This is a guest article by health and lifestyle coach Milla Lascelles. After recently completing The British School of Meditation, Milla BSoM has been working with both private and corporate clients encouraging them to take up the daily practise of meditation. The feelings of isolation, worry, loss of work, health, homeschooling and increased stress have been playing havoc on our daily thought patterns. Contact Milla for 1-2-1 meditation sessions.
When I speak to people about meditating they usually say they are ‘bad’ at it or simply can’t shut their thoughts off, which is what a lot of people believe meditation is: blocking out all thoughts and being blank. Some people find it boring or don’t know if it’s working. Others say they fall asleep and ask how they can stay awake. I want to share what I’m currently learning in teacher training at The British School of Meditation and make meditation accessible and easy for everyone starting from today.
It’s important to go through what meditation is not:
– Mediation is not sitting on the top of the Himalayas humming and chanting for 12 hours.
– Meditation shouldn’t be seen as something you only do if you have copious amounts of time.
– Meditation isn’t shutting down your brain and blocking out your thoughts.
– Meditation isn’t a quick fix, it’s not instant and it is never completed, that’s why its called a practise.
– Meditation isn’t linked to a certain stereotype.
– Meditation isn’t attached to religious beliefs
Now let’s talk about what meditation is:
– Meditation is being in the here and now not worrying about the past or the future, accepting where you are without judgement.
– Meditation is paying attention to your thoughts without engaging in them or judging them.
2 Tips on how to get started:
If you want to learn meditation, it’s good to just begin, right now, without hesitating. You don’t need to wait until you’re ‘ready’. In every moment you are ready.
’To begin, begin.’ – William Wordsworth
1. Identify your spot!
First thing’s first, it’s important you assign yourself a space where you’ll be arriving at each day to sit for your practise. Don’t overcomplicate this space, it can be a space on the floor in your bedroom where you sit crosslegged with your back against the bed. The ideal place would be somewhere that is quiet in a corner of a room, with the corner behind you, which will provide a sense of security. Make sure the room isn’t too hot so you don’t become sleepy. Nice touches can be to light a candle or roll-on some OTO Focus CBD oil to kick off the practise.
2. How do I sit?
It can depend on what meditation you are practising but posture is really important because the body and mind are linked. Traditional position is to sit crosslegged on the floor. You can do this by sitting on a cushion or on a chair. Wherever you wish to sit, it’s important your back is straight and you are not leaning against the chair. Meditation can be done lying down but I only recommend this when you’re doing a sleep meditation or a bodyscan. If you are sitting on a firm chair your feet should be parallel and your hands should be placed on your lap resting with the palms facing up which is an open posture that enhances listening. When palms are turned down this can be to feel more grounded and go more inwards. I decide before my practise what I feel like I need more of when it comes to how my hands are placed. Neck should be lengthened and face should be relaxed.
3. Choose the right meditation
Little did I know before I studied with the British School of Meditation was that there are so many different types and techniques of meditations. It isn’t a case of one size fits all. It’s really important to explore the many different options.
My top 4 guided meditations for beginners:
1. Visualisation Meditation
One of my favourite visualisation meditations has to be the Mountain Meditation (15 minutes) by Andy Hobson on Insight Timer. This meditation compares the qualities of a mountain to your real life. We begin by sitting and starting to imagine a familiar mountain we know of in real life, films or imagination. The meditation takes us on a beautiful journey of becoming the mountain; the bottom of it being where your body meets the floor and the peak being the top of your head. In the same way a mountain remains dignified and grounded, even in the face of the harshest of conditions, this exercise teaches us to apply that same resilience to our own lives, allowing us to remain undeterred by our emotions, be it pain, sadness, joy, or elation.
2. Buddhist Meditation
Loving Kindness (14 mins) by Mark Joseph on Insight Timer is a great beginners meditation to cultivate loving kindness to ourselves, others and strangers, especially during the pandemic. It’s a really wonderful, energetic meditation and an all-round lovely experience. My reflections after this meditation are always that I am instantly uplifted and more compassionate throughout my day.
3. Pause & Visualisation Meditation
I became obsessed with doing Hope In Times Of Uncertainty (14 mins) by supermodel Gisele on Insight Timer. Not only was I intrigued to listen, but I found it really uplifting and a reminder that no matter what’s going on in the world around us right now, everyday we have the choice to operate out of love and hope over anxiety and hate. Our choices help shape our reality. This meditation is a great collaboration between the breath and accompanying visualisation, which in this case she uses a beautiful healing white light filling you with joy and optimism. It’s my go-to meditation.
4. Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditations are when a phrase is repeated in your head or out loud which would then be called chanting meditation. Some mantras are meant to be incredibly personal and are not meant to be shared with anyone else. In other cases, meditation teachers can give you a mantra to work with. It’s a great meditation to do for beginners if the mantra is simple like ‘Calm Calm, I am Calm’ or ‘Peace Peace’, ‘I Am At Peace’ and ‘My Mind Is Still.’ Try Positive Energy Meditation (5 mins) by Gabrielle Bernstein on YouTube.
When do I know if meditating works?
This is completely different for everyone as meditation is so personal. Some meditators experience immediate calm and feel much more grounded after their practise. Other meditators will report how they felt the benefits much later in the day when they reacted to something in a certain way or didn’t find themselves getting lost in their story. There was much research in 2020 that gives us confidence that meditation can improve a variety of psychological areas. From stress, anxiety, addiction, depression to cognitive function, increased focus, empathy and even creativity. We are also seeing studies now that suggest meditation can reduce many modern health problems. Including high blood pressure, pain management, stress hormone levels and even cellular health. A study in 2011 by Hoezel and Lazer from the University of Harvard, showed that there are actual structural and functional changes to the brain across an 8 week span of meditation. These changes included an increase in grey matter in the brain, which is in the regions of the brain associated with muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, speech, decision making and self-control. In 2010, Goldin and Gross from Stanford University showed a decreased brain activation of the amygdala which is the part of the brain responsible for triggering fear. Majority of studies show these changes to the human brain after 8 weeks of regular practice.