Monday, July 27, 2020

Meditation: It's Not What You Think


Meditation is an ancient practice that is becoming increasingly popular.

 

Here I answer the “Who, What, Why’s” of meditating for those who may be considering beginning a practice, and those who simply want a reminder as to the value of their existing meditation practice.

 

What is Meditation?

 

"Meditation could be said to be the Art of Simplicity: simply sitting, simply breathing and simply being."

- Dilgo Kyhentse Rinpoche

 

There are many different techniques with which to meditate.

 

Concentration meditationis single pointed focus on an object or sensation such as a mantra, breath, bodily sensation, or focus on an external object such as an icon or the flame of a candle. In concentration meditation the idea is to maintain focus on that object and when the mind wanders from the object to notice this and gently direct it back.

 

Transcendental meditationis a form concentration mediation, focusing on a mantra that has been provided by a teacher and often devised by an equation that includes the year of your birth.Mindfulnesscan be considered concentration meditation that can also be applied in daily life and is not restricted to silent sitting practice. It can also be described as the giving of your fullest attention to the present moment. Mindfulness meditation is informed by the Zen traditions of active meditation in daily tasks.

 

Loving kindness meditation (Metta)has it's basis in the Buddhist philosophy and is designed to increase compassion for others and for the self. Commonly it involves cultivating a sense of compassion towards those close to you and unfolds outward to include acquaintances, strangers and even people you feel negatively towards. Often it can also include bringing forth loving kindness for other sentient beings and for the earth itself.

 

Visualisation meditationis creating mental images, often of natural surroundings like a beach or a river or a place with which you hold positive associations. Often the visualisation may take you on a journey and can leave you feeling very calm and positive.

 

Guided meditationcan be a wonderful tool and there are now many apps that provide a vast array of guided meditations. Guided meditations can include visualisation meditation but are not limited to this. They may have chanting, music, spirit guide visualisations, body scans and much more. Guided meditations can often take the mind on a journey that may be quite pleasant and relaxing, but does not necessarily replicate the value inherent in simple silence and stillness.

 

Kundalini yogais a form of moving meditation that includes breath specifications, mantras and chanting. Its purpose is to activate particular energy centres throughout the body through the practice of Kriyas (series of movements designed to cultivate a particular outcome). Kundalini yoga is an active meditation and it is quite a complex technology. Begin by learning from a trained instructor. 

 

Moving meditationcan include Tai Chi or Qigong or simply walking. This involves focussed awareness on the movement of your body including your breath. Hold your attention on your movements. As your mind wanders draw it back to body and breath.This list is not comprehensive but may give you a taste of the many varieties of meditation that are available to you.

 

Try some out, but do not get caught up on the technique of your meditation. Do not make your meditation into a task, do not get bogged down in historical origins and perceived benefits of a particular method of meditation. Find something that works for you. Do that.

 

"Meditation is simplicity itself. One is to just let go, nothing special is supposed to happen.

- Anonymous

 


 

Why Meditate?

 

"True meditation has no direction or goal. It is pure wordless surrender, pure silent prayer." 

- Adyashanti

 

 

Meditation is known to have many potential physical and psychological benefits. It can help to lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, lower cortisol (the stress hormone), increase serotonin (the happy hormone), improve sleep, improve mood, improve decision making, improve memory, relieve depression, reduce anxiety, benefit relationships - the list goes on.

 

These are substantial claims and many of them are now backed by scientific studies. However just because mediation can help in these areas doesn't mean it will. And even if it does the benefits are not likely to be seen until your meditation practice takes on some consistency over a period of time.

 

Meditation is not a quick fix. In fact it's not a fix at all. The paradox of meditation is that even though it may do some or all of these amazing things for you - this is not the reason to meditate. Meditation is a journey with no destination, like a planetary orbit. When you practice meditation do not get caught up in the idea of achieving an outcome or reaching a goal. The goal of meditation is no goal. So when you begin to meditate, drop the expectations and just sit with what is.

 

Then why meditate? 

 

Meditation allows you to go beyond your mind and access the deeper space within. As you meditate you may not feel like you are achieving anything, you may feel like you are wasting time, you may feel like you are not doing it right, or like meditation is not for you. This is your mind. Allow these thoughts, these feelings, sit anyway. Like this with continued practice, with consistency, subtle changes will occur.

 

This is why we meditate.

 

"Meditation is not a means to an end. It is both the means and the end." 

- Jiddu Krishnamurti

 

 


 

How to Meditate?

 

"The act of meditation is being spacious."

- Sogyal Rinpoche

 

To meditate, simply rest in effortless awareness. Sit comfortably erect with eyes open or closed and relax your mind and body. Make no effort. Observe your breath, do not alter your breath. Observe your thoughts, do not get swept away in your thoughts. Come back to the breath.

 

Meditation is a practice, which implies it is something to do, and yet meditation is not about the doing. Meditation is the realisation that you are the being underneath the doing. 

 

Allow time, the concepts of past and future, to become peripheral. This is the entry point. Beyond the realm of past and future, coming and going, rising and falling, there is the realisation that I AM. 

 

There is only this.

 

Creating the space that allows this awareness is how you meditate.

 

“Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.” 

- Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

 

 

 

Where to Meditate?

 

"I love places that make you realise how tiny you and your problems really are"

- Anonymous

 

 

It's wonderful if you can create a dedicated space in your home to meditate. A favourite chair or a meditation cushion by a window with a calming outlook is delightful. You may find over time that this space builds up it's own meditative energy so that when you sit to meditate here you quite easily "drop in" to your meditation.

 

However, you don't need to seek the perfect place to meditate, simply any place will do. A park bench is a pleasure but on the train works too.

 

You don't need to seek silence or perfect conditions. A house that you have to yourself or a spot beside a babbling brook is extremely conducive, but a crowded bus or a parked car on a busy road will work as well.

 

Notice how the place, the noises impact you and how they give rise to thoughts and those thoughts to feelings. The sound of the river pleases you, "This is good," you think, "I am calm." Notice this. And traffic noise? Are you judging this as bad? Do you find it an interruption? Is it giving rise to irritation? Notice this. Come back to the breath.

 

"Listen to the wind, it talks. Listen to the silence, it speaks. Listen to you heart, it knows."

- Native American Proverb

 

 


 

Who is Meditating?

 

“The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.” 

- Albert Einstein

 

 

You may think the question “Who is meditating?”, requires an answer like "business people, stay at home parents, celebrities...". But while the list of celebrities and successful people who meditate is comprehensive (just Google it) this question has another meaning more apposite to the practice of meditation.

 

When you watch your thoughts for long enough inevitably the question will arise “Who is thinking these thoughts?” or “Who is the watcher?” You become aware that there is something beyond your thoughts. You can perceive your thoughts and therefore you cannot beyour thoughts. 

 

Have you spent a life time believing that your thoughts were somehow real? This is not uncommon. You can drop that now. Your thoughts are generated from a mind that is entrenched in past conditioning and future projecting. Move beyond your thoughts. 

 

What is there?

 

For a moment you may experience no-mind, thoughtlessness. Then quite quickly a thought will come in to try and label the experience, to define it, to judge it as good or bad - maybe to say “There - I’ve got it!” As soon as you have had that thought, you have lost presence, you have lost no-mind. That’s fine. Recognise the thought “I’ve got it!”, see it as a thought, then drop it, move beyond it again.Gentle observation of the mind leads to the revelation of the spaciousness beyond the mind. Don't label it. Within this spaciousness you will find peace, stillness, contentment, compassion and abundant life energy.

 

Ask the question "Who is meditating?" but let the answer be beyond words.

 

“You are not meditating, meditation is meditating.”

- Burmese saying

 

May peace be with you on your meditative journey. 

 

How can it not be, for meditation is essentially accessing the peace that rests within you and all of us, always.

 

I’ll see you there.x

 

Images via 1. Simon Migaj2. Jay Castor3. Chris Ensey4. Colton Sturgeon5. Ben Blennerhasset

All photos sourced at Unsplash

 

Listen to Tibetan Healing Sounds

 

 

 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Blogging and Community Building



Hello,

When I stopped blogging I didn't plan it - my last post was never supposed to be my last post. Many things conspired to make it so.

Going back to work was one - while I wasn't working full time, working freelance with it's crazy on-again off-again timetable made writing consistently tricky.

And also I struggled with some of the peripheral elements of blogging. I found there was always a bit too much advice about how one should blog - fulfil a need! know your niche! grow your audience! - and quite a bit of pressure to engage in tangential social media for promotion.

Maybe I put a bit too much stock in all the noise around blogging. I found it hard to zone out to a lot of that and to just hone in on what my own objectives are with blogging.

In thinking about it though I only have two, very clear priorities:
1. Writing
2. Community building

That's it. Simples.

Perhaps in the past I mistook promotion for community building. But it's really not the same at all, is it? Promoting is about selling your product or yourself to someone, convincing them, in a way that you or your thing is the one for them. I'm really not into that.

Community building is about sharing ideas and starting conversations with people and building relationships. That is much more my speed for sure.

Obviously there is a bit of overlap in the ideas of community building and promoting. Growing your audience, I think that's somewhat important for most bloggers, I mean we all want what we write to actually be read, right?

I think the key point of differentiation is authenticity. My blog is not a business, it's not selling or advertising anything so I have no vested interest in growing it's audience just for the sake of numbers. No-one but me is interested in how many views a particular post has had. So there is no need for promotion for promotions sake.

In fact one of my older posts somehow had vastly more views than any of my other posts (absolutely no reason why, but I suspect bots) and as a result I did not attract any more regular readers than I already had. All it did was increase my spam exponentially.

I've really no interest in having high stats. What I want is engaged people reading my words and enjoying them. And for me to read theirs and enjoy them too.

I know for sure that I got swept up in a lot of the 'busyness' of promoting my posts, engaging with other bloggers and generally wearing myself out with ideas that I would read about like scheduled social media posts, engagement, hits, likes, stats. I never really worked any of that stuff out and all it did was give me anxiety and reduce my time for writing.

So it's good to be back and to finally have a really clear understanding about my priorities for this space. It's all about the writing and the relationships. and I really do hope you'll come along for the ride - again!

If you are reading this post and have a blog of your own feel free to post a link in the comments and I'll be sure to check it out.

If you want to connect on other platforms you can find me on Facebook @onesmalllife and Instagram @onesmalllife too - be sure to say "Hi"

I've got a post about meditation planned for next time, I hope to see you then.

x
Top Image via Mike Erskine at Unslpash



Monday, May 11, 2020

New Beginnings and Home Comings



Well Hello There You

It's wonderful to be here again, and after such a long time. Is it crazy to be jumping back into blogging this year, after a three or more years away? Possibly. Probably. Who cares? I'm throwing caution to the wind. And yet that makes it seem un-calculated, spontaneous. It is not. I have thought long and hard about whether to come back, and why I stopped in the first place. Here's what I have learned. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Brave New World {+ Why Women are the Best}

On My Way To Work For The First Time In Eight Years.

Hello There You Guys.

It's been a while, no?

It's been a bit tricky to give much (okay, any) time to this space for the last little (okay, long) while because I have gone back to work.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Space


Did you know that roughly 60% of the human body is water?

Obviously this depends on many things mainly pertaining to lean tissue versus fatty tissue since fat contains less water. So things like fitness, weight, age and gender can all effect the percentage of water making up your body.  But roughly speaking we are all around 60% water.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why My Laptop is Living in My Jumper Drawer


So here's the thing.  I'm keeping my laptop in a drawer under some jumpers.

I'm not on Facebook at the moment, haven't posted anything on Instagram in like, forever (or about a month which is the same as forever in Instagram terms) and Twitter basically doesn't exist for me (which probably doesn't count because I don't really understand Twitter anyway.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

International Women's Day




I watched some of Q&A last night and I gotta say it's left me feeling a little flat.

Today is International Women's Day and there are all these reminders out there about the myriad of kick ass chicks doing kick ass things.

And lots of gratitude for our forebears who paved the way and got us to where we are today.

We should be feeling mighty.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

I Give Up On Parenting Advice



It starts the minute that your baby leaves the comfort and bliss of the womb and emerges into the world.  Advice.  A fuck tonne of the stuff.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dear Lena


Dear Lena,

Your autobiography Not That Kind Of Girl is written like a guide for young women.  It reminded me of Dolly, an Aussie teen mag for girls.  Did you read Sassy?  Kind of like that, but less bad ass.  Oh wait, you're probably too young for Sassy.  Teen Vogue?  But less rich girl.  Girls' Life?  Whatever.  You get the idea.

Friday, January 1, 2016

{Happy} New Year


It's the first morning of 2016.

2015 has been a bit of a weird one for me.  I won't say it was a disaster.  Not completely catastrophic.

Because I like to keep things in perspective.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Guest Post :: Why I Blog :: Tread Kindly


When I think of Ing from Tread Kindly this is how I imagine her.  Face to the sun, flowers in her hair.  Possibly surrounded by a menagerie of much loved animals at her feet.  I've not met Ing in really life (yet!) so reality needn't shatter this mental image I have of her.  And even if this image is worlds away from the truth of the matter, I'm not sure it's that far from the truth of her soul.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Harshest Critic


It was that time of year.  Time to get to know the parents of the kids my kid shares a classroom with.

We sat in the sun sipping chai lattes and chatting pleasantly when one of us began asking around the table what we did.  There was a lawyer, a physio, an accountant, the director of a promising start-up – the rest I’m unsure of.  At first I was listening with interest.  What an interesting group of women.  Then my head got fuzzy.  Because I realized soon I would have to say something.  And what would I say?