On Thursday night I started the More Than Meditation Course through the Lewis Institute of Health and Wellbeing.
I was kindly invited by Dr. Daniel Lewis (@Paths2Wellbeing) to attend the course and I agreed. After all, I meditated in the past through group sessions at my local gym and downloaded some apps like Smiling Mind and my personal favourite Andrew Johnson’s Relax app which I use often. However, I have never made meditation part of my daily practice or routine. Truth be told, I’m usually impatient and can’t sit still for any length of time. Sometimes I think my head will explode with the different ideas and absurd observations of life around me. I think that makes me the best candidate to discover the benefits of stillness.
I have noticed that in the last year of being outside of the corporate workplace, my stress levels have decreased dramatically. In the past, work situations and the demands that were placed on me at work made me feel anxious, pressured and frazzled. It would affect my sleep and there were many times I would wake at odd hours of the night to write down lists of things I had to get through the next day. The growing list would further exacerbate the feelings that I was somehow losing control of my time and would disappoint the people I had agreed to help. It was a vicious circle.
However, the situation is now totally different. It seems I can’t stop all these different ideas running around in my head. My attention span has also drastically decreased. While I knit and watch TV, my eyes divert to the phone on the coffee table. Should I check Twitter just one more time? Can I take a photo of what I’m doing and post it to Facebook? I can feel myself being pulled by the technology and I can see that I have so many things running through in my head at that point in time that I’m truly not ever present in that moment. I have taken to putting the phone on the charger in another room so that I physically don’t have to interrupt what I’m doing to use it.
However, having said that, a friend recently remarked to me that I ‘looked well and happy’ since he had last seen me and I think it may be because I am comfortable with my choice of undertaking consulting work. My time is now my own and I can control the day in any way I like. I’ve been sleeping well and feeling a lot more refreshed. Sure, I do have little anxious feelings of when the next job is coming from but overall, the pressure of living up to someone else’s expectations in the workplace is now gone. I am thankful that in the grand scheme of things, I have a relatively stress-free life despite the niggling back pain which I manage with light stretches, walking and exercise.
So what can meditation do for me?
First of all, my goal for this meditation course is simple. Still my mind and increase my attention span. Focus on what people are saying and be fully present when they speak to me. Hopefully, these will be achievable.
At the course, I was surprised by the number of people who attended. Over 50 people in an auditorium and I was worried that we wouldn’t all have enough space on the floor but it turned out to be guided seated meditation. I breathed a sigh of relief as the others were spared of me falling asleep and letting out loud snores. Seated meditations mean you can do these anytime, anywhere without risk of falling asleep. (For me, the only exception will be in a plane as the moment the engines start, I’m out like a light. No meditations for me on planes as they’re likely to put me into a deep coma-like sleep and feeling peeved that I didn’t get my money’s worth of the flight because I missed all the meals).
We were asked if we had a choice, what would we choose? To have an additional 20 years added to our lives, or to live the last 20 years of our lives pain free? That was a no brainer. If doing meditation allows the body and mind to sit still for a period of time every day then I can quite easily incorporate it into my day especially if it’s a way to manage any pain.
The instructor also talked about these Tibetan monks who could meditate for very long periods of time and frankly, that irked me. The idea of spending ones life in long years of contemplative meditation is something that is so foreign to me. As someone who needs to be building, fixing, doing, creating, producing, working – this is what gives me my life and my purpose. Spending my life alone with my own thoughts and not having anything to show for it at the end that produces some tangible benefit to community or society as a whole seems somewhat selfish to me. However, this is only my opinion and each to their own. I wait to be proved wrong. Maybe this course will show me?
Our task for the week until our next session is to undertake a 7 minute meditation every day to start building it into our daily routine. It’s still early days yet and I’ve already meditated for the last two days. What I have noticed is that my thoughts are still racing as I close my eyes and I can feel the heaviness of my eyelids and the creaks of my neck. It’s a weird feeling as you try to still your mind and just focus on the blackness ahead of you concentrating on your breathing.
Some years ago, I did a Reiki session. I had booked a massage at a health retreat and the lady who was massaging me mentioned she was also a Reiki healer. I had every cell in my body fighting the urge to laugh as she held her hands above my body. The skeptic in me didn’t understand how someone can just hover their hands over parts of your body and call this healing. In the end, I just had to let go of my cynical thoughts and started to relax. I don’t know how long the session went for but I do recall a tingling all over my body and a crazy burst of euphoric energy that seemed to have exploded across my body. After the session, I felt I had this incredible energy. I recall saying to my girlfriends who also just came out of their massage sessions that I wanted to go for a 5km run (yes, from someone who doesn’t run). To this day I have never felt or experienced anything quite like it and I try to find the same experience with meditation but as yet, I haven’t found it. Maybe I’ll find that same experience with this course?
What are your experiences with meditation and how has it helped you with your work and life?
If you want to read some great curated references about meditation, check out Dr Lewis Meditation Resources.