Neurological studies have proven that meditation changes the brain, promoting wellbeing across mind, body and soul. In our chaotic world, could meditation be the answer to all of our problems?
In this week’s wellbeing blog I’ll share my own journey into meditation and the three guided meditations I use with clients; one to relax, one to balance and one to heal.
“Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment.”
“Meditation is a catch-all word for a myriad varieties of contemplative practice, just as ‘sports’ refers to a wide range of athletic activities….Keep in mind that as gaining a new skill in a given sport, finding a mediation practice that appeals to you and sticking with it will have the greatest benefits.”
D. Goleman and R. J. Dvaidson, The Science of Meditation, Penguin Life, 2017
My Journey into Meditation
I want to start this blog by telling you a little bit of my story, my journey into meditation. For at least the past 25 years I’ve had a deep intuitive feeling that meditation was one of the key disciplines that I needed to have in my life. I felt it had the answer to questions I didn’t yet know, I was convinced it would help me gain greater control over my worrisome mind. As much as I kept trying, I just couldn’t quite ‘get into it’. How did you meditate? It felt like a complete mystery. I read articles, googled meditations and still struggled. So I gave up for a little while, but the sense that I needed to do it kept coming back to me through all manner of channels.
I want to take you back a bit further, this was important for my journey and it might be important for yours. As a child I was shy, and often the centre of unwanted attention from the other children. I remember vividly the dread that would rush into my mind and body when it came to break time, even as far back as infant school. Back then I would dash over to the dinner lady, who was on playground duty, and cling to her side for all I was worth. Over the years I’ve put systems in place and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone countless times in a quest to overcome the shyness, the discomfort in large groups and the anxiety that builds in new groups. The other thing you should know, which might at first seem a strange point to bring up in a blog about meditation but bear with me, is that I’m a womb twin survivor. I hadn’t even realised it was a thing until a couple of years ago when I read an article about it, and subsequently found a website and research project dedicated to the cause. It was at that point that I found out what some of the psychological manifestations are of womb twin survivors, it was quite a revelation. By way of explanation, I want to share some extracts from their free e-book (found at the bottom of the linked page):
“Womb twin survivors are often extremely sensitive to their environment, especially certain chemicals, foods or stimulant drugs such as caffeine. They have acute hearing and general awareness and are easily distressed by too much activity, stress or stimulation going on around them”
“They are acutely aware of other people and very sensitive to their moods, particularly where this involves sadness or hurt. They react strongly to the atmosphere generated within a group of people.”
“As children they may suddenly become withdrawn and feel a dark mood of despair, a fear of death coming upon them for no particular reason…..The whole demeanour of womb twin survivors changes with their moods, which can oscillate wildly between despair and joy over a short period of time.”
A. Hayton, Could you be a womb twin survivor, pages 11-15
So I learnt that womb twin survivors suffer all kinds of unexplainable psychological symptoms, that is until they become aware of the fact that this is the root cause, this is the first step to healing. Another step is to connect with your story, work out intuitively what happened in the womb to help you let go of the attachment, and deep subconscious guilt. Enter meditation again. Meditation gives you a channel to connect on an emotional and spiritual level to your story, a person, emotions, physical feelings; and soothes through a process of awareness (or mindfulness) and acceptance.
Whether a consequence of my ‘womb twin survivor’ psychology or otherwise, my life has had its fair share of challenges and, at times, taken its toll on me mentally and emotionally. Then one day, I found a way to meditate that worked for me. That was over 2 years ago now, and the change has been profound. Friends and family who have known me for a long time have noticed the shift, and I can feel it. I started with guided meditations and still use them today, although I also meditate without guidance too. I have 3 meditations that I teach as part of my holistic practice; aimed to support people to relax, balance or heal, and I’ll share these with you in this blog.
Meditation and the Mind
Our root causes to fear, guilt, pain, repression etc. will all be different, and as you have read, can start even before birth. Left alone, these conscious or subconscious feelings will start to show in mental health symptoms such as anxiety, worry, phobias or depression. Mindfulness meditation is a route to stabilising the mind; studies by the University of Oxford found that after only a few weeks of mindful meditation, mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression were reduced. Meditation, over time and with consistent practice, is able to change the brain so that traits such as compassion and kindness become permanent traits, negative emotions can be removed and our minds calmed and soothed from anxiety and fear; this is known as brain plasticity. With the development in neuroscience technology they have actually been able to prove that this change happens with prolonged meditation practice.
“Meditation activates the CEO of the brain. · Both the quality and habitual focus of our attention directly shape the brain. · By becoming more profoundly aware of our awareness (i.e., through the development of meta-awareness), we can activate the parts of our brain that contribute to the highest levels of human achievement and social contribution.”
Getting Started with Meditation
Choose a meditation style that suits you. When you’re starting out guided meditation can really help, view our FREE ‘meditations’ playlist from the Healthy Human channel. Bear in mind that even guided meditations differ massively, so keep hunting until you find the one that you like. The voice of the guider is important, as is the tone, pace and meditation subject.
Find a place and time where you can relax and be undisturbed. Seasoned meditators can meditate anywhere, but when you start out (and still for me), peace is important to help you stay focused.
If at first you don’t succeed… don’t give up. It takes most of us quite a bit of time and practice to remain focused during a meditation. Our brains often flit to something else, get distracted. Just be aware that you’ve been distracted and gently bring yourself back to the meditation. It doesn’t matter how many times you get distracted, just bring yourself back, calmly and without judgement.
A good starter time for a meditation is 10 to 15 minutes.
When should I meditate? I mainly meditate in the morning but I also do SOS meditations and sometimes meditate at bedtime too. Whatever works for you. If you are typically someone who gets stressed in a morning or takes time to come round, this is actually a great time to meditate. If you’re someone who has a busy mind and struggles to get off to sleep, then bedtime is a good option.
If your guided meditation doesn’t have music, you might like to try playing some quietly in the background. There’s lots of meditation music on YouTube, here’s a couple of sound tracks I particularly like – Relaxing Celtic Music and Relaxing Music
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As well as blogging about wellbeing, I authored a book that brings together some of my favorite wellbeing learnings. In this short book I share lots of practical advice, tips and strategies for a wellbeing lifestyle.
The book cost only covers the cost of printing and is on sale at £6.49. You can grab a copy on Amazon here – if you buy it I’d love to hear what you think in the form of a book review on Amazon. Thank you.
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