Mindfulness Meditation

Negative emotions are a fact of life – for many, the easy and obvious response to feeling down is to reach for a drink. However, excessive alcohol exacerbates depression and anxiety, and results in an inability to effectively manage the issues we face in everyday life.

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Mindfulness Meditation is an EXCELLENT method for dealing with stressful situations. It can help by equipping individuals with a significant degree of self-awareness, increasing their sensitivity with regards to surroundings, and allowing them to train their minds to achieve a state of tranquillity, no matter what difficult situations are faced.

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Those who practise Mindfulness Meditation are able to focus on the present, without being dragged down by the past or wasting time worrying about uncertain futures.

When I meditate, I sit cross-legged in an upright position and train my scatter-brained mind on a dot which I visualise in my mind’s eye. Over the course of a few minutes I concentrate on decreasing the size of the dot, until it has vanished completely – then I try and hold that empty state of mind for as long as possible.

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I usually spend about 15 – 20 minutes on Mindfulness Meditation. When I’ve finished, I feel relaxed and calm.

You can meditate alone or in a group, sitting or lying down, in the morning, afternoon or evening. It’s a case of fitting it in to your lifestyle in a way that will allow you to practice regularly. It’s free, and it REALLY works. For me, it has been one of the most useful tools in beating the booze.

Your mind is your instrument. Learn to be its master and not its slave.

I yearn for complete inner calm. I want to be one of those people who drift along with a look of serenity, a palpable sense of sanctum about my being, an enviable ability to cope in even the most stressful of situations. Despite becoming more level-headed since ditching alcohol and with less of a tendency towards depressive or anxious episodes, I know there’s still room for a deeper level of tranquillity.

I felt strangely at home as I entered the Kadampa Buddhist Centre for my very first meditation class last Monday evening, despite never being inside such a place before. After removing my shoes and coat I took my seat in the meditation room alongside about 30 others, and placed my feet on a cushion on the floor. It felt very normal to be sitting there in front of the Buddhist Altar complete with numerous gold Buddhas and, bizarrely, a couple of large packets of tortilla chips (was Buddha a fan of crisps?).

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We listened to our teacher’s friendly introduction to the session and then jumped straight into a spot of meditating – I was a little taken aback at the speed with which we were getting to the nitty gritty, but went with it regardless. I approached the idea of meditating with an open mind, and I believe that this is what enabled me to go pretty deep into a state of meditation almost immediately upon closing my eyes. This surprised me – past efforts at being hypnotised have failed miserably, largely owing to my somewhat cynical nature I think…meditating was different though and it all felt totally normal and right to be sitting amongst 30 strangers with my eyes closed, slowly drifting off into a state of mind rarely visited; serenity.

After half an hour, we were ‘brought back into the room’ and I was amazed that so long had passed – it felt closer to ten minutes. Our teacher then talked for a while about how, through meditation, it is possible to determine whether external events affect us in a positive or negative way, simply by becoming more in tune with our emotional energy. This is what I wanted to hear; I want that ability to shun the occasional burst of anxiety, the odd blue mood. I am deeply drawn to the idea that I call the shots with regards to my own emotions, and that I can develop an ability to see the positive in (almost) everything simply through practicing this amazing art of meditation, which in itself is a powerful thing.

I can’t remember feeling so relaxed…EVER. I was so chilled out that I was somewhat concerned about driving home, with visions of me swaying behind the wheel with an inane smile on my face as I ploughed straight through some red lights playing in my mind’s eye as I approached my car after the class. I was filled with a sense of positivity and love; I could not wait for the next class so that I could do it all over again.

Meditating, just once, has highlighted to me the extent that my lifestyle has come to represent the typically Western way of being; a life that is crammed full of activities, chores and work, and one in which any spare time that I have is largely filled with checking emails, texts or Twitter. I NEVER sit and JUST BE. No wonder I sometimes find it difficult to relax. Even when I go to bed I usually scroll through my tweets, or take a last look at my emails, when once upon a time I always read books.

Since the class I have made an effort to notice my emotions more, trying to pinpoint the stress points in order to better reverse the negativity. I have also become more aware of how I breathe, and have realised that I have a tendency to hold my breath when I become anxious, which in turn increases the anxiety only further. My aim now is to leave my phone downstairs when I go to bed, thus encouraging me to read and relax before trying to sleep, rather than scrolling endlessly through electronic messages of one type or another. I am also trying to find some time each day to practice meditating, although this is proving difficult with a 9 month old baby, a teenager and a dog to look after – I can see that it is possible but I need to attach a higher priority to it in order to fit it into each day.

And of course, I will be attending my meditation class next Monday.