for people like me who spend a lot of time ‘in their head’ or ‘lost in their own thoughts’ – you need to really connect with your body and become aware of yourself in it. Your aim is to get out of your head and into your body.
Exercise 1: become present. Sit on a chair with your feet firmly on the floor, focusing your attention on your breath. Next perform a mental ‘body scan,’ focusing on the sensation and presence of each part of your body, one after the other, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Enjoy being in contact with your body, being present, being in your own space. If you can be present, even for just 10 minutes, you can experience feeling grounded.
Exercise 2: get grounded. Still sitting on a chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor, focus your attention on your heart. Imagine sitting in your heart, then drop down, feeling the energy flow to the base of your spine. Breathe out and imagine you are pushing roots down your legs and into the ground, one leg a ta time. Visualise this. After a few attempts, you’ll feel warm energy pulsating in your feet as your roots anticipate sinking into the ground. Sit a while and breath. Feel grounded, connected to the Earth and at peace. Then breathe in, breathing your roots back up. Feel the Earth’s energy entering your body as you retract your roots. Go back to sitting in your heart. Breathe in, then out, releasing as much as you can.
Look at your thoughts
Both these exercises are, of course, mini meditations. They’re a good place to start, not least because the visualisations give you something to concentrate on, and can help keep your mind quiet. But don’t expect miracles – your mind will keep interrupting you the whole time because that is what it does, talking to you is what it does. Don’t get angry – your mind will be surprised and scared that you suddenly want to ‘switch it off’ – accept that thoughts will come, accept that you will be distracted. It’s ok to come in and out when you meditate.
The trick is to look at your thoughts as they arise. By acknowledging them and then purposefully setting them aside, you can gradually begin to control them. Let’s say an issue you are having at work pops into your head, when you are doing your body scan. Acknowledge the thought and set it aside, saying, “I’ll deal with you later.” Or let’s say an old grievance, or something you feel guilty about springs to mind when you are trying to push down your roots. Acknowledge the thought and set it aside, saying, “That’s past, I don’t need to think about you anymore,” or “I’ll deal with you later.”
When meditating, don’t worry if your body jerks suddenly or if you cough or yawn. This is distracting but it’s a positive because it means you are releasing tension.
The more you meditate, the better you’ll become at disciplining yourself and your thoughts. You can ground and become present whenever you have 20 minutes to spare. Repeat the two exercises daily, morning and evening, and any time you feel anxious or stressed. It’ll soon become something you look forward to, and you’ll feel the benefit.
Stand your ground
Once grounded, you’ll find that you are healthier, more engaged and that you can think more clearly. After all, you are now connected to the Earth which sustains you. These meditations will allow you to slow things down and control your energy flow; you’ll feel steadier, more self-contained and more comfortable in your own skin.
By grounding you gather yourself, you become stronger, so if someone attacks or irritates you, you’ll be better able to stand your ground. At the same time, you’ll find you don’t have to get involved; you’ll be able to stay in neutral and observe. Instead of reacting emotionally, you’ll be ready to respond calmly.
If you’re truly grounded, you take everything in your stride, you can’t be ‘spun.’ If you want to go further with your meditation practice, maybe start having some mind-blowing transcendental experiences, you’ll find being able to ground essential. Think of yourself as a chalice, open at the top to receive information but with a wide, stable base to keep you rooted in reality.
Like I said though, start small. Practice ‘being not doing’ by meditating at home and, when you’re ready, make your way to Shakti Healing Centre in Central for the guided meditation on Friday evenings – you’ll soon find yourself sitting in bliss, in peace, for far longer than you thought possible.
Illustration by Andrew SpiresTags: meditation tips, mindfulness, grounding