Do you ever find it hard to meditate?
You sit down, after trying to create the ideal environment – it feels cosy, you burn your incense, or get you diffuse the puffing out aromas marketed to aid meditation.
Don’t need the loo? Check.
No-one around to disturb you – check.
And as you get comfortable, the drilling begins. They’re having work done next door! And that golden silence is now filled with the cacophony of pneumatic drilling on concrete. Or, maybe it’s the kids banging around in their bedroom?
You feel frustrated at your meditation time being “ruined”. Do you sigh, roll your eyes and get up to give up? No, you can actually still meditate, even if you don’t have a meditation cushion, or ear plugs.
Noise can only exist if there is silence for it to fill. When you take away the noise, the silence is still there. It’s a bit like when the sky is full of birds, planes and police helicopters; once the activity subsides, the sky and clouds are still there, with a few long lasting trails – we can occupy our minds with chemtrail conspiracy theories, or we can appreciate the tranquility the sky offers us.
Behind the noise is the silence you desire, IF your mind can acknowledge and then let go of the focus on the noise. What we focus on grows. When a child is distracted from the pain of a grazed knee, they soon forget the pain, though I’m not suggesting you deliberately inflict pain to distract from the noise!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll probably know that the benefits of meditation and mindfulness are well documented. More pressing are the reports about the rise of anxiety in children as young as four years old and according to the Health & Safety Executive 11.7 million work days were lost to stress and anxiety in the UK in 2015/16. Unless there is more treatment of anxiety, stress and depression, 12 billion working days will be lost to mental illness each year, between now and 2030 with global costs of £651bn (World Health Organisation cited by The Guardian).
How do I get rid of the noise?
There’s a couple of ways you can quieten the noise in your head. One way is to focus on your breath inhaling for six seconds, exhaling for six seconds. This will balance your breathing and your nervous system. If you’re feeling frustrated or any other negative emotion, you may want to start with a short inhalation, followed by a long exhalation. Do that a couple of times before balancing your breath.
You don’t need the perfect surroundings in order to meditate. We’re not aiming for mountaintop tranquility here, we’re wanting to connect with the peace that lies within. And we’re not trying to stop all thoughts; we have around 60,000 thoughts a day, half of which are negative. That’s like riding the Tower of Terror at Disney World, except the rapid descent doesn’t end up with your heart in your mouth. Going from thousands of thoughts to nothing, it won’t be long before some thoughts creep back in. The trick is to observe them and refocus on your breath.
Practicing balance breathing – equal count on the in breath, as on the out breath (expanding your stomach on the in breath, and retracting your stomach on the out breath) – will calm your nervous system. The benefits of that include less stress – you’re not ready to fight or flight (and stress contributes to ill health), nor are you zoned out like a yogi, but you experience more clarity, creativity and feel more centred. Just 180 seconds of doing that daily will set you up for the rest of the day. That’s less time than it takes to drink a cup of coffee, tea or a pint. How cool is that? If you want to learn more about Balanced Breathing, it’s the first thing we do when working with the head, heart and gut intelligences and you can read about it here.
Now I’m off to return to the breath so I can connect with the peace within.
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